So you have a Facebook page, you've embraced the Twittersphere, and you've even hopped on the LinkedIn bandwagon. But is your brand on Google+ yet? Unlike many social networks that operate from a single site, Google+ is designed to integrate and enhance all of your Google experiences -- from search and display to Maps and YouTube. Today there are more than 500 million global users on Google+, including 75 percent of the top 100 brands.
Every day, Google Search answers more than 1 billion questions from people (i.e., potential customers) around the globe. Whenever one of these consumers conducts a search on Google for something relevant to your brand, you now have the opportunity to increase your company's visibility by adding in a social layer. By up keeping a Google+ page, your content posts, company information, and multimedia assets will appear in the Google sidebar, helping you boost engagement and increase organic reach and search rankings.
Want proof? Global retailer H&M experienced a 22 percent increase in click-through rates from its Google+ presence alone.
Still not yet convinced? Here are the top four reasons why marketing your brand on Google+ is a must.
Get prime real estate on Google, for free
Improving SEO is often the first step in a brand's marketing strategy, but it usually comes with a high price tag. By creating and maintaining a presence on Google+, brands can ensure consistent top real estate placement in the prime upper right of Google search results for their company names -- without spending a dime.
Let's stick with the same H&M example. When consumers search H&M on Google, their returned search results reveal not just a link to the brand website, but also additional company information on the right side bar of the page. Users will see a map of the local H&M store, the company's most recent G+ posts, and the number of G+ followers the brand has (in H&M's case, that's more than 2.5 million). Users can then click through to H&M's Google+ page to engage more with the brand. By creating and growing a Google+ audience, brands are able to score that prime real estate on the Google Search page they've always wanted.
What's even more compelling for brands is that the presence expands beyond a website hyperlink and static title and description pulled from metadata -- things that rarely change across the site and are not often within control of the social team. Companies that are consistently updating content and multimedia on Google+ can now highlight real-time news, updates, and statuses with anyone searching for them.
When Toyota released the new 2014 Corolla, it teased the launch and published insider footage from the world reveal party on its Google+ page. This brand-new content surfaced in Google searches for the brand and alerted consumers about the new model.
Achieve deeper engagement with users
One of the greatest challenges for brands today is winning the attention of consumers. Brands need new and unique ways to engage their audiences. For example, USA Today shares images and distills key information from articles into infographics to easily convey information and spark discussion within comment threads.
Google+ recently introduced two new features that achieve just that: Hangouts and communities. Google Hangouts is a live group video chat feature that provides brands with a social video platform to speak and interact with multiple customers at a time. Brands ranging from Coca-Cola to National Geographic have held G+ Hangouts with great success. To celebrate its 125th anniversary, National Geographic hosted a seven-continent Google+ Hangout that gave participants the opportunity to ask top explorers James Cameron, Jane Goodall, and Robert Ballard questions "face-to-face." The Hangout drew 22,000 views and 150,000 new followers.
G+ Hangouts provide an obvious utility for B2B marketers, who are no strangers to using webinar services like ReadyTalk or GoToWebinar to host presentations and generate leads. While lead capture isn't a strength of G+ Hangouts (the link is publically accessible and discoverable across YouTube and Google Search), broadcasting on G+ Hangout On Air is a great way to drive brand awareness and demonstrate thought leadership. Marketing software provider Marketo does a good job of this by hosting biweekly "marketing happy hours."
Another great new Google+ feature is communities, which aims to connect people and brands by creating a forum to come together and converse around shared interests. Within a community, fans -- not just brands themselves -- can share links, videos, and images. You can even create community-specific Hangouts. The end result is a gathering place for passionate individuals around a shared interest. Communities are especially effective for popular media franchises like "The Hunger Games" and "Star Wars," which have fans who are eager to connect and discuss their passions.
Drive brand discovery and transaction
Google+ drives discovery across the Google-based web in multiple ways. Gmail users that receive emails from your domain can view your latest posts and follow your Google+ page directly from their inbox. Interactions on your Google+ page can be added as social annotations to your search ads and are shown to increase click-through rates by 5 to 10 percent.
On Google+, users can follow their friends, family, acquaintances, and brands -- and discover content shared by this network in Google Search. This integration is compelling because it allows brands to reach consumers at the point of purchase. For example, if Sarah is at her local grocery store and searched for "casserole recipes" on Google, a Google+ post by her friend about casseroles would appear in her search results. Once Sarah clicks on the recipe, she could then be directed to, say, the Kraft website and feel confident in purchasing the casserole ingredients because a friend recommended the recipe. This creates a magic moment for Kraft because its recipe was easily discovered at the moment of relevance for the user, which leads the user from discovery to transaction in an instant.
Achieve measurable impact
Measuring the impact of social media on your business goals is essential; however, every organization knows tracking social efforts is a constant challenge. Social Reports in Google Analytics allows you to easily measure the impact that your social media efforts have on specific business goals by integrating web and social data. For example, Google Analytics' Conversion Report allows you to tie real dollar amounts to social activities by showing the conversion rates and monetary value of these conversions as a result of visits from your Google+ network. Google Analytics also makes it easy to determine which social communities and engagements matter to your audience and helps you divide resources appropriately.
During the 2012 Olympics, Cadbury, the U.K.'s most popular chocolate, used Google+ to engage a young, tech-savvy audience and stand out among other Olympic sponsors. By releasing exclusive, shareable content on Google+, the brand achieved measurable results including a 17 percent lift in CTR across all its AdWords campaigns, an increase of 10,000 new followers per day, and a 7.5 percent lift in traffic from Google URLs.
Getting on Google+ is a must for any brand looking to engage and grow its audience. Have you signed up yet?
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