Like everyone else, I was stunned at Google+ exploding on the scene-and the incredible buzz that ensued. Google could give Charlie Sheen a run for the money if the breathless hype continues, which I expect it will for awhile. Still, marketers and companies should take notice because, after all, it is Google. The 500-pound-gorillo’s jumping into the market puts a spotlight on some key issues-ignore them at your own peril.

Trying my best to cut through all the smoke, here’s what I see short term:

  • More fragmentation and disruption: The new shiny toy immediately drew in the Geeks, and has since been spreading like wildfire — 10 million new users in only two weeks. Many, if not most, of the social media crowd are already shifting  their attention from Twitter and Facebook. Will everyone else, including your clients, follow? Who knows–but it means attention, eyeballs and resources spread across yet another major platform.
  • Google+More noise, more information overload: Actually, information is not your key concern-conversations are. As Tom Foremski points out, you need to stay on top of critical conversations-ones that mention your brand, product or relate to you in some way. This gets harder as new platforms emerge with thousands of voices shouting at the same time, a Tower of Babel.
  • Google gets a place at the table: The odds are shifting now toward Google playing a significant role in social media. The company has enormous financial resources (Net income of $2.5 billion on $9 billion in quarterly revenues, nearly $40 billion in the bank, etc) and has produced a winner with G+. There are many features to like- the sleeker, easier to use interface (vs Facebook), using Circles to organize, the ease of following and adding people, etc. But the real advantage comes as G+ is integrated into Google tools like Reader, Gmail, the Chrome browser-putting it right at the center of your work flow. Google will integrate these tools better, creating a powerful business platform, while weaving social into search so that we eventually have a seamless search experience (one that presumably integrates your friends considerations and influence). Google could easily emerge as the dominant social platform for business, and maybe more.
  • Trouble for Twitter: Twitter could be the odd man out since it lacks Google’s financial resources, Facebook’s massive base, and a clear business plan. Yet it may still survive, thanks to its speed and simplicity. And no one wants a replay of the 90s, when Microsoft was crushing smaller competitors, and MS and Intel (Wintel) dominated the PC platform.

Looking at the bigger picture, this is really as much about content as anything. Google already dominates information search. Now with Google+, as John Jantsch points out, it’s “…created an unpaid army of enthusiastic content-curation experts that will certainly play a growing role in discovering, sharing, and ultimately indexing the best content served up by Google searches…”

So the G+ volunteer army will be busy sharing, promoting and creating massive amounts of content-new conversations, links, interest in issues, products and much, much more.  Marketers need to get in front of this tidal wave, just like they’ve had to do with Twitter and Facebook.

Five questions to ask for starters, and to make sure you’re positioned for the G+ world:

  •  Are you in the game? Do you have a presence across paid (search, broadcast, etc), earned (events) and owned (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and now G+) media? These are your marketing beachheads, and you’ll need to work across the board to make sure you’re connecting with customers with your messages.
  • Do you have a clear content marketing strategy? If so, you’re already using listening tools and engaging in related conversations. Adjust your strategy for G+-and stick to it. If not, better get one in order fast-I just met with two companies last week, neither had a content strategy, both are scrambling in catch-up mode.
  • Is your content relevant? If you’re unclear on the role and importance of relevant content, read Michael Brito’s nice analysis piece on SME. Conduct a content audit, compare it to industry conversations, and judge for yourself. Is your content hitting the target? Are you involved and influencing industry conversations? What is your share of voice around key topics?
  •  Do you have a content engine and systematic publishing process? Then you should have a publishing model and be systematically chunking out content, carefully targeted to your key audiences. Run it like a publisher, with clear editorial direction, calendars, and hire editors to help you drive it- more tips here
  •  Do you have control over your destiny? Putting all of your eggs into one basket you don’t control is stupid. Why put all your resources into building Facebook Pages when you don’t own that real estate (No one knows how G+ will affect FB yet but the risk is obvious)? The same is true of Google+-it’s a marketing outpost, not your home base. Better to build your own blogs, communities and following,  and diversify your investments across several platforms, along with following a carefully crafted plan. Build a defensible program that can weather any storm, since no one knows how this will play out (who would predict G+’s amazing launch?)

This is a great opportunity to step back, take a deep breath and assess your overall strategy and social media program. There’s no reason to panic. As Jason Falls pointed out Friday, the sky’s not going to fall immediately. We’re still in the early stages of what promises to be a long marathon. But marketers should take notice. If you’ve been on the fence or slow to re-align your marketing efforts around social media, Google+ should be a huge wake up call. What are you waiting for?

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About Mark Ivey

Mark Ivey

Mark Ivey is a social media consultant with the ION Group and a published author with a broad corporate background in editorial, marketing, social media and executive communications. He’s served as a Bureau Chief at BusinessWeek magazine, national media spokesman for Intel, and recently, as Editor in Chief for Hewlett Packard, where he pioneered a new program to drive its enterprise blogs and other social media activities. Besides family, friends and good wine, his passion is social media-training, strategizing, and exploring new digital paths for his clients. Find him on Twitter at @markivey.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Carra Riley

    The perfect article to summarize why it is important to have your message organized and in place to get in the game.  Facebook might be considered the practice field and now we are going to the Superbowl.  Shared, tweeted and will link to my own post on hangouts!  Great to connect on google+ 

    • http://twitter.com/markivey mark ivey

      Thanks Carra, appreciate the compliments- and your sharing. Rock on…

  • http://www.scotttempleman.com/ Scott Templeman

    (MS & Intel still dominate the pc platform) 

    • http://twitter.com/markivey mark ivey

      Ha, thanks for the reminder Scott ;) 

  • http://twitter.com/TaiGoodwin Tai Goodwin

    Excellent points about content marketing and strategy. Content – the ability to create it or curate it will be a game changer for companies wise enough to position themselves as a resource for their audience.

    • http://www.ioncorporation.com/blog markivey

      Yep, it’s all about content. Thanks for stopping by…

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  • http://www.mindframecampaign.org/ MindFrame

    It’s funny how it has become hard to imagine a world even without twitter, let alone ANY of the other social platforms. Just goes to show how powerful they are!

  • Gsideman

    While just a rookie with G+, I don’t see how it challenges Twitter. The interface is more like Facebook, but much better. That said, Twitter is my first love and at least for the time being, will continue to spend more time communicating there. 

    • mark ivey

      You may be right-but no one knows. Twitter has its own advantages in its simplicity (the 140 word count actually makes it easier to scan), and searchability, along with all the apps that make it a dynamic, powerful communications platform. G+ is a different animal, and yes, more like Facebook in user interface. But I believe people will eventually migrate to one or two platforms for most of their communications (maybe FB for personal, G+ for business)-it’s unclear whether Twitter will continue to fit in or will need to carve out a new niche…Robert Scoble has a nice thread going this week on G+ after his “Twitter is getting boring” post with lot of people weighing in on the issue. BTW you can find me on G+ here  bit.ly/n0ZUIe. Thanks for the comments. 

  • http://andynathan.net Andy Nathan

    This will overwhelm some, and the rest who can handle will make more money.

    • http://www.ioncorporation.com/blog markivey

      Isn’t this always the case? 

  • J. Michael Rivera

    This is a timely and much needed read. Thanks for an excellent analysis about what is at stake.

    • http://www.ioncorporation.com/blog markivey

      Thanks, appreciate that…

  • Mike McGrath

    Google+ will do more for Google Apps than any other tactic to get people on their platform. Google gets more than a place at the table. Google replaces MSFT Office, drains Facebook and Twitter. Looks like a hat trick to me.

    More important is the point you make about content strategy and publishing process. Both need to be in place to take advantage of emerging media outlets. As David Sparks would say it’s time for brands to tell an uncut story and disintermediate the flacks.

    It’s also a time for brands to be creative and nurture their fans. Heck, I’m not a big fan of Kraft products but their recent Pudding Face Mood Meter made me laugh. It’s powered by Tweets today but could just as well be powered by Streams tomorrow. www.jellopuddingface.com

    At the end of the day what counts is the conversion. The click, the download, the purchase, whatever. Marketers have more hooks to bait than ever.

    • http://www.ioncorporation.com/blog markivey

      MIke–thanks for the comments.You’re right-when the dust clears, what matters is the conversion…Clients could care less about “conversations” and connections. Also on this one: “As David Sparks would say it’s time for brands to tell an uncut story and disintermediate the flacks.”
      We’ve been asking for this since the days of ClueTrain Manifesto, and before…But I agree, it’s still the right direction. 

  • Mac Prichard

    Excellent summary and analysis, Mark, of what Google has accomplished so far. Also appreciate the practical suggestions of how marketers should respond.

    • http://www.ioncorporation.com/blog markivey

      Thanks Mac, and thanks for stopping by. 

  • http://twitter.com/ToddmilletT Todd Millett

    “So the G+ volunteer army will be busy sharing, promoting and creating massive amounts of content-new conversations, links, interest in issues, products and much, much more.  Marketers need to get in front of this tidal wave, just like they’ve had to do with Twitter and Facebook.” 

    Very well said!  I can definitely see G+ sticking around for the long haul.  Though I do feel it will take more time to know for certain.  What Facebook has going for it is that so many people are already on it.  Probably for most target audiences, Facebook is what comes to mind first when they hear the words “social media.”  If there were an internet search built into Facebook, people may be hesitant to veer from Google because they are already so familiar with it.  However, they just might try it out because it is there on Facebook.  This may be how G+ will get many of its newcomers to try it out before they are sold it in.  As you mentioned, G+ is integrated with many of Google’s features that people already use.  If enough people dabble in it, they will likely find features unique to G+ that are beneficial to them.

    • http://www.ioncorporation.com/blog markivey

      Interesting idea–and I agree, it will take something more than the buzz to get the masses to move over from Facebook…many are just too comfortable behind the walled garden. Thanks for the comments

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