Our Advice on Google Plus: Wait.

It’s been over a month since Google launched Google+, its latest foray into the world of social media. Our official guidance to clients who want to put their brand on Google+ has been simple from the day it launched: wait.

Now that Google+ has been around for a little over a month, our advice remains the same.

In order for an organization to be successful on a social media platform, it needs to develop a strategy based on a deep understanding of the dynamics and culture of that platform. Even if Google+ were destined to become the next Facebook, there’s little benefit to diving into it before understanding how it works. We’re protective of our clients’ time and resources and can’t make recommendations to use a tool if we can’t clearly explain how to use it and, more importantly, why they should.

What we knew about Google+ when it launched

It’s in beta.

Google made it clear at the beginning that Google Plus wasn’t ready for prime time when it announced on it’s official blog “We’re beginning in Field Trial.” We don’t have any clients who can afford to commit real resources in beta. It’s our job to get into the weeds for them.

It’s complicated.

Google+ is made up of circles, huddles, hangouts, and sparks. All of these words take on completely new meaning within Google Plus that aren’t intuitive to new users. Circles is a great way to organize contacts and manage distribution of content, but creating them requires work for most people. Services that require learning new jargon are bound to see slower adoption based on the steeper learning curve.

It’s not for brands yet.

A number of brands set up shop in Google Plus very early on. It was immediately clear that Google didn’t want brands on Google Plus as its profiles are built around first and last names. When an interface forces you to enter “Ford” as your first name and “Motor Company” as your last name, think twice.

What we know about Google Plus now.

It’s in beta.

Google+ has grown quickly, but it’s no feat for Google to get millions of people to sign up for something (remember when people sold invitations to Google Wave on eBay?). The trick will be for Google to get the right mix of people to sign up and stick around. Comscore reports that Google+ users are largely 25-34 year old males and Experian Hitwise reports that visits to and time spent on Google+ are declining.

Undoubtably, Google’s working on this. Give it time.

It’s complicated.

Thomas Moradpour laid out 5 Fatal Flaws of Google+ about a week after the service launched and included this great flowchart that reveals the complexity of sharing content on the service:

It’s painfully unclear what you’re doing when you share content on Google+. None of our clients are ready for the hour-long webinar required to train them on the service. Google+ needs to show larger sustained growth to make it worth learning.

It’s not for brands yet.

You won’t find any brand profiles in Google+ now because Google has removed them, nullifying the efforts of the brands who couldn’t wait—I guess we should have written this post earlier. Google is smart enough (following Facebook’s lead) to know that people don’t interact with brands in the same way they interact with other people. Google has announced that pages for businesses are coming.

What you can do right now

Here’s what you can do: provide a valuable service that people care about, talk about it on your website or some other web property that you own, and make it easy to share with a simple link. If you do that, people will talk about you on Google+ without you having to set up shop there. While you do that, you can also just go ahead and create a Google+ account, kick the tires, and start talking about what you do!

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and now that so many people are comfortable creating profiles online, it needs to learn how to enlist people to help it accomplish that mission rather than search algorithms. Google+ is one way it’s going about it. Its +1 button is another tactic.

Social media is becoming impossible to ignore because people are learning that “if something is important, it will find me.” People now find things they care about through their personal networks, without having to search for them. If you want people to talk about your brand, your brand needs to be worth talking about. Work on that first.

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