Identifying influencers using Google+ Ripples

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Google+ Ripples is an app that sits natively within Google+, allowing anyone to see the reach and influence of a particular post in G+ once it has been shared. On top of this, you can visualise the spread of the post over time with a scrolling bar that allows you to see the impact a post has at any point along its lifeline.

The magic of Google+ Ripples, however, is the ability to search out and target influencers.

People that re-share your content and get large numbers of subsequent re-shares have larger ‘ripples’ which makes it very easy to see who people pay attention to, and quickly.

While there are people who argue that influencers on Google+ don’t mean anything as the service is minute compared to Facebook, you have to consider the fact that influencers on other social networks that move to G+ often carry that influence across, so not only can ripples be used to find influencers on G+, but there is a good chance that these people exert clout in other arenas too.

There are other levels to the Google+ Ripples tool though. For example, if you were a recruiter looking for android developers to work on a project you could use Google+ Ripples to find people talking about and sharing content about android development.

As Ripples is completely public, this means that if two competing brands release content, they can effectively benchmark how successful those pieces of content are at a very granular level – to the degree where brand ‘x’ might get 500 shares, with 100 of those occurring at a second level, while brand ‘y’ might get 500 shares with 300 of those at the second level. In this example brand ‘y’ is more effective at leveraging key influencers to spread their message, while their first level influence is lacking. This creates a highly competitive environment in which brands need to stay creative and innovative in order to be successful in capturing the maximum share of voice.

It’s worth noting that Google does plan on plugging adwords into Google+, and that they will have something to do with Ripples. While industry chatter on this is vague and unclear, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that you could run adwords campaigns to reach out to influencers with  pretty impressive levels of detail and optimisation.

We’ve said before that Google+ isn’t a competitor to Facebook but the future of search engine marketing and with functionality like Ripples being one of the key USP’s of Google+ we think there are some exciting times ahead for the service.

If you haven’t added FreshNetworks to your Google+ circles yet, then make sure you do so now!

Forget being a Facebook competitor; Google+ is the future of social search

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If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already signed up for Google+ or you’re teetering on the brink. At the very least, you’re probably wondering why you should bother signing up for Google+ at all.

At the moment it seems like most analysts and digital types are being quite mean about Google+ , but whether you like it or not, Google+ will be a ‘success’. This is not a revelation - Google simply has the resources and network to make Google+ work.

Take Google’s staggered roll-out, for example. It wanted to get something out there early to make an initial impact; to say “We’re here in your social space”.

This, of course, led to condemnation and fear that it would be the next Google Buzz: “Nobody’s on it. What’s there to do? I’m going back to Facebook.” But a lot of this attitude and negativity comes down to viewing Google+ as a Facebook competitor. It’s not.

What Google+ is, though, is part of the future of search engine marketing and social search. It’s becoming clearer that instead of taking Facebook head on in Facebook’s domain, Google has created a network that will be an integrated part of Google’s entire ecosystem.

Google started by creating a seemingly ‘stand-alone’ social network. It has now reworked YouTube to focus on social video discovery and social video search. Google+ is not the only network to feature in its recommendation engine – you can add Facebook too.

What’s next? Well, this is only the beginning of these changes. We’ll see similar social integration in Google’s main search offering, Google Docs and even Gmail. This will be the culmination of a mix between improved search and the collaborative principles that underpinned (the sadly failed) Google Wave. With improvements, the extended Google+ integration will make sense. Imagine:

I’m studying history at university. My lecturer or course has a Google+ account and the video is broadcast live as a hangout to a group of students who may not be able to make it to the lecture hall. After the lecture is finished, the hangout will be uploaded to YouTube to share. Students can import it from YouTube into Google Docs as a video document which can then be annotated and shared on Google+ with other members of the class or directly to a mailing list from Google+ by clicking the ‘gmail’ option. We can base a hangout on one of these video documents as an informal seminar.

Soon, Google+ won’t be a choice; It will be a tool we use as naturally as gmail and Google.com. It will change the way we collaborate on, share and discover data. It will help change the way we enjoy information. Don’t think of Google+ as a social network;  think of it as part of our social future.

Should you set up a Google+ page for your brand?

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Google+

The much-heralded Google+ Pages are here for brands, organisations and others. After the launch yesterday, everybody can now set up pages and brands have been rushing to grab their name. It’s certainly easy to do, and easy to start to add and curate content. But should it be part of your brand’s social media mix and if so how.

These five questions should help you decide if you need a Google+ page for your brand, and how to make the most of one if you do.

1. Should you claim your name to build social credibility?

Vanity URLs (such as ones ending /freshnetworks) aren’t yet available for Google+, and multiple pages can be set up with the same name. This does mean that there is minimal benefit currently to claiming your name as part of a land-grab. However it does make it more important than ever that brands who are serious about using Google+ do it and do it quickly. You need to build social credibility. There is, currently, nothing to stop multiple pages being set up and others using the name you want to use. So the quicker you establish your presence on Google+ and establish the credibility of your brand and how you are using it, the better.

2. Have you got a clear reason for using Google+?

However, the danger with Google+ (and with many of the pages that have already been set up) is that they have been created with no obvious though of how they are to be used and what they do for the business. There is definitely a benefit to using Google+ as part of your social media mix but only if it is contributing towards your brands overall aims with social media.

  • Are you looking to acquire customers? In which case could you be using Google+ to specifically reach new audience with content that they are interested in.
  • Are you looking to generate online sales? In which case you could be using the rich media capabilities of Google+ to showcase products and link to ecommerce items.
  • Are you looking to reward advocates? In which case you could use Circles to gather together your different advocates and share content exclusively with them.

Without a clear reason for using Google+, a business aim, you risk being one of the many many pages that are set up, share some photos and some content but never really start to perform for the brand.

3. Is your audience using Google+?

Google is yet to share much demographic data about who is using Google+, but services such as Social Statistics are sampling profiles to give some data about the types of people that are using the service. We can learn that the users in their sample are almost 70% male as well as finding the top users, posts and fastest growing pages. This kind of data is useful but we should be more intelligent in assessing if our audience is using Google+. One simple thing to do would be to search for your key brand, competitor and market terms and see who is saying what about them on Google+. Are the kind of conversations you want to be part of or lead there already? And who is talking? We should also bear in mind that the audience for Google+ is continuing to grow and change and probably become much more mainstream - bringing in more and more people over time. So if your audience isn’t currently using Google+ the chances are some of them will be in the near future.

4. Are you using the capabilities Google+ offers?

Any brand that uses Google+ in the same way they use Twitter or Facebook is failing to either make full use of its capabilities or to use it sensibly as part of your social media mix. As with any social media tool, you need to understand what role it plays in the mix of tools you use and the strengths and weaknesses of different tools. Google+ is currently very strong in rich media content (videos and images as well as the use of animated GIFS as you can see in the creative Burberry page). It is great for organising people into Circles and then treating these segments in different ways. It is also good for longer-form discussion and debate. In these three ways it offers brands more flexibility than Facebook. In other ways (organising events, integration with apps, short-form updates), Facebook and Twitter are probably stronger.

5. Can you maintain the page when you set it up?

The final consideration is very much an internal, governance question. If you set up a Google+ page for your brand will you have the content, time and resource to maintain it? The worst pages are those with some content that is posted for the first few days or weeks, and then silence. There is a real danger with many of the pages that brands are setting up right now that they just do not have the resources to maintain it.If there is real benefit to you and you have a clear audience to engage there, then you should be able to resource it by shifting your emphasis from other channels, or by sensible use of content and ideas across your social media marketing mix. If you don’t have time to maintain the page, or you can’t provide enough content for it, then you probably shouldn’t have set it up in the first place.

Google+: A social networking site or the future of search engine marketing?

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So Google has launched its first foray into social networking with the launch of Google+. Or has it?

This may be somewhat of a conspiracy theory, but a few of us here at FreshNetworks were questioning whether Google+ is about social networking at all, or if it’s about something else…namely, changing the future of search engine marketing (SEM).

Think about point number 2 of Google’s “10 things” manifesto:

‘It’s best to do one thing really, really well. We do search. With one of the world‘s largest research groups focused exclusively on solving search problems, we know what we do well, and how we could do it better.’

So perhaps Google+ is about improving their ‘one thing’ which,  in the words of Google’s co-founder Larry Page, is to make search engines “understand exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want.”

Think about this. Now, when you’re logged in to Google+ and you search for something in Google, the results you get are often different than if you weren’t logged in to Google+. If someone from your ‘Circles’ (connections) has shared a link the relates to your search term then the content they have shared comes up higher in the results, sometimes even at the top of the pile.

Potentially, in the future, this could mean that the more popular pages from within your Circles could outrank those pages that are better optimised in the traditional sense of the word. This is probably why companies, like Plussem, have started targeting Google’s +1 feature and you can now pay companies to “+1″ your website.

What’s more, think about the ‘Sparks’ function in Google. When you search for content within Sparks it returns results that are relevant to an interest you’ve selected. Moving forward, this feed could also return content that people in your Circles have liked at a higher page result. Or it could be used in the way that Google is currently used where the top content is sponsored content, enticing brands and businesses to get involved.

Obviously Google has yet to release where it’s going with Google+. Perhaps Google+  is not about moving SEM forward, or claiming back more of the search engine market from other rivals as some people think.  And if Google want to get brands involved  with Google+, which all the signs suggest they do, then it will be much more than just about search marketing.

So it’s still too early to tell what Google’s plans are but it looks as though Google+ could potentially impact social and search in a big way.

Can Google+ rival Facebook and Twitter? Some initial thoughts

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Google+ Google Plus icons for Circles Spark Hangouts

Google+'s features - Home, Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, Photos and Huddle

It’s too early to tell whether or not Google+, the company’s challenger to Facebook, will find success. Google’s Documents and Apps have seen widespread use, yet other services have struggled, like Wave. Early feedback suggests that from a user perspective, Google+ is getting some things right, but is not yet a solid package or a true rival to Facebook or Twitter.

The plus

Its real USP is ‘Circles’, which is a way of quickly and easily managing those you follow and then targeting those groups with content. This is a fantastic addition to friend/follower management and is something Facebook users have needed for years. It’s also potentially one of its biggest problems: if Facebook reacts quickly and introduces better peer management and targeting, then Circles ceases to be a differentiator.

Beyond Circles, it’s also promoting group video chat (‘Hangouts’) and topic browsing (‘Sparks’). Personally, I like Sparks. It works for me in the same way Bing does, i.e “let me browse but yes, give me that initial spark”. Hangouts is a great feature for those who like video chats. But I’m not sure it’s enough to take audience from, say, Skype. Google has fantastic voice recognition facilities for its mobile services. It would have been great, for example,  to support Hangouts with automatic voice transcription for the hard of hearing or for business meetings.

…and the minus?

It’s therefore going to be an uphill climb. Google hasn’t done itself any favours with its staggered approach to release. It worked for Gmail because people were looking for a great, free e-mail service and its central features did not rely on who or how many people you knew. Google+, however, requires you to have friends who are also using Google+. I have 300 friends on Facebook who are constantly chatting with me and giving me content to explore. Why should I go to Google+ to interact with 20 people?

If they want to succeed, then from a user perspective they really need to offer more of what the other networks don’t have (and a killer could have been decent cloud storage and streaming) and they need to make it easy for users to aggregate. Something as simple as grabbing contact e-mails from your Facebook friends en masse would have instantly made this more interesting. Why not allow me to connect using Twitter and Facebook to pull in feeds from both? Google could have made Google+ something I want as my homepage, my one-stop shop to the internet. They could have reinvented the internet portal - something Microsoft has been trying for years with MSN but failing because of poor application.

The value for brands?

As for brands, I don’t think there’s anything in this for them in the short term. Longer term I think brand engagement will be in the form of specialised search and content advertising (eg through ‘Sparks’ or interspersed through the stream). There’s a lot of white space that would be perfect for advertising. On top of that, Engadget found references to game sharing in the background code, suggesting that there’s much more to come that users and brands can do.

Perhaps that’s the central benefit Google will try to sell? ‘Come to Google+. We have ads, but it’s not nearly as invasive or pervasive as on Facebook!’