We are evolving into a world where we constantly have access to data streams and where we stream data individually. It is a fast-paced, real-time world and, for a small minority, it is already here. It is a big adjustment, not just for individuals and organisations, but also for society and for Government. You can run from it but you cannot hide.
Into this data maelstrom, Google – and its baby, Google+ – have entered and are playing a key role. Social, in the technological sense, is now not just a trend but a meme – an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.
Google+ is a young social media platform by the standards of LinkedIn (2002), Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2006). Like all fledgling applications, it was difficult to understand , at first, how it worked and where it was going. Now, with Communities and Hangouts and the capability of connecting with anyone through Circles, all you need to have in common is an interest, business, idea or activity.
You don’t need to “know” someone previously, as in the Facebook or LinkedIn worlds. It shares with Twitter the “follow anyone” principle and opens your experience to serendipity and opportunity. Every visit brings floods of new information and experiences.
In fact, it’s not really a people-centred social media platform at all, more a content-sharing medium. It’s content that’s the focus with people as content-providers rather than “friends” or “business contacts”.
Google+ seems to be aiming to become an operating system that has social built into it, reducing the cost of social information to almost nothing. Like its cousin, Android, it will dominate mobile devices and add a layer of social connections to all communications technology.
I hear people complain that their business and personal contacts “aren’t there”. Whether they are there or not (and many of them probably are!), Google has a Profile for them so they might as well manage it actively and, because it is integrated with other Google applications, a Google+ Profile has benefits inside and outside, Google+.
Using Google+ and Gmail together provides you with an astonishingly powerful relationship management system. It ensures that your business shows up on Google Local and Google Maps, improves the online visibility of your brand and facilitates user reviews.
Google is now giving brands free space on one of the most valuable pages in the world: the search engine results page. For almost every brand, their own name is the most valuable search keyword they have.
Try it now: key in “John Lewis” on Google and, next to the familiar ten blue links on the left, you’ll see the brand’s latest post on Google+, complete with a timestamp that demonstrates freshness and relevance.
And next to it? A button more prominent than any link on the page enticing users to “Follow” the brand on Google+. A click on that link begins a relationship that is worth many times over the value of the search itself. Implicitly, Google has made a new offer to every brand: set up a page on Google+ and you can own a huge and prominent PR space on your search results page.
The Google Authorship feature allows you to claim validated ownership of all the content you publish on the Web. This is done by linking your Google+ account with the content you publish. If you have used Google Authorship to mark your online articles and posts, those posts come up in a search results along with your Profile picture and a “More by Author” link. This makes the content look more authentic and personalised, improves the visibility of both the author and the business and leads to improved SEO.
Google’s AuthorRank is shaking up inbound marketing and SEO. The concept of AuthorRank is that the reputation and influence of content creators seriously impacts the ranking of search results. AuthorRank does not negate the importance of PageRank but it utilises social signals to make search engine results smarter — taking into account the social influence of content and weeding out spam and unoriginal content from top search rankings.
To fare well under Google AuthorRank, you and your organisation should be active on Google+. Each time someone gives your content a +1, it gets a stamp of approval — increasing its reach and magnifying your opportunities for higher rates of traffic and lead generation. Capitalise on these opportunities by using Google Authorship to index all your original content.
Thomas Power (+Thomas Power) has postulated that Circle Relationship Management (CRM) will emerge and become a part of the business vernacular. A business organises their customer base by circles of interest, circles of revenue, circles of location, circles of demographic values. These circles are all interconnected and maintained by users themselves, the company’s data systems and Google’s social graph layered over search to build a rich understanding of the client base.
So what can Google+ do for you and your business? To get your business page on Google Maps, you used to have to register your business with Google Places. Now it’s all about Google+ Local Pages. Not only is it integrated with Google Maps but it’s integrated directly within the search engine results pages (SERPS).
Use Google+ Authorship as I mentioned earlier. Review your Circles and devise a way for moving people in your Circles closer to you as they recognise and interact with you. Set up your Circles so that they reflect closeness and value in a series of steps.
Join Communities and, as you get to know them, set up one or more of your own. Mine have other Moderators so that, if I miss a day or two, someone will step in and manage the Community.
If you want to stay in touch with apps that are helping to change social into social business, you can join one of my Communities here.