Google’s I/O Developer Conference just wrapped up, and after a lengthy presentation featuring a beautiful UI update and integration into Google’s key products, it’s now clearer than ever that Google+ is here to stay. I’m here to tell you why you need to use it.
I’m Carter—a 22-year-old college grad with a million followers on Google+ who started a nonprofit from that audience. I’m a walking case study in why Google+ is an effective platform. I was an early adopter who made sure that I used that platform to the fullest, and it paid off. But as time goes by, that first-mover advantage is quickly slipping away as the network matures.
Ghost town? What ghost town?
When I tell people I have over a million followers on Google+, they basically fall out of their chair. “HOW!?” is the typical response. There are several explanations as to “HOW!?” but the most important is that Google+ is being used…a lot. When Google+ was in its infancy, a few Mashable articles claimed that Google+ was a ghost town. Google quickly showed that their social network had 150 million active users and over 500 million signups. Today the number of daily active users sits at 190 million.
I can hear you yelling at your computer, “But Google makes you sign up for Google+! No one is actually using it!” I knew you’d say that. Here’s why you’re wrong: It’s true that a Google account makes you sign up for Google+, but Google transparently distinguishes between people who have an account and active users.
Google+ looks at your traditional SEO and laughs at it—but gives you an opportunity
No one knows more about you than Google does. In fact, Google may know you better than you know yourself. It sounds creepy, but we’re okay with social networks knowing more and more about us because it creates a better experience for us. The massive growth in social media suggests that the benefit we receive from sharing our information with social networks is greater than the benefit we receive from not sharing our information.
Google+ will make you used to a lot more sharing. Sure, the whole location sensitive search thing is cool, but how do you make a search engine smart enough to know that when I search “Android taking over the world” I want to see this…
…instead of this?
The answer lies in knowing my preferences, whose opinion I value, and the type of content I interact with. Enter Google+, PageRank and SEO to determine a website’s authority by how many other places link back to it. Simply, it determines whether your organization shows up on page one or page 1,001. So what does Google+ have to do with any of this?
Google+ is, in the words of Google’s Senior VP of Engineering, “…the unification of all Google’s services, with a common social layer.” So while Google+ may not be the number one social network, you’re looking at it wrong if you think Google+ is just a social network. There’s no debating that Google’s user base is unparalleled, so why not use the network that influences the most powerful site in the world?
In the image below, on the left you’re seeing what someone who doesn’t use Google+ at all sees when they search for “Carter Gibson.” On the right you’re seeing what someone sees who uses Google+ and follows me there with the same query — my name. They may look the same at first glance, but take special note of the higher quality content on the right. Those “person icons” mean you’re seeing them because of Google+.
This difference may appear subtle, but Google+ can easily be the reason why someone finds your organization or not. It doesn’t take a million followers either. Here’s what it looks like when you search for my nonprofit The LittleBigFund with a more modest 40,000 followers. (Note the more accurate content on the right from someone who circles The LittleBigFund on Google+.)
As more and more organizations sign up, your opportunity to make a unique impact dwindles. If you’re feeling stretched already and just see Google+ as another ‘thing you have to do’ – don’t. Instead look at how expensive SEO can be and realize that by reaching the right audiences in Google+ you get that oh-so-coveted top search result for free. Of course it’s going to take some energy to do right, but benefits are tangible. Don’t miss your chance to make things easier for your cause.
Is your organization using Google +? Has it been effective? Let us know in the comments.