The first mover advantage in a major social networ represents precious brand building power.
Google launched its long-awaited Google+ Pages feature this week. The service enables businesses, products, brands, and organizations to host Google+ pages.
With the launch, Google announced that a large number of major brands were already established. Because it takes only a minute or two to set up a Pages presence, many hundreds more quickly jumped on board.
As with all things Google and social, the service has been controversial.
Critics like Robert Scoble, a fan and champion of Google+ in general, laments Pages’ lack of editorial tools. It’s a legitimate criticism; everyone waited for months for Pages, but when the doors opened we discovered that it functions like a one-user personal account.
Slate’s Farhad Manjoo says Google+ is as good as dead, and predict that Google will shut down the service in a year or two. His bizarre reasons are that there’s little activity on Google+ (which isn’t true) and that Google’s own executives don’t even use the service (which also isn’t true and wouldn’t be relevant if it were true).
These and other criticisms will lead many companies to take a wait-and-see approach. And this will be a huge mistake, one they will regret for years.
Here are three reasons why your company needs to embrace Pages today, immediately, right now:
1. First mover advantage.
Here’s the Google+ secret that hardly anyone acknowledges. (It’s formerly a Twitter secret and Facebook secret.) Whoever gets there first has an enormous permanent advantage over those who come later.
Look at the top news brands on Twitter, for example. There are six mainstream media brands in Twitter’s top 100. Here’s how they rank in terms of number of followers:
2. The New York Times
3. E! Online
4. The Onion
Here’s the order in which these brands joined Twitter:
2. The New York Times
3. E! Online
4. The Onion
You’ll notice a perfect, direct, one-to-one relationship between which got there first and which has the most followers. Coincidence? Hardly.
That’s not to say that getting on a social network early is the only path to success, or that other brands exhibit this same phenomenon in all cases.
The point is that growing audience is something that happens steadily over time. And the earlier you start, the more you’ll have at any given point in the future. The dominant brands on every social network generally correlate to the brands that got their first.
Also: If your company is small, you’ll want to grab your name before somebody else does.
There is zero downside to moving fast on Google+, and the upside could be incredible.
Google recently and unceremoniously dumped the + operator (now replaced by placing your search term in quote marks).
Why? Because they wanted to use it for identifying brands on Google+.
If you have a Pages presence, you can get a Google+ badge -- a linked set of images that enables visitors to an outside web site to circle, share and do other things with your brand that they would otherwise need to do on Google+.
One benefit of badges is that signing up for one automatically enrolls your company in the Google+ Direct Connect program. That means searching for your brand name with a plus sign at the front if it brings users straight to your Google+ page.
Even if Google Search users don’t use the + operator, and instead search for your brand, at the very least it adds another link to your business on the first page of results. The bottom line: Google+ Pages helps your company be more visible on Google Search.
3. Google+ will be the best network for business.
I believe that over time, Google+ will dominate the world of social sites for brands and businesses. The reason is simple: within a couple years, Google+ will probably be the second biggest social network in the world after Facebook. But Facebook isn’t a place where people want to interact with content.
As I wrote in this space last month, each of the social networks attracts a certain personality type, and one that wants to interact in a specific way.
Facebook attracts people who want to connect with family and friends. Most conversations there are about people -- what I’m doing, what you’re doing. Facebook will bend over backwards to try and figure out how to integrate Nike and Coca Cola and Starbucks into your conversations with grandma about the weather in Wichita, but ultimately branding is a bad fit for Facebook.
Twitter and Google+ are far more attractive to people who want to talk about things and ideas. However, Twitter is hobbled as a brand platform by its 140-character post limit. It’s really most useful as a place to share links.
Google+ alone will emerge as the big network with lots of space for text and multimedia content where people go to talk about things and ideas -- including those communicated by companies.
Google+ excels at viral sharing, far more so than Facebook or Twitter. So when brands post content that’s boring, pointless or blindly self-promotional, it will land with a thud and go nowhere. But when brands learn to post interesting, useful or user-benefiting content, it will go massively viral in minutes, and generate incredible conversations.
Ultimately, companies want people talking about their products, services and branding. And Google+ is the best place for talking.
Also: Google+ doesn’t censor your content like Facebook does. Because of Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, the overwhelming majority of brand posts on Facebook are never seen by people who have clicked “Like” on the brand’s page.
If those aren’t reasons enough, it’s important to remember that success on these platforms is going to require trial and error. So it’s best to start erring now, so that future campaigns can be based on solid knowledge about what works, and delivered to a circle base that’s already got some trust and history with the brand on Google+.
So ignore the naysayers. Not getting your company or organization on Google+ right now... well, that’s just crazy talk.
A ship like this sails only once per decade or so. Don’t miss the boat.