Google Plus Is a Possible Channel for Online Sellers
By Greg Holden
Facebook, Twitter, Web site, LinkedIn, blog,...running an online store has become far more time-consuming than simply listing merchandise in a sales catalog. Now there's another potential social network on which to develop a presence and connect to "followers" and potential customers: Google Plus.
Google Plus (actually referred to as Google+) is Google's answer to Facebook: a place to connect with groups of friends, family, and acquaintances and keep up with what they're doing. Google+ is, at least officially, not ready for prime time yet. It's out in a trial version, and after some initial feedback and (presumably) tweaking, it will be released to the public in the near future. Two of the questions you might be asking about Google+ are:
1) Is Google+ another place where you need to create a business presence?
2) Will you be able to sell directly on Google Plus, the way you can on some Facebook apps like ArtFire's Facebook Kiosk?
The answer to the second question is easy: we don't know yet. "We don't have any future plans to share. It's important to keep in mind this is an ongoing project and this is just the beginning. We plan to add a lot of features and functionality to Google+ over time," said a Google spokesperson.
When you start using Google+, you can access it quickly from Gmail or any Google service, including the search page. You can either go to Plus.Google.com or click your own name from the newly redesigned control bar near the top of the browser window, which has been renamed the Sandbar.
John Wall of Ronin Marketeer and the blog Marketing Over Coffee is enthusiastic about Google+. "I see it as a better Facebook," he says bluntly. Wall likes one feature in particular, as I do: Circles.
The best thing about Google+ from a business standpoint is the ability to divide your constituents into Circles that you can create and label at will: Friends, Family, Colleagues, Coworkers, Customers, Shoppers, and so on. When you create a post on Google+, the process looks like Facebook's News Feed, with one big exception: you choose the Circles with which you want to share the post.
Wall likes two other Google+ features:
1) It's asynchronous, he points out. "You can follow anyone you want regardless whether they follow you back (one of the reasons Twitter has gained ground vs. Facebook)."
2) Hangouts - technology that lets up to ten users videoconference via their Web browser. Facebook has quickly countered with its own video chat feature, using the videoconference program Skype.
Is the fact that Google+'s features are stronger than Facebook's enough to cause small and medium size business owners to move to it? "Not yet, until it's open to more of the public it's of limited use," says Wall. "It is better than Facebook and Twitter, but is that difference enough to pull people away from those networks? Maybe. Maybe not." The key is how many users Google+ will attract.
On the other hand, he adds, you can use a tool like HootSuite to post to Facebook and Twitter at the same time. As soon as Google+ releases an API, such services will include Google+, and you'll be able to post to all three services at the same time. So it won't take much extra effort to include Google+ in your overall marketing strategy.
Jonathan Allen of Search Engine Watch is more skeptical about Google+. He thinks the ability to sort people into friends, acquaintances, and the like misses the point. Google has to focus on the purpose for posting, not the people who will read posts. "Google Plus needs to make sure it does not get fixated on sharing as simply a matter of privacy and instead focus user attention on sharing with purpose," he writes in a thoughtful article on Search Engine Watch.
The problem, he told me, is that Google+ isn't different enough from Facebook. "Google+ is not well distinguished between any other social network - you can do everything on there that you can elsewhere. "
Mike Grehan, Vice President and Global Content Director of Incisive Media, the publisher of Search Engine Watch, agrees. "I think Google should stick to what they were designed for: search. By creating a virtual duplicate of Facebook all they're doing is showing a lack of true innovation (which they were once known for) and demonstrating just how far out of touch they have become."
What do you think? Are you using Google+? Have you used it to connect to your business colleagues and customers? Let us know by providing your own feedback. In a subsequent article, I'll try to envision what a business presence on Google+ might look like.
See Part Two, A Promising Online Business Opportunity.
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About the Author
Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website GregHolden.com, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.
About the author:
Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.
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