Google+ (pronounced and sometimes written as Google Plus) is a social network launched by Google in June 2011. Despite heavy criticism at the start (primarily that it wasn’t Facebook), G+ now boasts over 400 million users and over 1 million business pages making it a significant platform that shouldn’t be ignored.
Despite the impressive stats, most people I’ve spoken to in person about Google+ seem to be unsure of how or why they should use it. However, I’ve noticed a change of mood in recent months with an increase in the number of people blogging and Tweeting about how great it is and why they have started using it a lot more in their personal and professional lives (like Brad Feld, Foundry Group). I predict that 2013 will be the year Google+ really starts to take off.
The number one reason why I think businesses should start using Google+ more heavily is that it’s made by Google meaning everything you share on your G+ page is indexed by the mighty search engine. What’s more, if people +1 your website or the content contained within it, this does more to boost your search rankings than sharing on Facebook or Twitter.
For these reasons, I’d encourage you to create a Google+ Page for your business, add +1 buttons to your website/blog and start actively encouraging people to click on them. (For example, you will see a +1 button at the bottom of this blog so I’d appreciate it if you clicked on it to help us out a little).
As well as being a place for you to share content and start conversations, the most exciting Google+ feature for me is Hangouts, which allow you to invite other people to join you in a live video chat. Similar to Skype, the added bonus is that you can do an ‘On Air’ Hangout which means people can watch a live stream of what’s happening from your Google+ Page. Not only that but once it’s over, an On Air Hangout is automatically posted on your YouTube Channel meaning that even more people can get to watch and share it after the event. Very powerful indeed!
I can see huge potential with Hangouts and a multitude of uses. Apart from the obvious example of communicating with colleagues in another geographical location, you could use them to speak directly to your customers and give greater insight into your business activities. You could use them to broadcast live interviews with thought leaders in your industry or deliver training sessions on new products and features.
You could also use them to help boost productivity in the workplace by using them to replace physical meetings or email communications (a major time suck in most businesses). For example, if key information needed to be shared with everyone in your business you could host a Hangout with a handful of people but invite everyone else to watch it live or at a later date on YouTube, saving them the time and possible inconvenience of coming to a meeting when they may have other things to do at that time.
How Sage One is using Google+
At the time of writing I’ve personally done 6 Hangouts and am already hooked. My first was a wonderful piece of serendipity when having logged in to learn more about Google+, my fellow No Email Day supporters Luis Suarez (IBM) and Paul Jones (Clinical Professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) were both online so we started a Hangout with Luis in Madrid, Paul in the US and me in Newcastle.
We then proceeeded to have a fantastic conversation about the No Email Day campaign and alternative methods of communication to improve productivity in the workplace (see below).
Since then I’ve done many more Hangouts, both publicly and privately and am hooked. I love them! Yes, you can discuss things by telephone or email but there’s something about seeing the other person’s face and the live, natural interaction that feels fresh and exciting about Hangouts, especially when they are broadcast live ‘On Air’ (like the ones below).
Like many businesses, we’re just getting started with Google+ in the Sage One UK team but are already seeing Hangouts as a key method for communicating with our customers, partners and online community in 2013. Internally, we now conduct lots of international meetings via Hangout, especially our development teams.