The allure of all that social media online attention was way too much for Google so it’s back again with another social media play (anyone remember Google Wave?), this time with Google+. So in one corner there’s the Gorilla of Facebook with its 750 million users and now, in the other corner, we have Google+ with a quickly growing base, but still way below 10% of its competitor’s membership.
So here’s a quick summary of the Chris Price take on what all this means.
Firstly, I think Google has a way to go before it offers a viable alternative to the big F. There are two areas in which it needs work – simplicity and community. Facebook is so simple to use that even the most technologically challenged person can write a status note and find a friend to connect with. There’s not a lot that can go wrong. This is probably why there are so many millions of people using it across so many age groups and demographics. Keep it simple and it seems the crowds will follow – as they have.
Google, however, has only got part of the simplicity message. Writing a post in Google+ is a breeze. You just start writing away and you are done.
Here’s an image of what my Google+ page looks like.
Google even extends the way you can interact with your friends by allowing you to use group video and group chat. But when it comes to finding and connecting to others in Google+, then things become a bit more tricky. Part of the reason for this is Google’s ability to let you cluster your friends into “circles” and then to share certain types of content with each of these.
Here’s what my circle area looks like – leaving me the job of picking people from my contacts and then dragging them down into the circle I want them to be in.
Everyone needs to be in their own circle but some can be in more than one at a time. You can configure your own profile to have alternative privacy settings for each circle. Getting confused yet? Well it’s all a lot easier once you get a Google+ account and watch the videos they offer to see what you need to do.
Which is of course the issue – you need to watch a video to figure it all out. It’s the true dilemma I suppose Google faced. Do they make their tool so basic to use that it attracts and engages as many people as possible, knowing that by doing so they risk being seen as no different to Facebook? Or should they increase the number of features available in Google+ to set them apart from the alternative but, by doing so, also increase the likelihood that people will find the tool too hard to use and therefore limit its growth?
So they took the latter option and, while millions are seemingly joining every week, none include those who are in my rather small but perfectly formed Facebook friends list. Which means I’m not moving soon. Social media websites are the ultimate example of the “network effect” in action – the value of the website is directly linked to the number of people using it. So, while having 750 million users is a nice thing to present, the real value to me as a user is that my siblings in the UK use Facebook, as do my cousins in Denmark and, closer to home, some ex work chums in Wellington. It’s probably a collection of only 25 people but for me those 25 are very important.
A few of these work in IT so are super-techno-literate, while others probably use a computer just to check their own personal email once or twice a month. And somehow Facebook, with its very basic interface, allows them all to connect with each other in a very simple but very valuable way.
So what was really broken in all this to make Google go out and produce a replacement?
Some would argue that it was the way that Facebook allowed limited control of how your content was shared amongst your connections through some quite basic privacy settings. Personally, I’ve never had an issue with it – and neither have any of my Facebook friends. But nevertheless, there’s no doubt that Google+ with its “circles” of contacts allows you a lot more control here.
However, improving the privacy options available to users is not the real strategy here. It’s all about capturing as much online attention as possible. Last year Facebook kicked Google off its perch as the most visited website in the US. That would have hurt those at Google. There’s only so much “attention” you and I have and one more hour spent inside Facebook chatting with our friends is one less hour you could use searching Google for a product or reading other websites, where in both cases you may end up clicking on a Google ad or two along the way.
Whether Google will achieve its goal of winning the “attention war” between it and Facebook I’m not sure. However, I am picking that there are buildings full of very smart computer engineers in Google Land trying their hardest to ensure they do. What we see now in Google+ could well be very different to what ends up on our screens in the months ahead. The drive to simplify the interface while still retaining some edge over Facebook must be a constant challenge.
My take is that Google will have a year to gain the membership volumes they need to make the network effect work for instead of against them. That is unless Facebook makes a privacy blunder of massive proportions, which convinces masses of people to migrate to Google sooner than they expected.
As some of the regular readers of this newsletter will know, I did not start out as Facebook’s biggest fan. And to be fair, while I have softened my stance ever so slightly, I would hardly put myself in the rather crowded room of social media evangelists. There’s way too many uber-cool people in this space for me to feel comfortable.
I always thought that social media would really start to capture my attention when I could prove to myself that it was responsible for either my customers or, less importantly, myself gaining more customers. Well that time has come.
But first – a few very short notes on the basics of Facebook as I see them for non-social media people. Yep, the bits your teenage children will not tell you because the last thing they want is you on Facebook. Well it’s time to move over – oh yee of little faith in us grey-haired ones – now there’s some business to be done.
So, to start you need to set yourself up with a personal Facebook profile. You can’t set up your business without having one. Don’t worry, it’s easy and doesn’t require too much commitment. Just head over to the Facebook home page and register – share some of your details and you are done.
Now that you have a profile you can connect with others and ask them to be your “friends”. If they say yes, then everything you post on your “Wall” they will see within their “News Feed” and, likewise, all they post you will see in your “News Feed”.
So you can see some pics of this, below is an image of my News Feed.
When I took this snap, it included a note from my brother who lives in the UK and who had just landed in Lanzerote for a holiday – lucky him! Plus a short note from Allan Li – he used to work at Permission but has now moved to London and is working for a large corporate search optimisation company. Here is a picture of my “Wall” – that’s where I add my own new content.
This can be images, video or plain, ordinary text. You can comment on and “Like” your friends’ posts, videos and pictures.
I think the privacy settings in Facebook are adequate for most. You can configure these to limit your posts so they are just seen by your friends and not the friends of your friends.
Done this? Then you are now one of the many millions who are Facebook people. All that’s left to do is to set up a Page for your business. To start this just head over to http://www.facebook.com/pages/create and pick the option that best suits you.
Once this is registered you can invite people to “Like” your page and become your fans. When they do this they “should” see what you write on your page’s Wall within their News Feed. Now there’s a “should” there because if your posts get very little interaction (i.e no comments or likes for a reasonable period of time) then they are not shown up. So developing some interaction with your posts is important. More to come on this later.
But first let’s get back to adding in some content. This is simple – it’s done in exactly the same way as you update your personal Facebook profile. Just write, upload a photo, or even delve into the land of video. With a fan page you can control the ability for your Fans to write on your business page Wall, which may be a good or bad thing depending on how much interaction you want to get going.
So that’s it. It’s the basic basics, I know, but it moves you a bit further forward. Hopefully, you will start to appreciate that the overall goal here is to get your audience to “Like” your business page, love your content, engage with it because of this and, then, do what you want them to do.
Here are a few questions that all this may prompt.
No you don’t. You can send Facebook advertising links to your usual website. You will see this traffic as from the Facebook domain within your Google Analytics account. And if you have goals set up – please tell me you do – then you will see its conversion rate.
It depends on your true goal. If it’s all about numbers and increasing them, then competitions, draws and vouchers are a few good ways. Your Fan count will grow – however, most will be there for the draws, vouchers and free stuff – no surprises there. Once this all goes, then there’s a good chance they will too. Whereas if you want to gather around your page a reasonable number of hopefully more engaged people then it’s all about delivering them a steady stream of content that they see as being valuable. When you think about it, the concept is very similar to growing an effective email newsletter list.
As I write this note, Facebook tells me you need a group of 25 people to “Like” you. Then you can follow the help screens in Facebook and they will show you how to register your details and pick your URL. Also, as of now, once this is set up you have to live with your choice – so pick carefully.
Here’s just three that quickly come to mind. First, starting off with a page instead of a plan. Knowing who you want to talk to, what you want to say and the desired outcomes of all this work are some basic things to include in your plan It doesn’t have to be pages and pages of closely typed, small font. One or two pages will suffice. Just enough to refer back to and re-energise yourself after you grind through writing your 50th post and are wondering – Why?
Second, starting the conversation on knowledge, tips and general value-building content and then switching tracks to focus on offers, promotions and super deals. They “Liked” you so they could receive what your Wall showed them when they dropped by. Keep on message to keep their “Like”. Yes, people can “Unlike” you.
Third, not feeding the beast. It doesn’t need to be an hourly task. Some get by with just adding new content each week and responding to feedback on a daily basis. Multiple week gaps between posts is probably not such a good thing.
This follows on from the last point. It really doesn’t have to be much. I would suggest that people asking for a response by posting or commenting on your Wall shouldn’t be left longer than the time you would take to return a phone message asking the same question. For some this would be half a day at most. And if you place some new content out there each week then this is a good start.
This is the nice part. Setting up a page is free. Yep, nadda – nothing. Adding content to it may cost depending on who you get to write it. (Yes, we offer services for this at an affordable rate.) You may need someone (like us) to help customise some pages to welcome people to your page and entice them to hit the “Like” button. Or to create a page to host some video or other web page content. Fortunately, Facebook has built an environment that allows these changes in a reasonably open way so adding them is not that costly.
So there you have it. For some experienced Facebook people this content will be way too basic. But that’s fine, it wasn’t written for them anyway :). Nope, this should be enough to help the successful business owner who is considering Facebook to feel that little bit more confident about taking it on. Those teenagers can’t have all the fun and it pays to embarrass them on a frequent basis – just try and ask them to be your friend. I’ve a few stories there I can tell you. (“No Dad, that’s creepy.”)
And anyway, just let me know when your Facebook business page is ready. For reading this far, I’ll reward you with one shiny new “Like”.