As anyone who has seen The Social Network knows, Facebook originally launched as a student specific site. Even when Mark Zuckerberg dropped the .edu login requirement, the up and coming social channel was heavily geared towards one target – people.
The same can be said of Linkedin, Twitter, and every other public social media outlet.
The idea of being “social” with businesses is still a strange concept by nature, even unthinkable less than a decade ago. But the unthinkable is becoming reality. The fast-changing social landscape lacks many definitive learnings. But one thing is for sure – develop a popular social media channel, and businesses will figure out how to integrate themselves.
Google Plus is no different. While Google has yet to let on how brands and businesses can jump into the frenzy of the search leaders’ foray into social, there is no doubt huge interest.
What about B2B?
While 93% of B2B marketers are using social media, should these same companies prepare themselves for a brand new platform with no information on how they will be allowed to participate?
Google Plus launched to a high level of interest and excitement. For the first time, businesses knew they needed get involved with a social network from the beginning. Unfortunately for them, Google wasn’t going to play that game and risk alienation of early adopters scaring them off from signing up. And sign up they did! Two-weeks after launch, the site had 10M members. After one-month, that number doubled to 20M – a milestone which took both Facebook and Twitter nearly three years to hit. While 20M is still a far cry from Facebook’s 750M subscribers, the growth is nonetheless impressive.
Google’s “+1” button, the precursor to Google Plus, was announced months ahead of the social platform itself. The cries of people claiming it to be a rip-off of the Facebook “Like” button were loud and clear. But I thought about it a different way. My initial reaction to the +1 was something of optimistic pessimism.
Optimistic in the fact that search was clearly about to change forever, soon to produce results based on pure social graph relevancy.
Pessimistic in the way that both B2C and B2B companies will be back to square one figuring out how to position themselves for optimal search result visibility (not to mention the potential to put some so-called “SEO Specialists” out of jobs).
The integration of an embeddable +1 button for websites started to pull together how powerful this tool could be. Then Google dropped the bomb we all now know to be Google Plus. Consumers went crazy, B2C businesses tried to unsuccessfully bypass the system to get a presence, and B2B companies sat on the sidelines.
So as a B2B company, should you care?
Is there any true use for this potential monster of a social channel? Those answers all lie within a company’s intent on learning how to use social media to reach its overall business objectives. Google Plus has all the opportunity in the world to help B2B companies and marketers. Collaboration looks to be a true asset with Google Plus anchoring communication and using it in conjunction with other Google tools, such as Maps, Docs, Gmail, and Places. Individually, these tools are fairly autonomous, but connecting them with a communication tool like Google Plus stands to give sales forces and corporate communication teams a viable collaboration tool.
But in the end, B2B will always have its roots of success steeped in building relationships. These are not necessarily the quick transactional relationships built in the B2C world, but more of the slow-simmering ones fostered by true engagement and commitment. Right now, the Google Plus features are leaning towards a positive impact for B2B relationship building and ultimately sales.
- Circles are a first for any social media network, the ability to hyper segment. Giving the ability to communicate with groups segmented out into leads, prospects, sales, and follow-ups gives sales teams a time efficient method of getting the right message to the right audience.
- Sparks are blog posts, videos, and other pieces of content curated to a users specific interests. Nothing screams “relationship” more than personalized dialogue and conversation starters. Use this to your full advantage and get the lines of communication open.
- Hangouts are Google’s answer to video conferencing. Why is this a unique feature? It’s really not. But having the ability to put sales teams together all around the country, and create intercompany task forces is a major step in strengthening thought leadership within an organization. Face-to-face time with sales leads also gives a distinct advantage over those who try to build relationships over the phone. The advantage Google Plus has is once again the ability to integrate other Google tools, such as seamlessly sharing docs during a hangout conference meeting.
So is Google Plus the next coming for B2B businesses?
While we all want a definitive answer, the simple one is that it’s much to early to tell. Google is positioning itself and its social channel for success in the B2B world with the uses for its functionality, but until it opens the gates for businesses to have pages and a presence, all we can do is plan and be ready when the time comes.