Google+ For Business
1. Why was Google+ created?
Google+ was created as another attempt for Google to get a foothold in the social media market - making them attractive to the same advertisers flocking to Facebook. But it's not just a social network - it has been described by Techcrunch as Google's "social extension" and forms part of the company's strategy as a whole. Its focus is on making sharing and connecting online an easy and seamless experience and allows users to engage with a number of Google products from one central toolbar. Google+ was preceded by Google Buzz and Google Wave, and it has been touted as the search giant's answer to Facebook.
Also, by encouraging people to share their likes and dislikes and by tracking users' recommendations, Google will be able to better target search results to users - and in combination with the current AdWords system, Google will be able to provide something extremely powerful - extraordinarily detailed information for advertising clients.
2. Who is it aimed at and what is its main purpose?
Basically, Google+ is aimed at Google users - all of those hundreds of millions of people who search with Google and have Gmail accounts - and aims to get all of them to engage with the social experience Google+ creates. It also provides a way for Google to integrate a number of its products into one area - Google Documents, Google Reader, YouTube videos into Google+ and the integration of Google+ itself into Google search. For example, a search for "Candace Whitehead" will bring up my Google+ profile near the top of the search results and allow other users to find and add me quickly. The idea is to make using a variety of Google products a seamless experience - and we'll see more of this with the rollout of Google Music soon.
3. What does the +1 button mean?
The +1 button is essentially Google's answer to Facebook's "like" and is a way for users to indicate their approval of an article, image, another Google+ user or a Google+ brand page and recommend it to other users. These +1 buttons are embedded on websites across the globe and are not exclusive to Google pages. On the article or page, a tally of +1s are displayed, indicating the number of people who have recommended it. In addition, if you are a Google+ user, any articles or pages that you +1 appear in your +1 tab on your profile. You also have an option to share the web page that you +1'd with circles on your Google+ page - meaning that your recommendation will appear on their news feed and under your Posts tab on Google+.
4. How does this fairly new networking platform compare to Facebook or LinkedIn?
Google+ has incorporated features that are found on other social media sites like Facebook - for example the network's news streams, photo albums and ability to "friend" other users. However, unlike Facebook individuals can separate other users into "Circles" and decide what to share from each circle. This feature was Google+'s big selling point at the time of its launch. So, for example, a user can create Circles such as Work, Family, Best Friends, Acquaintances, Book Club and School and separate people into circles, and even add them to more than one. Content that is inappropriate for work colleagues - photographs of your bachelorette party, for example - can be shared with your "Best Friends" circle only - or shared with more than one, so "Best Friends", "Book Club" and "Family". Likewise, you can choose to view streams from particular Circles - so if you have no desire to know what Bob from Accounting had for lunch, you just don't view your Work stream. However, if you do not want to create and maintain Circles, you do not have to.
Another of Google+'s big selling points has been its "Hangouts" feature, which lets people engage in group video chats via web camera. This is a unique feature when compared to the other big social networks - such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn - and will be interesting from a brand perspective, allowing businesses to talk directly to their clients "face to face" and in real time. Currently businesses that run brand Facebook pages or Twitter accounts interact with their users via text posts, which have the potential to be misinterpreted or worse, ignored by the company.
At the moment, while there are millions of people with Google+ accounts, the number of those who actively use them are in the minority. People are famously reluctant to move away from "safe" networks such as Twitter and Facebook, and in fact many people don't see the need for another social network.
About the author
Candace Whitehead is iAfrica.com Social Media Manager.
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