Should you care about Google+

Aug 5, 2011 12:33:20 PM

By: Laura Price, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Keller Williams Realty International

“Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore

Whenever I login to Google+ I feel a little like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Upon entering, Google’s new social space has the feeling of a familiar world but things around me are suddenly different.

I’m intrigued. I’m curious. And frankly, I’m also a little confused. Hrm.

Why am I here? Where should I go next? Who should I take with me? What the heck does it mean to +1 something?

What’s great about Google+ is that it is new and different, yet reminiscent of our general social interactions. What’s challenging about Google+ is that it’s new, different and adds a whole new layer of complication to our online, socially-driven lives.

What we need here is a Google+ Yellow Brick Road! Let’s get skipping friends. (And put the Wizard of Oz allusion to rest).

WHAT IS Google+?

For those of you who have been stuck in Kansas (you thought I was done!) for the past month, Google+ – also known as Google Plus, or G+ – is Google’s largest attempt at a social networking site. It integrates with other social services such as Google Profiles and Google Buzz and incorporates several new services within the platform including:

  1. +Circles – Enable you to organize contacts into groups for sharing across various Google products and services.
  2. +Hangouts – Used to facilitate group chat (with a maximum of 10 people participating in a single Hangout
  3. +Sparks – Enables users to identify topics they might be interested in sharing with others. “Featured Interests” Sparks are also available, based on topics others globally find interesting.
  4. +Huddles - A group messaging feature available within the Google+ mobile app. Rather than sending text messages to each person in a circle the user sends Huddle messages to the group.

Google+ is also the search engine giant’s attempt to rival Facebook and its 750 million users.

STAT-TASTIC

Here are the big numbers you should know:

Of the 25 million, the U.S. leads in Google+ usage with about 6.44 million unique visitors. 63% of its users are male compared to 37% female. The biggest age group using Google+ is 25-34 with 35%, followed by 18-23 with 23%. The top Google+ markets in the U.S. are Austin, Texas, the Bay Area and Minneapolis-St. Paul. As of August 3, comScore was reporting that the number of users on Google+ had reached 25 million.

WHY SHOULD REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONALS CARE?

These numbers make Google+ the fastest to reach 25 million users among top social networking sites - a possible indication that this Google product has legs and will soon become part of your online real estate marketing mix … maybe. It truly remains to be seen if and when the greater public (your clients) will latch on, but at the rate its growing and the improvements Google is making, many techies are betting on its success.

PERFECT CIRCLES

Circles is arguably Google+’s greatest strength. They’ve essentially taken a fundamental element of Facebook and for lack of a better word, Plus-ed it! Circles are simply Google’s way of letting you bucket your network into different groups and it’s incredibly simple!

As a real estate agent, you might create buckets for Friends, Family, Co-op Agents, Past Clients, and Buyers and Sellers. When you add someone to the Circle they are notified that they belong to one of your Circles (and conveniently they don’t know which one – Genius!)

Creating smart Circles will allow you to target your messages, photos, updates, videos and favorite articles to specific groups of people.

SEO-CENTRIC

If Circles help you reach the right audience with the right message then the Stream, Sparks and +1 features help people find information that is relevant to them and their search and put their stamp of approval on it.

There’s been quite a bit of buzz lately on whether Google+ will start influencing Page Rank (meaning, if a link shared on G+ is weighted more than others improving your placement in certain search results). If it does, then the SEO benefits become a powerful reason to add Google+ to your social media arsenal.

The bottom line is this: these days, public endorsement and word of mouth are far more effective at generating business than traditional advertising – assuming you make an effort to consistently keep your brand in front of your audience.

THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION: IS IT WORTH YOUR TIME?

Jay Papasan, Vice President of Publishing at Keller Williams Realty and coauthor of Soci@l, said it well, “Unless your clients happen to be early-adopting, tech-savvy men between the age of 25 and 34, then you might want to wait to go ‘all in’ on Google+. The large majority of your clients may not be there yet. Just keep an eye on it while you invest your time and energy in more proven lead sources.”

At the very least, get on, get started building your profile and creating Circles (more on all of these next week). Then continue to master LinkedIN, Facebook and Twitter as your online lead generators until the masses make it to G+.

Already on Google+ - Come find us: Jay Papasan Laura Price

Not there yet, but want to be? The first 20 people to post this on either Facebook or Twitter (and tell me about it) will get a Google+ invite. Just comment on the blog or send me an email to laura.price1@kw.com to let me know you posted it and claim your entry.

PLUS: Stay tuned next week for 10 tips and tricks to get started on Google+. Bring your ideas to *+* the conversation.