Do you ever get the impression no one is on Google Plus? That it’s utterly devoid of the vast audience that makes Facebook so powerful? That’s exactly why you should get involved now, says consultant Linda Sherman, who is also the past CEO of ClubMed Japan. “People who are ignoring it are falling behind,” she told me in a recent interview. “You can leap ahead” by engaging, just as early Twitter adopters won huge audiences as more people discovered the service.
But what if Google Plus is just a fad – the next Friendster instead of the next Twitter? Sherman argues it has two killer apps that will eventually draw the public in. The first is Google Plus’ Communities feature, which allows groups to form around particular interests. “Three weeks ago, I wouldn’t have said Google Plus was an easy place to meet people,” says Sherman, “but now it’s amazingly different. You can even join the community as a brand, which you cannot do on Facebook, and you can interact with your potential customers, influencers, and people of interest.” Indeed, she points out, “there are a ton of influencers who are concentrating on Google Plus these days.” And as she wrote in a recent blog post, “GooglePlus can give you access to influencers who might not notice you elsewhere…There is a nice spirit of camaraderie that people seldom feel with well-established platforms.”
At this point, it also skews heavily male. “If you have a product that appeals to men,” she says, “that’s 100x more reason to devote time to Google Plus.” She’s also bullish on its business-to-business prospects. “People don’t think of Google Plus for B2B,” she says. “They think of LinkedIn, and that’s great for finding a job, but it’s a hard platform to market on. Google Plus allows for long conversations and you can build relationships.”
The second major Google Plus feature that Sherman praises is Hangouts, which enables group meetings, discussions, or demonstrations. “It’s completely unique to Google Plus,” she says. “Facebook and Twitter don’t have that.” So how can companies make use of it? You can organize a panel discussion explaining to potential customers how to use your latest software, says Sherman, and then archive it and upload it to YouTube seamlessly. Whether you’re teaching a recipe, organizing a chat with thought leaders, or doing a live product demonstration, “It looks very professional but doesn’t take much effort.”
To get started and build a solid reputation on Google Plus, says Sherman, the first step is creating differentiated content – preferably that plays to the service’s strengths by using Communities or Hangouts. “What you don’t want to do is post the same thing everywhere,” she says. “That’s really boring and spammy. I know it takes effort, but shift the timing, shift the slant, and do something different; don’t just repost Facebook and Twitter items onto Google Plus because a significant number of followers will be the same, and it makes you look like someone who’s not a thought leader and not interesting. Why would they bother commenting?”
How are you using Google Plus (or not)?
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on January 4, 2013.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.