Google+ a Must for Midsize Business
Despite impressive early growth figures, Google+ does not have a great reputation as a vehicle for digital marketing and consumer engagement. Although the social network claims 75 million users, not everyone agrees on the validity of that figure, and its presence in popular culture does not match that of social media titans Facebook and Twitter.
However, as pointed out in a recent interview with Zumba Fitness digital marketing specialist Jacob Smith in Mashable Business, maintaining a presence on Google's social media entry is vital for small and midsize businesses. Smith offers two key reasons for smaller enterprises to make the effort to have a Google+ presence: SEO and brand presence.
In terms of SEO, the network is fully integrated with massively popular Google consumer offerings such as search, Google Places, and Google Maps. Thus, having a presence there can greatly boost the all-important SEO score of a smaller business. And helping to get your business prominently featured on the Google search engine is also a major component of brand management, as these days Google has replaced the phone book for most people searching for a provider of a particular product or service.
In addition, Smith points out that integration with enterprise tools such as Google Docs and Gmail makes the network a potentially powerful tool for enhanced internal communications, and the Hangouts feature can be used to host video conferences and brainstorming sessions both for internal employees and external customers.
Hanging Out With Your Customers
While Smith mainly focuses on how Hangouts can aid internal group communications, it is worth pointing out that one of the biggest potential value-adds social media offers marketers is the opportunity to directly engage with customers for real-time feedback and focus groups. Social media can greatly increase the speed and reduce the cost of market research, allowing marketing campaigns to be adapted far earlier in the product life cycle than ever before.
And Hangouts provide a unique breadth and depth of real-time, "face to face" consumer interaction that so far no other social network can approach. Midsize enterprises suffer competitive disadvantages related to their resources and staffing levels that realistically can never be overcome.
But smaller operations are by nature more reflexive and responsive operations, and midsize companies traditionally stay competitive with larger rivals by being more creative, flexible, and customer-focused. Hangouts allow midsize businesses to get even better at what they do best--listening to the customer, reacting quickly to changes in the marketplace, and offering a personalized experience.
Leave No Social Stone Unturned
It is also worth noting that as social media is still in its early days, midsize enterprises would do well to keep an open mind about the variety of social networks available. While obviously there needs to be a level of selectiveness, the fact remains social media marketing at its core is a relatively inexpensive and fast way of conducting marketing. Digital marketers should at least investigate the possibilities beyond Facebook and Twitter.
And they need to investigate now. Keep in mind that as a result of oversaturation today's consumers are highly skilled at tuning out marketing messaging. Established social networks like Facebook are already littered with ads and promotions, making standing out difficult. But on less popular social networks, there is more opportunity to deliver a marketing message that will actually reach even advertising-jaded modern consumers. By waiting until Google's new social network becomes more popular (as it almost certainly will given the power of Google sits behind it) and most likely more expensive to start advertising, midsize marketers are just ensuring they will spend more to get less.
In a final thought, keep in mind that we are still in the earliest stages of the social media era and there are no guarantees that the top players now will be the top players in five years - remember when MySpace was the coolest thing going?
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.