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


Readers' comments (12)

  • Regardless of what the low numbers state, one must not forget that what chrome browser did to IE and Firefox in uptake in numbers.

    Facebook may have opened up doors for a Social Network but the rich integration of Google is just to vast to ignore. Let's see what year 2/3/4/5 brings and compare the stats then.

    I for one will not be surprised when the gap is closed

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  • @Azzam - I am with you but our sentiment seems to be the exception rather than the rule. If Google HAD to make money through Google+ I would say there is trouble but they can afford the 'slow roll' and adoption rates that are more about integrating the total Google suite of services than just picking up large numbers of users who would have an account but not use the service.

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  • It is impossible to ignore Google+ when you think of the importance it now plays in search engine results. Anyone with an interest in search engine optimisation, content and inbound marketing simply can no longer afford to ignore this platform.

    There is already a decent size and growing audience on Google+. Consider the ability to segment your audience using circles and already it is seemingly a much richer communications and engagement tool for marketers than facebook.

    As Azzam says, it will be very interesting to see what years 2-5 bring in terms of the platform's development and user base growth.

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  • I love Google+ - a brilliantly clean system, superb display of pics and videos, ease of sharing via circles, the events functionality with calendar (more on that later) is great and of course - the USP - Hangouts.

    Google+ should not be ignored simply because of the integration factor with gmail, blogger, calendar, youtube and any other google product - plus if you have a Google+ page for your brand/company, you are going to influence Google search with your presence and content - a no brainer.

    As Facebook gets more obnoxious with its moneterisation efforts (promoted posts coming to timeline) more and more people will jump ship to other sites - not all will go to Google+ but this is still enough of a ground floor to get on and make your mark before it achieves critical mass.

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  • It would be great if it did work as i am so over Facebook and don't really have an equivalent quality of platform that i could call professional. My problem is it seems a bit un-social to me...very little real traction of an engagement nature between people. It could just be me...

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  • Heck... year one?

    We are getting so quick to find reasons to "dispose of" social tools and technologies it's not funny.

    So long as Google + can maintain a substantial user base, it will be an effective tool, why does it matter if it unseats Facebook or any other tool?

    Let's give it some time IMO.

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  • Google+ may have had quite a few people sign up for it, but I find (as a marketer) that it is more of a ghost town than anything booming.

    I am not all that impressed with Google+. It lacks the user-friendliness of other social platforms, because it tries to provide too many solutions for the end-user. Therefore, the product is rather disjointed.

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  • G+ is boring, get used to this simple fact.
    People don't tend to use boring social media sites.

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  • Its a ghost town. The only reason G+ got 10 million users in is first month was because Google's might was promoting it and integrating it with their other products.

    I for one resent having to create a profile on there just to do better in Google rankings and Places.

    Once you've created your profile all you see are tumble weeds blowing through the ether. I have hundreds of friends on Facebook and out of about 400, 3 of them are on G+.

    The signup may be rapid but it would be interesting to see how many minutes G+ users spend per day (month) on there. My guess is not a lot.

    I can understand big brands hedging their bets and taking a gamble but G+ certainly isn't ready for smaller companies/brands.

    With exponential rapid growth often comes catastrophic failure.

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  • Google Hangout definitely a good feature that has created a unique positioning compared to other social channels.

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