Google+ is developing as a strong social tool for businesses.
Here is information to help you gain insight into how chat with a stranger Google+ compares to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter from a business standpoint.
This can help you decide why Google+ is worth some effort, and why your involvement on G+ matters for your business.
First, I think it’s useful to look at existing social media channels to get an idea of their strengths.
Quick Descriptions of the Big 3 – LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter
LinkedIn’s niche is its business focus – it’s the place you go to build your virtual Rolodex; Facebook is personal, it’s like the “Jersey Shore” of communicating; Twitter is immediate – short-and-sweet news and current thoughts.
Or, how about this: LinkedIn is for people you know professionally. Facebook is for people you know or used to know socially. Twitter is for people you want to know.
Another angle is to compare the three channels from a news- and information-oriented perspective: LinkedIn is for industry and professional news, Facebook works best for personal news, and Twitter is “in the moment” and lets you know what’s going on or what you need to know right now.
How does Google+ “fit” into these social channels?
Google+ offers businesses and brands a new way to share what they do and who they are. But we know each social media channel requires time and energy, and the burning question for many is…”Is Google+ worth it”?
Consider the age old question, If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? As a business, I think you want to make a BIG sound. Google+ can help, because it’s part of the Google family of apps that all work together for Search.
The strength of Search is why Google+ makes sense for businesses.
Google+ compared to LinkedIn
Google+ vs. LinkedIn – LinkedIn stresses professional networking and is tailored to job seeking, where Google+ is broader. Google+ is flexible, and can be used as either a professional network or a personal network (or both).
The tone of Google+ interactions is less formal than what you find on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn allows users access to the email addresses of my connections and allows you to store them offline, which puts you in control of your contacts. Google+ is open as well.
Google+ has an advantage over LinkedIn for professional relationship building through status updates. Status updates never really took off with LinkedIn. Not many people post them, and not many people “hang out” on LinkedIn to read them. But so far, those status updates and related conversations seem to be flowing in professional circles on Google+. Diane Elkins goes into more detail in her blog on Google+. Among other things, she advocates building a professional network on Google+ as a complement to a presence on LinkedIn.
Take away: Build a professional network on Google+ as a complement to your presence on LinkedIn.
Google+ compared to Facebook
Google+ is not another Facebook – it’s developing its own niche and place – and that place is ideal for businesses and brands. Why? Let’s look at what Facebook is and does well.
Facebook is already engrained in users lives. Users have been involved for years in this social, personal, friend/acquaintance-based space. In Facebook people share, stalk, and keep up on personal stuff.
However, Facebook has some drawbacks when it comes to expanding their reign to the business side of things – which in contrast does not hinder Google+:
Privacy: Privacy concerns are a major reason people are hesitant to mix business and personal on Facebook. Many people use Facebook to see what family and friends are doing, but want this to be very separate from work and professional world. Do you want your client to see you and your extended family on a blow-out beach vacation? Facebook’s addressing this, but it’s still a bit messy and complicated. Google+ allows easy separation of messaging in any groupings you choose, including business and personal.
A Place to do Business: While the zillions of eyeballs are on Facebook, so far it’s been a hard-to-prove tough sell to take Facebook from a personal place to a monetized business site (for all the wrangling and attempts to see it otherwise). This could change as Facebook evolves, or as advertising, incentives, gimmicks or other changes broaden the reasons people spend so much time on Facebook. Google+ integrates with other Google apps (Google Maps, Google Places for example) and has robust business potential.
Ownership of Information: Facebook, unlike other platforms, is not open source. Information, such as friend’s email addresses, is Facebook’s – not yours. Google is more open.
Search – most Facebook data is private is not indexed by Google or other search engines. Google+ is integrated in Google search.
There is a huge time management issue that speaks to Facebook remaining dominant in the personal sphere: with time being at a premium, there’s no compelling reason to share the same things in two places with the exact same contacts (i.e., post the same stuff on Facebook and Google+).
Take away: Continue to use Facebook for personal stuff, develop your Google+ Business Page and nurture that for increased business-oriented engagement and search benefits.
Google+ compared to Twitter
Content: Google+ allows more than the 140 characters on Twitter, and organizes conversations in easy-to-follow groupings.
Trends: Both Google+ and Twitter allow you to see trending topics in real time – so you know what the social media world is discussing. Twitter trends come from a very large and diverse user population, and tend to include a few trends that are less than serious (joke hash-tags or holiday messages). Google+ trends, on the other hand, are more limited (based on the limited time they’ve been available) and relate mostly to current events and celebrity news, but not other kinds of popular culture.
The information posted on Google+ so far seems more conversational. Unlike Twitter, everybody on Google+ is using a real name, which helps guarantee a much better quality of the exchanges and content shared (like LinkedIn, but with less formality).
Google+ is similar to Twitter in that you can follow complete strangers without requiring them to follow you back (and without sending them any invite that they’d need to approve). For more on this, check out Anne D.’s post on Google+.
Take away: For greater engagement and keeping your finger on the pulse of current trends, Google+ is useful for businesses.