By Chris Brogan
First off, if you’re immediately thinking, “The LAST thing I need is to figure out yet another social network,” you’re totally right. This is the last thing you need. However, if you were fortunate enough to be a CMO back in 2007, and you said that about the transition from MySpace to Facebook, then you know what happened to people who didn’t surf the new wave instead of riding the one that petered out.
I’ve logged over 250 hours (and counting) inside Google+ so that you don’t have to, but I will say this: If people are asking for what the next big thing is for online marketing, mobile marketing, digital communications and social media, this is certainly my pick for 2011. We have to look at it. And to that end, I have 10 things for you to think about:
1. A social network made by Google impacts search. Google isn’t saying it like that, because they wouldn’t want to cause a panicking stampede, but think about this: Google has all the data from Google+. They can’t get any data from Facebook. Google controls search. Where would you cast your vote for search-improvement activities?
2. Google+ evolves from Gmail. No matter what the kiddies say, email is still the digital communications backbone of the modern world. SMS might feel like second place, but it’s a distant second. Google+ is very tied to Gmail, with hundreds of millions of users. It feels very natural as an extension in a way that Twitter and Facebook do not.
3. Business pages are coming. Early reports from users are, “It won’t matter. There’s no support for business pages.” That’s not true. Business pages are being developed now. Imagine the power of Google Places, Google Local, and several other Google products that formerly seemed lame and disjoined now acting inside one unified communications environment. Yeah.
4. 10 million users in the first two weeks. There’s limited access to Google+ at the time of this writing (Google did this with Gmail back in the day), but Larry Page reported on their earnings call that they’ve already let 10 Million users into the system. Some aren’t active, and you’ll see reports of that, but most are learning a whole new way to connect.
5. This blends personal and business. Google+ allows users to categorize their contacts into “Circles,” and then allows you to message those circles individually. Thus, your “prospects” circles could get your business information, and your “drinking buddies” circle can hear about that great new Belgian wheat you tried. Both will add value.
6. Google+ is already indexed and searched by Google, making marketing searches much easier than other platforms. Just drop “site:plus.google.com” before any search in Google, and you’ll see what people are saying about you inside the platform.
7. Lots of companies block Facebook.com. Yes, you can block plus.google.com without limiting access to Google, but many companies won’t be doing this for a while, so there’s a window of opportunity where marketing behind the firewall (you don’t do that?) will be a potential leverage point.
8. Don’t think “social network.” Think “communications backbone.” This tool allows for private collaboration (privacy is much easier to understand here, but it does require some learning), and permits a “one stop” kind of area for talking internally and externally without causing problems. And it works with email, not in lieu of email.
9. Google is committed to this platform. Unlike other attempts in the past, the mandate at the beginning of 2011 was to blow up social networking and mobile, and most of the leadership of Google and their subordinates was given ultimatum-sounding language to that effect. Why should you care? Because that means they’re committed to making this platform amazing for you.
10. First movers win. Okay, this depends on you, the CMO, and your marketing strategy. Are you a “second to market” kind of marketer? This might not be as useful. But if your leadership is calling for you to be FIRST at something, Google+ is one way to get out there ahead of the competition: At the time of this writing, Ford has a huge presence on Google+. GM and Chrysler (not to mention the other companies)? Not so much.
I haven’t predicted a “next big thing” for the last few years, because the marketplace didn’t really have an obvious successor to the Twitter/Facebook throne. I don’t care if this is a “killer” or not. I know that it’s become (in the first two weeks of its existence) the No. 1 referrer of traffic to my website, and that’s good enough for me.