Like many people, my first forays into social media were, well, social. When I first tried out Facebook, it seemed like a gigantic high school reunion. When I first tried out Google+, it seemed like a gigantic high school reunion where the organizer forgot to send out invitations. PC Magazine has a great article, including an infographic, comparing the primary differences between the two for personal use.
It very quickly became clear to me that Google + was not going to swoop in and take Facebook’s place in our social lives. As a result, it’s been easy to write off Google+ as unimportant in the world of social media; but for businesses, that would be an enormous mistake.
Last Month Changed Everything
Until Dec. 2013, many businesses used Facebook as their go-to social media home. That’s where the people are. Unfortunately, in late December, Facebook changed their algorithms so the most hard-won fans that companies cultivated are unlikely to see unpaid status updates made by Facebook pages. Many companies saw drops of more than 50% in organic reach. In the case of one vocal blogger, unpaid reach went down to around 1%, despite a loyal and engaged following.
Facebook’s solution to the dilemma? Pay to play – placing ads and promoted posts will ensure content still reaches a page’s fans, but at a cost.
The sad truth is even if a business promotes posts on Facebook and gets new followers, there is little reason to believe that the new followers will ever see a single unpaid post, even though liking a page essentially requests that the posts be visible to them. Facebook claims that the algorithm change was made to make the news feed more interesting, but representatives of larger businesses speculate that Facebook’s change was made to force companies to shell out advertising money, alluded to in a recent AdAge article on the subject. From the article, as attributed to a source at Facebook:
“We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”
Fortunately, there’s still a network out there with a graphical user interface, SEO benefits and the ability to reach everyone who has elected to follow your page.
It’s time to take another look at Google +.
Say Goodbye to Facebook EdgeRank
While Google + has a smaller total user base than Facebook, page posts on G+ are seen by everyone who has elected to follow the page. There’s no need to pay for the privilege of communicating with those who have already opted to receive the company’s posts. While an organization may only have a tenth as many followers on Google +, there’s no reason to think that by mid-2014 that Google + page might still be reaching more people with each post than a much larger Facebook page, as Facebook organic reach is expected to continue its drop.
Smaller Pond, but More Directed
Where everyone is on Facebook, Google+ is a smaller pond. On the plus side, there’s not nearly as much competition for their attention as there would be on Facebook. Moreover, Google+ fans seem to engage more with brands that they follow – perhaps because fewer companies are currently targeting them. Take advantage of it while you can.
YouTube comments are integrated into the Google+ account. It’s causing a hullabaloo, but Google is unlikely to reverse this change. This means greater crossover between YouTube visitors when you’re on Google +. Enjoy it as another way to engage them without paying for advertising.
Communities Include Businesses
Another advantage to Google+ is the ability to join communities as a business. By joining a community where there are active discussions about a specific field, it’s easy to develop a following of users who are interested in the targeted industry. On Facebook, business pages are limited to posting on their own walls and those of other pages, without access to groups. This can be circumvented by joining the group under a personal name and linking to the company when relevant, but it does not allow a business to join groups as a business. It’s a lot easier to build a trust relationship when there’s no need to hide behind a separate name. Building relationships is the key to social media, and Google+ makes it easier to build new relationships.
Search Engine Rankings
Finally, the icing on the G+ cake is increased search engine visibility for content that’s shared on the network (even if it isn’t content you’ve authored). For companies that want legitimacy – or even just visibility – high search ranking is very important. Google+ profiles appear in Google search results, and public conversations can also appear in Google’s search results. Google’s hashtag search scheme places a huge preference on content shared on G+. When these results link to the company’s homepage, it provides an easy avenue for discovery.
In short? Fans or no fans, there’s something to be said SEO-wise for having your content on Google +.
Not Ready to Make that Leap?
It’s hard to bear the thought of abandoning hundreds or thousands of fans you’ve grown on Facebook. If you’ve invested in advertising to grow that fan base, it’s especially painful to be asked to pony up again in order to reach them.
But don’t throw good money after bad. Facebook is moving toward a model that will very likely eliminate unpaid reach – the network has too much to gain from the influx of advertising and promoted posts dollars. While a paid strategy is a smart move for many organizations, it’s shortsighted not to take advantage of other outlets in the meanwhile. Despite some of its growing pains, Google + offers some undeniable benefits for marketers that are worth another look.