I was in the process of adding Mashable staff to a new “Mashable Staff” circle in my Google+ (using “How to Add Mashable Staff to Your Circles on Google+“) when this thought struck me:
Perhaps the delay in introducing brand and business profiles to Google+ is the best thing that ever happened for brands and businesses on social media.
Let me explain. It’s no secret that brands have been champing at the bit to get a presence on Google+. No wonder. Just the other day Google confirmed that even though the service is still in beta and open by invitation only, it has already passed 10 million users and over a billion posts and shares a day. No brand manager worth her title can afford to ignore what may prove to be the fastest growing social web site in history.
So far Google has only promised that brand profiles are at least months away, and only a small, select group of brands will be allowed to beta test brand profiles during this period. Understandably, this is frustrating for brands and marketers eager to get on the Google+ express.
I think it may be the best thing that ever happened to them, and it is a brilliant move by Google that may bode well for the long-term success and value of Google+.
By forcing all profiles to be personal for the first several months of Google+’s existence, Google is forcing brands to do what they should be doing on social media: learning to be personal. Some of the most successful brands on Twitter are successful because they understood that intuitively. Instead of just creating an impersonal brand account, they put key personell on Twitter (sometimes even the CEO him/herself, as with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh). This created more good will and brand identification from social media followers toward those brands than could be bought by all the PR departments in the world.
Now back to the Mashable example. Even though admittedly Mashable was one of the first brands to flagrantly violate the Google Profile TOS by establishing a Mashable News profile, which suspiciously has still not been taken down by Google), yesterday they demonstrated that they get that the real value they bring to a social network like Google+ is their people.
Actually, one of the many things that has made me so enthusiastic about the potentials of Google+ is the fact that Google itself gets what I’m talking about here. From Google+ Day One, Google staff have been active on Google+, from co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to the entire Google+ dev team. Unlike Facebook (try even finding an email address to contact Facebook staff!), they have been listening and responding to user feedback, and demonstrating that they are actively changing the product in response. It makes everyone feel more positive about the product when you know you can connect with and influence its creators.
Here’s my advice to marketers and brands re: Google+ today: Sign on as yourself and begin to explore this new social medium as a real human being. Don’t talk much about your brand (have that prominently displayed and linked on your Google Profile, and let that speak for itself). Instead strive to make yourself interesting and valuable to the community. Contribute. Start discussions. Comment on and reshare others posts widely.
I’ve been doing this actively for the past two weeks, and have noticed a marked increase in traffic to both my corporate and personal blogs, even though I’ve never mentioned either on Google+. I’m betting that people are finding me interesting and valuable enough to click through to my profile and follow my links there. (Follow Mark Traphagen on Google+).
If you learn to be social before you try to do social, if you open up your key staff to interact with present and potential customers, if you just plain be human on the web, you just might find that by the time Google rolls out brand profiles, you hardly need one.