We’re asking this question since we’re approaching the first anniversary of the initial “invite-only” field-test of Google+.

In short, I think the answer to this question is “very” and I’ll explain by showing some of the the latest information.

Sometimes I wish Google+ didn’t exist. It seems many marketers I speak to agree.  It doesn’t add any significant functionality for me as an end-user over LinkedIn or Facebook. Personally, for sharing and keeping up-to-date I still fall-back to Twitter or the trusty Google Reader. I even find Pinterest more useful as a way of bookmarking and sharing marketing process visuals to learn from.

It’s also impractical to be active in it if you’re short of time. Hootsuite is my tool of choice in keeping up-to-date through following Twitter Lists and updating my status on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. But it still doesn’t  update Google+, which consequently just doesn’t fit into my workflow.

However, in my experience, Google+ does seem to have a different demographic to the other networks and it does offer something here. If you’re looking to target or follow thought-leaders and early adopters in digital marketing you can and should!

I disagree with the sentiment you often hear that it’s a “ghost town” of virtual tumbleweed. This may be true if you’re a UK or European business targeting consumers, but if you’re communicating with marketing professionals it’s quite active and becoming more so. We find on Smart Insights, that the number of shares (“+1s”) on Google+ have increased in 2012, we think at the expense of Twitter and LinkedIn.

The case for targeting non-professional audiences using Google+ is perhaps less clear, but there’s is growing evidence that Google+ will only increase importance.

So, if you’re not convinced yet, here are some more reasons to take Google+ seriously.

  • Google are taking it seriously. Unlike Google Buzz or Wave, this isn’t a test. It’s reportedly the #1 priority for Google execs and it is what their performance is based on (some undisclosed KPIs around besting Facebook we suspect!).
  • Google are actively promoting it. As we’ve mentioned previously on the ClickThrough blog, brands who are active on Google+ are more prominently featured, particularly on google.com (not apparently rolled-out worldwide, but expect this soon). In this case H&M:
  • The Google+ audience is growing. Google+ now has approaching 200 million users according to Google. While there is much discussion and limited information from Google on how many active Google+ users there are, this is a significant number a year after launch and much higher than equivalents for newly-launched social networks in the past.
  • Author information in the Google search results. You will have noticed that some blog posts in the search results have an image next to them due to the rel=”author” markup Google have promoted. This really helps cut-through according to bloggers who are using it.
  • Companies seem to be getting better rankings through Google+.

This US test example was doing the rounds in early May – it’s not scientific, but shows that positive results were obtained by companies more active in Google+.

G! case studies

At the SMX Advanced expo in the UK, proof was shown that companies active in Google+ were gaining better results in the natural rankings.

So the evidence is growing. I hope you (and I) get to love Google+, we need to!

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About the author:

An acknowledged expert on digital marketing, Dave was recognised in 2004 by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of “50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have shaped the future of Marketing“. Dave is also author of five best-selling books including Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice; and eMarketing eXcellence.