Last week I had the opportunity to meet with a few groups of United Methodist Church leaders near Washington, DC to discuss how the church can best use their websites and social media tools to reach people more effectively.
My social media presentation was largely focused on the fact that Twitter and Facebook are no longer tools for churches to be “playing with”; they’ve become legitimate communication tools. While most churches are doing fairly well with Facebook, Twitter remains a problem. I’m hoping the tools I shared with them will help get things rolling.
Even though the sessions were only a week ago, my thoughts on Google+ have changed. At the time, I said something like “You need to focus hard on Facebook and Twitter, and start playing with Google+ because you’ll need to be active there later this year“. As it turns out, “later this year” is now. The reason for the sudden shift is Google’s release of “Search, plus Your World”, which adds heavy Google+ integration into the search results. Here’s a quick video showing how that works:
That alone should be enough to encourage you to get your organization on Google+. But it goes further. Try searching for “music” or “cars” and you’ll get a result similar to the shot below. Notice the area that I outlined in red.
Notice that the red box is for Google+ profiles only; no Twitter or Facebook found there. That is seen by some as anti-competitive, and perhaps it is, but that’s simply how it works right now. Britney Spears trails a variety of artists on Twitter (Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, etc), but none of them are on Google+ yet. As a result, she’s suddenly getting a lot more free promotion when someone performs a search.
For now, that area doesn’t matter much for your business, but it will soon. For local searches, Google will almost certainly start showing businesses in your area instead of just generic industry-related results. If you wait until that happens before you join Google+, you’ll be way behind. Suppose Katy Perry sees those results and joins Google+ to get back in the game. While she may catch up to Spears eventually, she’s already behind by 1.3 million followers. How far ahead do you want your competition to get before you join the game?
Faces in the main results
Not only is that side bar relevant, but the main search results (in both personal and non-personal mode) are already full of results from Google+. In many cases, those results show the face of the author of the post even if the post was made on their own blog. For example, the below search for “google earth imagery january” shows my face next to the second result, because it knows that I wrote that article and it connects to my Google+ profile; and this is the non-personal results!
Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket
As much as I love Google+, I’m certainly not advising you to bail on Facebook or Twitter. As I said at the beginning, those are legit communications platforms and your organization needs to be active on both of them. For now, at least, all three are very important to your organization.
If you want to dabble in social media, there are places to do that. Play with Pinterest (connect with me), play with Path, or play with any of the other new services popping up. Pinterest may become more serious this year, but for now you can just poke the tires a bit.
I don’t have time
I hear it a lot — “not another service to keep up with!”, but it’s all about your mind set. Instead of worrying about how you’ll have time for three separate services, just look at it from the positive side. Now you have another way to connect with your customers, and this one will help you show up more frequently in the search results too. It’s a win-win!
Once you get things set up, simply take 10-15 minutes/day to post your latest thoughts and respond to people that are talking to you. It doesn’t have to be a huge deal. If it takes longer than that to respond to everything coming your way, then your business is likely doing well and you can afford to spend more time working with those people (or hire someone to help you out).
Do you think any other services are worthy of the full attention of your business right now? I can see LinkedIn being one for a few organizations, but that’s about it. Agree?