Guest post by Matt Polsky, social media director for Veterans United Home Loans.
Those new to Google Plus have a tendency to carry the misconception that it is just another Facebook. What naysayers don’t realize is that Google Plus is a groundbreaking platform that has the ability to become a huge success – even though some contributors at Mashable, Huffington Post, Forbes and Social Media Today may disagree.
A predominant factor that inspires this confidence generates from the organic search potential; however, through the unique applications of this social product, people, companies and brands can do more than bolster their search results, but provide a channel to build relationships, contacts and connect on a completely personalized level – no matter their location.
Over a year ago, I wrote a piece for Brian Solis on why a business would want to be on Google Plus, focusing on search implications and the latest feature at the time known as Direct Connect.
At this point, Google Plus was relatively new, making it difficult to see the entire picture or direction of the social network. Fourteen months later, a few unique features emerged that are in the process of mapping a steady course and strong user-base.
For starters, Google Plus’ Hangout feature provides users an easy and effective way to engage with multiple viewers through face-to-face interaction, as well as a free broadcasting tower if you decide to use it this way.
Hangouts take mere seconds to set up. After a quick plugin download you’re ready to start broadcasting live. Google also gives users access to a free production suite and a live stream that can be viewed on Google Plus, YouTube or any website or blog that copies the YouTube embed code.
Hangouts have many possibilities, especially for creative minds. Webinars, live music, company meetings, live customer service and even job interviews are all possible. But, to take it a step further, Veterans United has found multiple uses for Hangouts, including the first Virtual Career Fair – allowing active military, veterans and interested job seekers an inside look at the company.
If video isn’t quite your forte, consider one of the most recent Google Plus features – Google Plus Communities.
Communities provide a fit for every person, company or brand, brought together by their tailored interests. With Communities, businesses and consumers alike can meet, share information, personal tips, how-to’s and communicate on a personal level.
And if there isn’t a community for your niche, then congratulations on the ability to build barriers to entry, since anyone can start a community and invite members to join.
Communities can be configured in many ways. For starters, users can set them to be public for anyone to join, publicly seen and can join with moderator approval, or private – opening great possibilities for internal communication. If that isn’t enough, categories can be created for filtering topics outside of general discussion.
For example, a fitness community could have topics resembling “Chest Exercises”, “Leg Exercises”, “Nutrition and Health” and more, allowing for greater targeting and control.
Lastly, let’s take a quick look into the future. Google’s philosophy says that “It’s best to do one thing really, really well.” And they directly follow that statement with, “We do search.”
Google is dedicated to bringing search to unexplored areas, and Google Plus falls right in this category with authorship markup.
Currently, thousands of search terms in Google’s results are accompanied by a mugshot of the content’s author, only if their work is linked to their Google Plus profile with the rel=”author” tag – the beginning stages of a principle known as “AuthorRank”.
There is currently no proof that AuthorRank is active; however, the premise rests in providing authors with an individual ranking for the topics they write most about. Basically imagine having a personal tag cloud, combining keywords, links, titles and headings that indicate the subjects that determine where your authority rests.
In short, this could signify the demise of the anonymous content writer, building many subject matter experts in the process.
An estimated 625,000 users join Google Plus each day, opening a multitude of opportunities for people, brands and organizations that are willing to spend the time on building a successful, engaging channel or community. Add this to the possibilities of author markup and you can’t deny having a Google Plus strategy for yourself or business.
Matt Polsky specializes in producing creative, scalable and adaptive marketing strategies for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s leading dedicated provider of VA Home Loans. In his spare time, Matt guest lectures on search marketing, social media and conversion optimization. Connect with Matt on Twitter @mattpolsky or on Google+.