Google+: a year on

Brands have capitalised on the visual aspects of Google+ in the year since its launch, but marketers are still calling for the search giant to improve consumer understanding of the social network as it nears its first anniversary.

Thomson Google Plus
Thomson’s iAdvisor Diane Bellamy on a Google+ Hangout in Crete

Cadbury, H&M, PlayStation and The Financial Times are among the brands that have already been added to more than 1 million users’ Circles since its beta launch in June last year, ahead of the wider launch in September.

Google+ now has an 11.4 per cent share of the total visits to social networking sites in the UK, according to comScore. This audience is up 79 per cent from November 2011 when the research agency first started collating figures for the site.

The Financial Times has amassed more than 1.2 million followers on Google+ and has found visual posts such as infographics, news analysis pieces and videos have driven the highest levels of engagement.

Cadbury, which has 2.3 million followers, kicked off its Google+ activity as part of its London 2012 Olympic sponsorship and says it saw an early opportunity to “stand out” on the platform, while other marketers were “waiting to see where it was going”.

Sonia Carter, head of digital at Cadbury owner Kraft Foods Europe, says it has seen particularly strong responses around small projects that make the most of Google+’s unique features such as Hangouts, “exclusive” Circles. The brand even created a cake version of the Cadbury Google+ page to celebrate reaching 500,000 followers.

She adds that brands questioning the value of usefulness or Google+ need to understand the “crucial role” the social network plays in Google’s strategy to provide better and more relevant searches for customers across all its products. Carter also hopes Google will begin to provide brands with more relevant data about how customers engage with the service.

Elsewhere, Thomson is using Google+’s Hangouts feature to hold virtual welcome meetings hosted by its holiday reps so that customers can ask questions about their resort before they visit.

Ian Chapman, Thomson’s director of holiday experiences, says Google+ Hangouts offer a more personal experience than some social networks, which helps build up the holiday buzz and positive feeling towards the brand. However, he says there needs to be a better understanding among consumers about what Google+ is used for in order for it to roll out further initiatives.

Momentum for the platform is growing, but Google+ still has a way to go before brands give it the same attention they give to Facebook or Twitter, according to TBG Digital.

The social media agency has seen its clients “all but shelve” interest in engaging with Google+ as it is focused on delivering activity at scale, which it says the platform cannot yet offer.

Lee Griffin, TBG Digtal’s commercial director, says: “Even if a Google+ feature like Hangouts is cool or useful, the platform needs the right audience to make a difference and it doesn’t have that yet.”

Google+’s EMEA head of marketing Cristian Cussen says its first year has been “hugely encouraging”, having seen “tremendous creativity” from brands and businesses.
He adds: “Above all, the most exciting attribute of Google+ is that it has become a clear platform for conversation. By not being limited in length and by being able to segment what they share and with whom, consumers are having rich discussions about the topics and brands they care about.”

Google+ and its users
Source: YouGov and TBG Digital (June 2012)

  • 65% of adult online users in the UK regularly log into Facebook, compared with 10% for Google+
  • 47% of UK online users follow brands on Facebook, compared with only 4% on Google+
  • Adult online users in the UK who are 55+ are almost twice as likely to use Google+ as those aged 35-44

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