Recently the New York Times called Google Plus a ‘ghost town,’ and most marketers agree. I understand why. Even if you believe Google’s own user count (many don’t), Google Plus has only one-quarter as many global users as Facebook. Nielsen says that while Facebook users spend more than six hours per month on site, Plus users spend only seven minutes per month on site. Put simply, Google Plus isn’t the Facebook killer some hoped it would be.
But that doesn’t mean marketers should ignore Plus. Far from it: I believe every marketer should use Google Plus.
First, Google Plus has more users than you think. Yes, it pales in comparison to Facebook — but so do most other social sites. Rather than trust Google’s own user data, we decided to run our own survey. We asked more than 60,000 US online adults which social sites they used — and 22% told us they visited Google Plus each month. That’s the same number who told us they use Twitter, and more than told us they use LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram. That means you can build a real follower base on Google Plus: On average, top brands have collected 90% as many fans on Plus as on Twitter. (In fact, the brands we studied have more followers on Google Plus than on YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram combined.)
Last week we published a report on how "data in, data out" practices are the future of social relationship platforms — and just a week later, Google has made a big bet on the "data out" side of that equation.
In the report, we say that "'data out' will prove the value of social and improve the rest of your marketing [. . .] [by] powering effective targeting in everything from banner ads to TV spots." Readers familiar with our research will know we're talking about the database of affinity: a catalogue of people's tastes and preferences, collected by observing their social behaviors, that could revolutionize brand advertising.
Well, last night, Google announced it was shifting the focus of its Wildfire division (previously a full-service social relationship platform) away from managing brands' profiles on social networks and toward extracting social data to help it better build the database of affinity.
The recent appointment of Susan Wojcicki as YouTube's next CEO signals the importance Google is placing on online video as a means for driving ad revenues. Yet it’s also a tacit recognition that YouTube’s current ad models aren’t satisfying the needs of two of its core user groups:
The content creators who rely on ad revenue to fund their efforts
The marketers who bring those dollars to the table