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Google+ Business Pages - Thriving or Dying?I recently wrote a post about Google+ launching their business pages – after 4 months of businesses kicking their heels and waiting, Google+ business pages were finally announced on 7th November. As with Facebook, you needed to have a personal profile first, but with that set up you could then quickly set up a business page.

On the 16 November, BrightEdge released a report with some interesting Google+ pages stats…

  • 61% of top brands had created a Google+ page in the first week – 93% of them have Facebook pages.
  • Only 12% of the 61% had linked to their Google+ page from their website homepage – compared with 53% who link to their Facebook page.
  • Over two dozen of the top 100 brands have over 1 million fans on Facebook – no brand other than Google has over 50,000 fans, and over two dozen have no fans at all.

This tells us two things –

  1. There was a stampede to get a Google+ business page; and
  2. Not much else seems to be happening – engagement is very low.

Google+ has been called the Facebook killer, and while it may grab a slice of the pie, it is a long way from threatening Facebook’s near total monopoly. Many marketers have said that the primary reason they set up a Google+ business page is to take advantage of the positive affects having a page is bound to have on their SERP ranking, rather than as a way to engage with fans. The fact is that although there are over 50 million users on Google+ most of them are not using the platform regularly, nor engaging with brands at the same level as they do on Facebook. Whether usage and engagement will grow, or Google+ will die a death like Wave and Buzz remains to be seen.

I still feel it is worth having a Google+ business page as it will help improve SERPs, but whether it will ever become the main way you communicate with your fans online looks doubtful right now.

Takeaway Message…

Set up a Google+ business page, but don’t consider abandoning your Facebook page for it.

 

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facebook iconIf you’ve logged into Facebook recently you’ll have been greeted with a lot of change. In the last week they have rolled out the following:

  • Subscriptions;
  • Smart lists;
  • Top news; and
  • Ticker.

I previously wrote a post on Google+ and the great features it contained that I felt had been lacking in Facebook. Then last month I wrote a post on how Facebook had rolled out some changes in response to the competition from Google+ and Twitter.

But now, only a few weeks later, here are yet more changes. It would seem that the arrival of Google+ has kicked innovation into high-gear in Facebook with developers pushing out Facebook’s answer to some of the popular Google+ features, as well as some brand new features as well.

Nothing like a bit of competition to make people up their game!

Subscriptions

Facebook says the new subscribe button can be used to:

1.    Choose what you see from people in News Feed.
2.    Hear from people, even if you’re not friends.
3.    Let people hear from you, even if you’re not friends.

The first use can be particularly handy if some of your friends play Farmville a lot, as you can choose to just not see these updates any more.

The subscribe button also allows you to follow someone you are not friends with – similar to following someone on Twitter. The user e.g. President Obama, has to enable subscriptions on his account, but once this has been done anyone can subscribe to follow Obama’s news feed and anything that he posts publicly will show in subscribers’ news feeds.

This is somewhat similar to liking a Facebook Page, however Pages are supposed to be for businesses, brands or products only (although there’s a lot of misuse), so the subscribe button now allows you to follow people as well.

Friend Lists and Smart Lists

Facebook has also rolled out improved lists.

There are smart lists which you probably saw immediately when you logged in. These are created automatically based on something you have in common with a group of friends e.g. the city you live in or the university you went to.

You will also have close friends and acquaintances lists which separates your best friends from those you’re not as close to, allowing you to catch up with your closest friends quickly through one list. The lists are empty so you need to populate them yourself and from now on if you friend someone you will have to decide whether they are a close friend or an acquaintance straight away – however people will not know which list you have placed them in.

Any lists you have created yourself will now also be easier to access, as you can just add them to your favourites and they will show up in the left sidebar.

The lists are all completely optional, but as someone who was using the previous, clunkier version of lists, I find the new set up much nicer and easier to use.

Top News

Just announced today the news feed will now show you top news based on what has happened since you last logged into Facebook. So if it’s been a week you will see a summary of the top stories first…

but if its only been a few hours you’ll see the most recent news…

All top stories now feature a blue corner on them.

Real-Time Friend Activity

Also announced today is the ticker which shows up in the top right corner of the screen and shows your friends’ activity in real time, including their comments on other people’s status messages. To see more details simply hover over the update.

Change Is Good

There has been a lot of grumbling about all these recent changes, but I think people forget that Facebook is a free service, and no one is forcing them to use it.  Facebook is changing in response to its competition, and also in response to requests from users, all in an effort to give us a better experience…sure sometimes they get it wrong, but at least they’re trying to evolve and improve, and not just standing still!

Watch Facebook’s Video On The Changes

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Sharing Changes To Fend Off Google+

I recently wrote a post on Google+ and its features. I specifically commented on the Circles feature, which allows you to easily share posts with specific groups of people, meaning I can share an article on running with my runner friends, and one on social media with my marketing friends, without sharing photos of a family holiday with everyone. This was a great feature and one I had said Facebook had been missing out on.

But Facebook heard us and has made a change…

Now posting different status messages to different groups of friends can be done quickly and easily with the click of a button.

However, it’s still not as good as Google+ Circles….yet…

In the new Facebook set up you can post  messages to Public, Friends, Friends of Friends or else specific people. So not quite the same as dragging-and-dropping all your friends into different circles and being able to post specifically to them. With Facebook you will still need to type in each friend’s name individually in order to post to a particular subset of peeople.

But I don’t doubt that Facebook will make further changes to make it easier for us to create and share with different friend groups.

If Facebook implements the great features of Google+ it will be harder for Google+ to lure users away – most people already have all their friends on Facebook, so it’s easier to stay there than move away.

Places Changes To Keep Pace with Twitter

Facebook has also updated its Places feature.

Now instead of going into Places for a separate ‘check-in with message’, you can use the normal status posts to add a location to your message – similar to what Twitter have been offering for a while.

Again this is easy to use, and is built straight into the status update bar.

The iPhone app does not yet appear to have been updated to keep inline with the new web version, with Places still showing separately. However no doubt an update will be rolled out soon.

Facebook Video On The Changes

 

With new features constantly being rolled out on all fronts, the battle of the social networks continues, will you pick a side? or embrace them all?

 

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7 things you should know about google+I recently wrote a post for Bloggertone on whether Google+ is just ‘another’ social network. I discussed some of the great features that Google+ has to offer and I’d like to expand more on that here.

Basically Google+ is attractive for one of the reasons that made Facebook so attractive during the MySpace / Bebo era – it’s really clean visually. The human eye likes whitespace and despite Facebook being relatively clean, Google+ has it beat on that front hands down – plus (so far) there are NO ADs.

1. Circles

One of my favourite features of Google+ is Circles, which allows you to group your contacts, so for example I have a ‘friends’ circle and a ‘marketing people’ circle. You are also able to put contacts in multiple circles, so some people in the ‘marketing’ circle might also be in the ‘friends’ circle.  The circles you create are completely private, so while people you’ve added will receive a notification advising them you have added them to a circle, they won’t know the name of the circle.

Circles do have a limit of 5,000 people per circle, but that’s unlikely to be a problem for most of us any time soon.

2. Sharing

Having contacts divided into groups like this means that now when I post  something I can target exactly who sees it. This is a feature I’ve felt Facebook has been lacking for a long time, and it’s the reason I never connect to anyone in my professional life on Facebook, I drew the line in the sand, and for me Facebook was personal. Now however I’m able to connect with everyone I want and decide who to share each post with.

You can share every post with one, or more, of your circles, or else type in an individual’s name to send them a private message.

As with Facebook, putting @ before a person’s name will turn their name into a hyperlink – but here you can also do it by putting a + before their name (naturally).

Once you’ve posted something you have options to edit it, disable sharing (so others can’t repost it), disable comments or delete it – but currently you can’t change who you’ve shared it with.

3. Real People Only Please

Currently Google+ is for ‘real people’ only with a handful of companies being allowed to set up a business page as part of a beta testing group, both Ford and Mashable News are among those.

4. Other Standout Features

Goolge+ also has hangouts and huddles.

Hangouts are group video chats which up to 10 people can join. This is going to be a very popular feature I believe, and has an advantage over Skype as video chats between more than 2 people is currently a paid feature on Skype.

Huddles are group text chats and are being pushed as a way to organise nights out etc. without having to send 10 individual texts.

I think both of the above will be particular popular with the current school / college set. Although there are rumours that Dell is considering using the hangouts for customer service, so only time will tell how businesses will take advantage of these features.

5. +1

The +1 button when used inside of Google+ acts as a ‘like’ button.

The +1 button when used outside of Google+ on blog entries, news stories etc. acts as a bookmark and will then show up in your +1 tab on your profile. This will allow you to create an aggregated list of content to recommend to those who visit your profile.

6. Search Will Be Affected

The +1 button is everywhere and is being used 2.3 billion times per day. This is essentially making Google more intelligent as people are telling it what content on the web is interesting. Not only that, but now Google will have access to more of your social circle (it doesn’t have access to Facebook) so will return search results based not only on the +1 recommendations but also on your specific social circle.

These better quality links will result in an even higher click through rate for those at the top of the search results.

7. Still Waiting For…

Vanity URLs: Currently Google+ aren’t allowing vanity urls to be set up so currently the urls contain a lot of numbers. There are various ways around this, one being to use http://www.profiles.google.com/xxxx the xxxx being the part before the @gmail.com of your email address – of course this means that everyone will then know your email address. There are also some websites, including www.gplus.to that are offering to create vanity urls for Google+ but unless you know the company I wouldn’t recommend going there. I suspect Google themselves will offer vanity urls before very long.

Verified Accounts: There is talk that Google+ will follow in the footsteps of  Twitter and allow certain well know people to  ‘verify’ their account, thereby indicating that they are who they say they are, and given that ‘Mark Zuckerberg’ already has 3 Google+ profiles, Google will hopefully roll this feature out quickly.

Business Pages: As mentioned these are still in beta testing but hopefully they will be rolled out soon enough as well. If they integrate with other Google products e.g. Maps, Local, Deals etc. they will be powerful pages for business, and as always, the early adopters will have the advantage.

With 13 million people and counting on Google+ they certainly look set to make life uncomfortable for Facebook, as to whether it will be a ‘Facebook killer’, only time will tell.

Let me know what you think of Google+. Please also +1 this post if you liked it and don’t forget to add me to your circles!

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