The Google + Wakeup Call-and What it Means for Marketers

Like everyone else, I was shocked at Google+’s exploding on the scene-and the incredible buzz that ensued. Google could give Charlie Sheen a run for the money if the breathless hype continues, which I expect it will. Still, marketers and companies should take notice because, after all, it is Google. The 500-pound-gorillo’s jumping into the market puts a spotlight on some key issues-ignore them at your own peril.

Trying my best to cut through all the smoke, here’s what I see short term:

  • More fragmentation and disruption: The new shiny toy immediately drew in the Geeks, and has since been spreading like wildfire–10 million new users in only two weeks. Some of the social media crowd like Chris Brogan are already shifting their attention from Twitter and Facebook. Will everyone else, including your clients, follow? Who knows–but it means attention, eyeballs and resources spread between another major platform.
  • More noise, more information overload. Actually, information is not your concern-conversations are. As Tom Foremski points out, we need to stay on top of critical conversations-ones that mention your brand, product or relate to you in some way. This gets harder as new platforms emerge with thousands of voices shouting at the same time, a Tower of Babel.
  • Google gets a place at the table- The odds are shifting now toward Google playing a significant role in social media.

 The company has enormous financial resources (Net income of $2.5 billion on $9 billion in quarterly revenues, nearly $40 billion in the bank, etc) and has produced a winner with G+. There are many features to like- the sleeker, open, easier to use interface (vs Facebook), using Circles to organize, etc. But the real advantage comes as G+ is integrated into Google tools like Reader, Gmail-putting it right at the center of your work flow. Google will integrate these tools better, while weaving social into search so that we eventually have a seamless search experience (one that presumably integrate your friends considerations and influence).  

  • Trouble for Twitter: Twitter could be the odd man out since it lacks Google’s financial resources, Facebook’s massive base, and a clear business plan. Yet it may still survive, thanks to its speed and simplicity. And no one wants a replay of the PC market, with Microsoft and Intel (Wintel) dominating.

Looking at the bigger picture, this is really as much about content as anything. Google already dominates information search. Now with Google+, as John Jantsch points out, it’s “…created an unpaid army of enthusiastic content-curation experts that will certainly play a growing role in discovering, sharing, and ultimately indexing the best content served up by Google searches…”

So the G+ volunteer army will be busy sharing, promoting and creating massive amounts of content-new conversations, links, interest in issues, products and much, much more. Marketers need to get in front of this tidal wave, just like they’ve had to do with Twitter and Facebook.

Five questions to ask for starters, and to make sure you’re positioned for the G+ world:

  • Are you in the game? Do you have a presence across paid (search, broadcast, etc), earned (events) and owned (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and now G+) media? These are your marketing beachheads, and you’ll need to work across the board to make sure you’re connecting with customers with your messages.
  • Do you have a clear content marketing strategy? (if so, you’re using listening tools and already engaging in related conversations. Adjust your strategy for G+-and stick to it. If not, better get one in order fast-I just met with two companies last week, neither had a content strategy, both are in catch-up mode.
  • Is your content relevant? If you’re unclear on the role and importance of relevant content, read Michael Brito’s nice analysis piece on SME. Do a content audit, compare it to industry conversations, and judge for yourself. Is your content hitting the target? Are you involved and influencing industry conversations? What is your share of voice around key topics?
  • Do you have a content engine and systematic publishing process? Then you should have a publishing engine model and be systematically chunking out content, carefully targeted to your key audiences. Run it like a publisher, with clear editorial direction, calendars, and hire editors to help you drive it- more tips here
  • Do you have control over your destiny? Putting all of your eggs into one basket you don’t control is stupid. Why put all your resources into building Facebook Pages when you don’t own that real estate (No one knows how G+ will affect FB yet but the risk is obvious)? The same is true of Google+- as Chris Brogan points out, it’s a marketing outpost, not your home base. Better to build your own blogs, communities and following, and diversify your investments across several platforms, along with following a carefully crafted plan. Build a defensible program that can weather any storm, since no one knows how this will play out (who would predict G+’s amazing launch?)

This is a great opportunity to step back, take a deep breath and assess your overall strategy and social media program. There’s no reason to panic. As Jason Falls pointed out Friday, the sky’s not going to fall immediately. We’re still in the early stages of what promises to be a long marathon. But marketers should take notice. If you’ve been on the fence or slow to re-align your marketing efforts around social media, Google+ should be a huge wake up call. What are you waiting for?