Thursday, May 2, 2013

Are You Using the World's Second Biggest Social Network?

It's official: Google+ is now the world's second biggest social network.

In June 2011, Google released its new social network Google+. It started with a bang, rapidly reaching 40 million users, but then its growth slowed. I've been a big fan of Google+ (for reasons I'll explain soon), but most experts weren't optimistic. It was famously labelled a "ghost town", and has largely been ignored by people talking about social media.

Well, a new report has found that Google+ is now the second biggest social network - behind Facebook but bigger than Twitter and LinkedIn.

I think this is great news (and not just because it proves me right :-).

Why? Because a successful Google+ means better results when people are searching Google. That's good for everybody searching Google, and it's good for all of us who want to be found by the right people.

Why is this important?

If Google+ wasn't owned by Google, this wouldn't be such a big deal. But because of this connection, it means Google can use what you do on Google+ to decide how to display search results.

Here's an example ...

Fringe Festival PerthIn summer, Perth is alive with art and culture. One weekend in February hosted the official opening of the Festival of Perth, the middle of the Fringe Festival, the Chinese New Year's celebrations in the city, the University of Western Australia's centenary celebrations, and more.

If you were Google trying to help people who wanted to know what to do in Perth that weekend, how would you decide? All of those events are good, but they appeal to different people. So Google can't just decide based on which has the best Web site, or which is the most popular, or which has the best SEO (search engine optimisation).

It turns out there's a pretty good solution to this problem - and Google has been doing it for years: It shows different search results to different people. And the way it chooses what to show you depends (among other things) on what your friends, and their friends, like.

This makes sense, because birds of a feather flock together. You probably share similar interests, incomes, lifestyles - and even body weight and health - as your friends (and their friends). So if Google knows what they like, it can tailor your search results to show you what's more likely to be relevant.

That's where Google+ comes in.

Facebook knows your "friends" because you've accepted them as friends. But Google doesn't have access to Facebook data.

Twitter knows your "friends" because you follow them and they follow you. But Google doesn't have access to Twitter data.

But Google does know who you connect with on Google+. And it uses that information when feeding you search results.

More importantly, it uses that information when feeding search results to your clients, colleagues, and other important people in your network!

Here's how this works in practice ...

So, for example, if you're a leadership speaker and a conference organiser is searching Google for a leadership speaker, Google will give you priority if you're already connected to that conference organiser on Google+ or you're connected to somebody else who is connected to them.

That last bit is the key to getting found on Google. You don't have to be directly connected to somebody, but you can be connected indirectly via somebody else.

If you think about it, this makes sense. It's a small world, and the conference organisers you want to deal with probably know other conference organisers you've worked with, clients you've worked with, and other speakers like you. They would value those people's recommendations in the offline world, so why not in the online world as well?

It's time to get active on Google+

All of this means you can't ignore Google+ anymore. If it still looks like a ghost town to you, that's because you haven't been using it.

So get started!

Create an account, start connecting with people you know, and start participating in it. At the very least, every time you write an article for your newsletter or blog, copy it to Google+ as well.

Would you like to learn more about Google+?

Soon after Google+ launched, I ran a webinar about it and what it means for you as a marketer and business owner. As I pointed out at the time, it's not a Facebook killer or Twitter killer, but it might turn out to be the biggest change in search engine marketing in the last decade.

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