Archive for April, 2012

I dismissed Google+, you should not.

Friday, April 13th, 2012

When Google+ opened up its service to Beta users in June 2011, 10 million users signed up within the first 2 weeks.  Like me, the majority of these 10 million people probably thought to themselves, “Google are doing Social Media?!  Cool!”.  And like me, I bet most of them played around with the site for a while and thought it looked as good as they’d been hoping……..and then after a week they stopped logging in and forgot all about it.  Fad.

I’m maybe exaggerating a little bit.  I didn’t forget all about it entirely, but when my suggestions of establishing a Google+ presence were met with indifference, my own interest quickly faded too.  I figured that nobody is using Google+ just now and that it would probably be a wasted effort trying to build a community of Followers.

I maintained that opinion until a chance conversation with a friend about what the boutique hotel booking specialist he worked for (Mr & Mrs Smith) were currently doing with Social Media.  He told me they were thinking about ways to better engage with their Google+ Followers.  At this point, Google+ was well and truly out of my mind – last time I’d checked, the large businesses in our sector had at most two or three hundred Followers.  So when I checked Mr & Mrs Smith’s Google+ page and saw that over 400,000 people had them in their Circles, I was gobsmacked. I literally had to sit and think for a few minutes how this was possible.  And berate myself for letting Google’s new venture slip off my radar so easily.

After the initial shock of seeing a company that much smaller than our own (no offence!) with so many Followers, I started thinking again about the benefits to businesses of being active on Google+.  I’m going to discuss here three features I think make Google+ unique and worthwhile for businesses and brands to invest their time in: Circles, Hangouts, and what I’m calling ‘Search+Social’.



Circles is Google’s mechanism for helping you group the people and brands you’re Following on Google+.  Default Circles include ones for Friends, Family, and Acquaintances.  You’re not restricted to these though, and can make up your own custom Circles.  For example, I’ve got ones for co-workers, my hockey team mates, and for businesses that I Follow.  Having all your contacts grouped this way means you can easily choose to Post content visible only to specific Circles, and also choose which Circles you do or do not want to see appearing in your Google+ News Stream.  It feels much more intuitive and easier to manage than anything Facebook have done to date.

For brands, this has great potential.  Every time a customer contacts you, you can add them to a custom Circle.  At a very basic level, you could add anyone who Posts on your Wall to a “Have contacted us” Circle.  You could also add these people into Circles specific to what they’ve contacted you about.  For instance, if a customer has purchased a TV from your website you could add them into an “Electronics” Circle.  In future, you could target this Circle with news or promotions about your Electronics products, knowing that the people you’re targeting already have some level of interest in the subject; as opposed to just sending all updates to everyone.  You can’t currently target a subsection of Followers like this on Facebook.

One company making good use of Google+ Circles is Intel.  They invite their Followers to indicate what topics they are interested in receiving updates about by clicking on one of several photos shown on their Google+ homepage .  People will be more likely to continue Following Intel’s Google+ page, as there is a level of control over what kind of Intel content is being broadcast to their News Feed.


+1 a photo to be added to the Circle



The Google+ Hangouts feature allows you to have group video chats with your friends (or Followers).  Having a user-friendly video chat function integrated into the site opens up some options to Brands that just don’t exist on other social networks.  Some businesses arrange Facebook Q&A sessions where Fans can ask questions to experts from particular areas of the business.  With Hangouts this could be done “face to face” over webcams, and would offer an enhanced interactive experience for your customers.  You can also arrange Hangouts that customers can tune in to like a Webinar, or broadcast your own DIY chat show with a guest being interviewed!.  And part of the appeal of Hangouts is how simple and inviting it is to use.



What I mean by ‘Search+Social’ is the integration of Google+ relationships with Google search results.  An example of this Google+/Google Search integration can be seen in the photo below.  Whilst logged in to my Google account I searched for Mr & Mrs Smith.  As you can see below, their advert appeared at the top of my results.  This in itself isn’t unusual, but included in the body of the advert is a “recommendation” from one of my friends who has +1’d them on Google+ (Clicking “+1” is Google’s equivalent of Liking someone on Facebook).


Google search results when logged into Google+


For any company advertising with Google, it would be wise to consider the benefits of having your company “Recommended by a friend” as part of your advert.  Imagine searching for a company you’re considering spending your money with and straight away seeing that 20 of your friends have +1’d them.  One of the better reasons for investing time in building your Google+ fan base.


Other considerations: Google+ content for Google+ Fans

Consider the gender demographics of the big social networks.  Facebook is c.57% Female/c.43% Male.  Twitter is c.59% Female/c.41% Male.  Google+ demographics on the other hand show it to be a Male dominated social network: c.71% Male to c.29% Female. (Source:

If your Facebook Fans are predominantly Female (some brands are significantly above the 57% average) then you might be looking for ways to engage more of your Male customers.  One way to do this would be to start focusing some effort into your Google+ page.  To do this effectively you should consider what content best fits this specific network, and not just see Google+ as a place to copy+paste your latest Facebook content.  Unique content for a unique set of Fans.

So when publishing content on your Google+ page, think about your audience……your Male dominated audience.  If you’re a Clothing website talking about a new range launch, trying leading your post with comments or offers on suits rather than sandals.  And if you’re a supermarket think more about posting news about some behind the scenes tech innovations and “What are the first THREE items you’re buying when the Zombie Apocalypse kicks off?” updates, rather than “What would you stock up on for a night in watching The Notebook??”.


And one more cool thing about Google+: it’s like a searchable version of Facebook

In addition to the three features I discussed earlier, something that stood out to me the first time I used Google+ is that it’s basically a searchable version of Facebook.  It merges some of the best aspects of Facebook and Twitter in to one package – or at least that’s how I see it from a business insight perspective.  On Facebook there could be a large number of people talking about your brand to their friends, but unless they go out of their way to tell you their opinions you’ll never hear them.  On Twitter you can easily search for people tweeting about your brand, but due to the nature of Twitter the comments will be brief.  With Google+ there’s no 140 character limit, and you can search through all Public Google+ posts.  Which would be like searching for your company’s name on Facebook, and being able to scroll through every Wall Post or Comment which mentions the word.  It will be interesting to see if Google open up APIs that would allow Social Media CRM platforms to import all conversations about your brand.  It could offer a useful insight on customer opinion beyond what your existing Followers are writing on your Google+ Wall.

I made a mistake in dismissing Google+ as being cool, but of little use.  After giving it more consideration though, I now think that with it’s unique features and expanding userbase it’s a social network that can’t be ignored much longer.



Facebook Timeline: telling your Milestone story

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

I’m taking a topical approach to this week’s blog, and discussing how businesses and brands can utilise the Milestones feature on Facebook’s recently introduced Timeline for Pages.

Facebook has been encouraging it’s users to “Get Timeline” for months now; and it’s been difficult to miss as they’ve been pushing it pretty hard. The migration for personal Profiles is still in the voluntary stage at the moment, but Timeline for Pages was activated for all businesses and brands on March 30th.  Timeline brings with it many changes: the most obvious to Fans will be newly image heavy homepages; but others such as Brand/Business Pages now being able to send and receive Private Messages will probably sneak under the radar of most casual Facebook users (despite this possibly being a massive deal for Customer Care teams, and definitely a topic for a future blog).  The new addition I’m going to focus on here though sits somewhere between those two; it doesn’t scream “look at me!” and demand attention like the new Timeline Cover photos, but it’s going to be of more interest to people casually browsing your page than the new “Message” button.  I’m talking about Milestones.

Two brands demonstrating well thought-out (but very different) Timeline Milestone histories are Mercedes-Benz and Coca Cola.

Mercedes-Benz are very event-driven, using their Milestones to focus on noteworthy events in the company’s history.  Some of the events they’ve detailed include:

  • An innovative Diesel engine patent in 1919
  • Rudolf Caracciola winning 1929’s 410-mile International Tourist Trophy race in a Mercedes-Benz SS.
  • An assembly plant in Brazil being opened by the nation’s President in 1956

All of their Milestones are events that they are proud of and also think will be of interest to Mercedes-Benz Fans.


Coca Cola focus on retro imagery and quotes showing individual Coke fans’ positive association with the Brand over the years.  They forget all about company events and achievements, and make it about the people who are buying their products.  See an example from Coca Cola’s Timeline below:


Milestone detailing positive brand association with Coca Cola


Something both companies’ Timeline Milestones have in common is the strong use of imagery, colours and video. Facebook gives you the option to create a multimedia history of your company that can be fun to browse, and which some of your Fans will hopefully find interesting enough to Share with their Facebook friends.  Make the most of this tool, and don’t be lazy! A boring list of plain text Milestones (or even worse, no Milestones at all!) isn’t going to generate any more engagement with your Page. And after all, your Page is there to drive engagement isn’t it? …..isn’t it??  A list of Milestones that are of interest to your target audience can be a useful marketing tool.

Once you’ve populated your Timeline with Milestones, don’t just stop there and forget about it.  You can plan in new Milestones as part of your regular engagement strategy.  For instance, does your company have a designated charity you raise money for?  If so, why not post a new Milestone every month talking about how much money you raised for your charity in a particular year?


This year we were proud to reach our goal of raising £xxx for……

You get the idea, I’m sure there’s plenty of historic Milestones you could plan into your future content.


You never know who might be reading

Something else to consider when planning out your Milestone history is that it could become a primary place for potential new employees to research your company.  How you act on Facebook, and the parts of your history you choose to emphasise as Milestones could attract or scare away potential new recruits.  A lazily put together Timeline/Milestones could demonstrate a lack of openness to new ideas and technologies.  And Milestones written in the wrong tone could also put people off.  For example, a stuck up overly formal Milestone history could be reflective of the company’s working culture, and possibly not the image you want to convey.


How the way we use Milestones might develop in future?

With the amount of time people spend on Facebook constantly increasing, and with Facebook keen to minimize the reasons users have to leave their site, it’s quite feasible that your company’s Milestone history could grow to be used in a similar way as Wikipedia.  A company history that has a much more friendly and engaging tone than the one on your company’s corporate website, but that can still be company controlled.  It would also open the door to user generated Business/Brand Milestones.

A Facebook Timeline which allows Fans to contribute their own Milestones to a company’s Timeline could be an interesting prospect.  I could share memories and stories for other Fans of the Brand/Business to enjoy.  I could add a story about a memorable 1st date to Cineworld’s Timeline, a photo of me standing proudly beside my first car on Ford’s Timeline,  or a photo of the 1966 World Cup Final I found in my Grandparents’ loft to Wembley Stadium’s Timeline.

Facebook currently has a near monopoly on cataloguing what you’re doing Right Now, Last Week, and even Last Year.  If they successfully drive the Milestones aspect of Timeline, Facebook could soon be the place for storing all your pre-Facebook memories too.  It won’t be quick, but watch out for Timeline becoming a visual diary, keeping all your stories alive.  Want to see my baby photos?  Or check the name of that restaurant I took you to last summer?

Check my Timeline.