Last month Google said it reached an important milestone when it noted 100 million people were now using Google+ actively (e.g., creating posts on Google+ and/or indicating you like something with the “+1″ feature). The company also said the social network now has 400 million total users.
“It was only a year ago that we opened public sign-up, and we couldn’t have imagined that so many people would join in just 12 months,” Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering at Google, wrote in a post. “While Google+ is all about creating a better experience across Google, it’s also a destination.”
Google+ has also introduced business tools for brands to make better use of the social network. Despite these efforts, critics continue to describe Google+ as a runner-up to Facebook, at best.
To get another perspective about the social network, I spoke with former chief Apple evangelist and business strategy author Guy Kawasaki, who recently a book on Google+, What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us. Here are highlights of our conversation:
CRM: Why did you decide to write a book about Google+?
Guy Kawasaki: When Google+ was introduced, I didn’t love it in the first moment, but by the fifth moment I got it and now I really love Google+. A lot of people don’t understand it and some people say it’s going to fail, so I decided to write a book to help people better understand how Google+ works.
Why should companies risk using Google+ if Google might shut it down?
If you use that test, you wouldn’t do anything with any company. You’d say, well, why should I buy an iPhone, Apple just shut down Ping. If you only use products from companies that don’t shut stuff down, you would not use much in any industry.
Google can divert a river of traffic any way it wants and it is incorporating social search into search so if you have a Google+ profile, it definitely helps your SEO—it even has your photo appear on search results. This isn’t two guys in a garage with a million dollars trying to create a new social network, this is Google. There are worse bets than this.
CRM: What are some best practice tips that you would offer to businesses who want to get into Google+?
Kawasaki: The key to Google+ and all social media is that whenever you post, you post something that adds value. Provide either information, analysis or assistance. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about your product, but the market you’re in.
For example, if you’re a restaurant, it’s not just about posting about your specials, it’s about sharing a great article that you found or something else that you thought would be interesting to your readership. When you create posts like that, you’ll become respected as a source of great information about a particular topic. Because of that credibility, people follow you and you’re earning the right to promote your business every once in a while.
Another best practice everyone should observe is every post on Google+ should have a picture or a video. It’s a medium that lends itself to eye candy. A pure text post is just not going to cut it.
CRM: Which areas could be improved?
Kawasaki: From a hardcore social media person’s perspective, I wish Google+ had things like a TweetDeck; a standalone app that’s geared towards posting and responding. You could then post externally, schedule your posts, etc. Then again, I’m in the 1/10th percentile of power users who want that kind of thing.
CRM: What misconceptions do people have about Google+?
Kawasaki: The primary misconception is that people compare it to Facebook. The advantage of Facebook is basically everyone you know is on it, including your high school and college classmates. It’s like going to a reunion. Google+ is like going to a new party and seeing people you don’t know. Some people are walking into the party and saying I don’t know anyone here, I’m going to leave. That’s how a Facebook user might feel about Google+. I would make the case that if you go to a party full of people who are beautiful and interesting, if you don’t have a good time, that’s your fault, not theirs. You have to embrace the right frame of mind to use Google+ optimally.