Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Google+ Brand pages may have debuted just a few months ago, but many companies have already flocked to the social media platform to reach out to new fans. And it’s not just the big companies that are adopting brand pages: Google+ Group Product Manager Christian Oestlien says small businesses are also jumping on the Google+ band wagon.

“We have obviously a lot of involvement in the local space,” Oestlien says. “We’re seeing a lot of small businesses get on Google+ and use that to directly engage with their audiences.”

But Google+ isn’t like all other social media websites. Unlike broadcast-heavy mediums such as Facebook and Twitter, Google+ activity thrives on quality rather than quantity. Valuable content sharing with in-depth comment threads is what users are actively looking for, which can pose a challenge to companies accustomed to churning out quick posts for the other social media platforms.

“For example, if you’re a finance-oriented media company, make sure you’re posting stuff that’s interesting and relevant in that category and that you’re engaging with your audience,” Oestlien advises.

Thinking of starting your own brand page? The best way to learn how to manage a brand page is to find those leading by example. Check out these three tips culled from companies who are kicking butt on Google+ engagement, and below in the gallery, check out 10 subset of Google+ all-stars in a variety of industries. What’s your favorite Google+ brand page and why? Let us know in the comments.

1. Putting a Face on the Company

Unlike other social media networks, Google+ has a comments system that is integral to social interactions. This gives brands the opportunity to transcend an outward image and connect users with the people who make the company run. Oestlien explains that brands that opt to be more personally involved on Google+ reap the benefits.

“The ability to move beyond a post and understand that there are really people behind these pages really deepens the experience and lends itself to a loyal, more engaged audience,” Oestlien explains.

One of the easiest ways to connect with users on Google+ is to utilize the platform’s gang-busting feature, Hangouts. Brands have been using Hangouts to personally connect up to 10 users with a face in the company. Oestlien explains that he’s seen successful Hangouts on everything from computer companies connecting users with their tech support and department stores allowing fashion bloggers to give users style advice. Hangouts are also about to expand to even more people.

“We evolved the product Hangouts On-Air, which is now being tested with a handful of pages and big users on Google+,” says Oestlien. “What we saw is that there’s a huge latent demand to participate in Hangouts, even from the perspective of streaming and watching what’s going on.”

Utilizing Hangouts gives users a personal experience with a brand, one that is bound to foster loyalty and increase brand appeal.

2. Broadcasting Novel and Different Content


Brands cannot engage if they don’t have content, but be careful what you post. Oestlien says a major no-no on Google+ is double-dipping content on the platform and another social media website.

“I think a lot of Google+ users look to see if the brands are actually engaged in the platform itself or just reposting what they’ve shared elsewhere,” Oestlien explains.

Instead, Google+ users see success in producing interesting and novel content that is both relevant to the brand and infectiously shareable. Non-profit LGBT rights group NOH8 uses its Google+ brand page to not only share video and images that remain in line with the organization’s core message, but also showcases the visually arresting photos of regular people participating in photo shoots for NOH8 all across the country. NOH8 co-founder Adam Bouska says that sharing these photos on Google+ allows the group to connect with a whole new audience, and to engage them in the cause.

“As a smaller non-profit with limited funds, being able to promote our message through social media photos and updates has allowed us to effectively transmit our message worldwide,” says Bouska
Producing content that is not only interesting, but meaningful, is absolutely key to a successful brand page.

3. Engaging Power Users

Google+ brand pages don’t just provide a way to share content; such close engagement with an audience means that a company or brand can tailor the message to their fans in any number of ways. Oestlien explains that brands are able to segment their content and engage with influencers in the social media space to produce maximum effects.

“A lot of people already talk about getting a lot of referral traffic from Google+ than other potential properties out there, primarily because I think they’re able to hit the right audience and do it in a really relevant way,” Oestlien says.

One of the best ways to engage these influencers is to use Circles and segment major brand-influencers in order to provide even more tailored material to those who matter. Oestlien says that when brands provide specifically meaningful content to a group of core fans, they are not only cutting down the white noise that can happen with most broadcast-based strategies, but also encouraging those users to engage and reshare the brand’s content to their own circles. He adds that enabling feedback is an absolute must.

“Most people who really see high engagement levels are those that enable resharing, the ones that enable commenting and focus on using products like Ripples to see which users are highly engaged with their content and tailor more content to appeal to Influencers that can help drive even more participation.”

Engaging with the right people in a smart and efficient way leads to more meaningful connections in the long run, and in turn, stronger voices that advocate for the brand. Here are 10 brands that do it well.

10 Excellent Google+ Brand Pages

1. BBC

This British news tour de force has amassed a startling 44,953 followers in the last month, according to social media analytics data website ZoomSphere. That crushing number is top in growth by a product or brand for the month, and has doubled the brand's follow count.

It's easy to see how BBC keeps followers engaged. The company focuses on breaking news, potentially viral stories and engaging interactive features to draw people into the brand page and back to the website. There's also a mix of stories from varying channels.


2. Burberry

One of the first brands to have a page, Burberry boasts a staggering 125,930 followers and is the premiere fashion brand on Google+ to date.

The secret to Burberry's success is a tight focus on the visuals. From the cinemagraph that dominates the brand's posts page to the expertly-crafted shots of Burberry products, the brand page is essentially an eternally updating lookbook for Burberry's fashion. The result is beautiful content that begs to be reshared.

3. Intel

The tech giant keeps its brand page tailored to its followers, providing fans with archival footage, video and photos of the company's offices. The company also engages its community with questions, including how much content they would like to receive about the brand.

"Intel invited users to tell them what circles they should be put in," Oestlien says. "A really nice way of evolving a circles model to let users opt into different segmentations that Intel was already looking at doing."


4. Macy's

The retailer's commitment to user engagement has plenty of thought put into it: The content encourages users to get up from their computers and visit stores. How are they able to transcend the social media wall and reel users into becoming customers? Coupons.

"They've been doing things like special offers, promoting particular things that are happening in their online presence or their retail stores to really get G+ users involved and engaged," Oestlien says.



5. Marvel

Marvel had one of the most popular brand pages on Google+, and it's not just because it appeals to the core early-adopter male audience that makes up the platform's majority. The comics company provides users with clickables, including free lunch-time reads and print coupons. But, it's the heavy level of commitment to personal engagement, especially through Hangouts, that's proven to be a boon.

"We used their Hangout feature to promote the announcement of the seminal comic book event of 2012 -- Avengers vs X-Men -- and the engagement during that event and after has provided exceptional visibility and ongoing engagement." says Peter Phillips, senior vice president & general manager of digital media at Marvel.



6. NASA

NASA does extraordinarily well on Google+, reaching out to more than 73,000 followers every day. NASA uses the platform as a way station for its massive content stores, including posts of archives, space photos, lectures from luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, and any breaking news regarding the furthering of space exploration.

NASA also gets points for consistency. Today alone, the organization has already posted 8 pieces of original content. Those posts together have had more than 366 shares, averaging 45 shares per post. That translates into very high audience engagement.



7. Toyota

Toyota's main page is all about eye-candy. Pictures of the newest, shiniest luxury cars dominate every inch of the page, and clean and professional photos of the brand at events lends to a slick and powerful brand page. The company's dedication to strong graphic elements make for easy sharing.

And that sharing is producing some major results. In the last five days, the follower count of the auto brand skyrocketed from 5,886 to nearly 50,000.


 8. ThinkGeek

ThinkGeek isn't a major follower-magnet ... yet. But its content, catered to niche nerd culture, is an example of how novel material can appeal to a very tailored audience. The company does not market its own products; rather, it focuses on clickable geekery and photos that appeal to its consumer audience.

ThinkGeek is also a source of blockbuster shares on singular posts, routinely racking up shares in the hundreds for each post. For a company with such a tight-knit circle, the share rate of the content is proof that ThinkGeeg has its pulse on the audience's wants.




9. Uniqlo

This up-and-coming clothing retailer based in Japan is successful on Google+ because it thinks globally. Instead of breaking down the operation into different country-bases, the company posts pictures of customers in stores all around the world.

This sort of global thinking taps into users from all countries that Uniqlo is based in, and creates a core group of passionate followers from everywhere instead of segmenting them. In addition, Uniqlo's page becomes a portal for users to see how consumer activity occurs all over, providing for interesting visual content.



10. Williams-Sonoma

This high-end home and kitchen retailer maintains a successful brand page because of its novel content. Instead of broadcasting pictures of products, the brand page is all about creating content around the product. Williams-Sonoma generates Google+ stories on home entertaining and dining, and it even provides a daily juice recipe.

The reaction to the content has been rabid, and has helped grow the companies follower masses to a staggering 84,297. The company's dedication to producing original content is a hit among users, and it's an example of the way that Google+ users demand more from their brands than simple broadcasting.