Google+, Communities, and Reaching Your Niche

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I’d been pondering a post on G+ for months, when this post on the state of the platform caught my eye and forced it out of me. I’ve had an ambiguous relationship with Google+; having come to the Social Media game fairly late, in 2008, I had a lot of catching up to do on Facebook and social media marketing. For quite a long period there I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I consumed as much as I could via blogs and books on how this new medium worked, and I became an obsessed social media advocate. I knew that while I wasn’t watching, the world had changed.

When Google+ came along I was determined not to be caught flat footed; with an invite from Chris Brogan I was in Beta, and I paid the $47 for his much talked about mega webinar on How to Use G+ for Business. I spent hours creating and organizing circles, figuring out every new tool and change the platform put out, and I waited for the masses to show up so that for once in social media, I’d be ahead of the game.

They never came.

Well, not for a very long time. I was like the little girl all dressed up with no place to go. After a period, I washed off my make up and put the prom dress away; the masses were still on Facebook, my clients were small business, and they needed to be  where all of their customers were.

Periodically I’d check into G+, but I’d given up. In this post I wrote back in 2010 I’d thrown in the towel, and I quote:

I have a confession to make.

I don’t believe Google+ will last.

I know, it’s not a religion. One doesn’t have to believe in it to use it to market and grow.

But because I’ve told so many of you about it since I started actively using G+ – way before it was ‘open,’ – I feel like I owe you this honest assessment:

I still think you should set up your Brand Page. You should put some interesting posts up. Use it to distribute your blog. Monitor it for interaction with followers.

I didn’t trust Google’s numbers – back then they were crowing about 500 million users, only to later admit that they were including GMAIL users – people who’d never opened up a G+ account. I thought they’d blown it.

G+ was full of tech and marketing geeks and photographers. That was it.

Growth of Google+

I came creeping back

Sometime over the past 18 months I admitted to myself that I was obviously wrong, again;  G+ hadn’t gone away. I started checking in more frequently, drawn primarily by my company’s daily use of the Google Hangout. I still admired the visual, clean layout, and the superior imagery. Many of my fellow marketers were still there sharing their thoughts and posts, and of course the brilliant G+ Circles made it so much easier to segment my different friends and connections. Gradually, I found myself spending time daily on the platform, and if ‘felt’ like more people were doing the same.

Digging Into the REAL G+ Numbers

If you are and infographicaphobe, I’ll dissect out the numbers from the post that turned my head and give you a few more statistics to chew on:

  • There are over 1 Billion registered, and 359 ACTIVE Google+ users (as of Q4 2013)
  • 56.2% of those users are more active via mobile on a monthly basis (20 million per month by Mashable’s count)
  • 62% of active users are men; 38% women
  • The most active group on G+ (31% of them) are 24 – 35 year olds
  • 22% of adults online visit G+ at least once a month
  • 23% of Gen Xers, and 28% of Millennials online visit G+ each month

What does that mean to the brands that we work with? It means that they cannot ignore G+, and if they are interested in growing mobile traffic and connecting with that 24 – 35 year old demographic, as well as Gen Xers, they’d better be using the platform effectively. There may not be as many people on Google+ as Facebook, but to quote Nate Elliot on Forrester Research:

“Google Plus generates much more brand engagement than you think. Recently we studied more than 3 million user interactions with more than 2,500 brand posts on seven social networks. The result? Brands’ Google Plus posts generated nearly as much engagement per follower as their Facebook posts — and almost twice as much engagement per follower as their Twitter posts.”

It especially makes sense when you consider Facebook’s dwindling organic reach and pay to play system on Business Pages.


For Most Brands, Communities Are Where it’s At

Before I’d dug into the above numbers, my re-engagement on G+ led me right back to the self induced head bashing place I was at with my clients before I left: Brand Pages are incredibly frustrating. Go and check out many of the brands you follow on other platforms and you will find the same thing: a limited number of followers and a low level of engagement by others, in no small part because a fan of your company can’t just post to your Brand Page. They can only comment on your posts.

It was during my research and listening for a healthy eating author my partner Hessie Jones signed as a client that I discovered the Healthy Living Community with its nearly 77,000 members. Not only is the community huge, it is ACTIVE – active in a way I hadn’t seen on FB unless there was a viral video or PR nightmare plaguing a brand. That discovery hit me like a jolt – AGAIN I’d been missing out on social media, but this time because of my prejudiced view of the Google+ platform.

Of course I changed my ways, and started really listening to where the engagement was for my clients. Last night I hosted a Live and Recorded G+ Hangout with the Top 10 Finalists for Medelita’s H.E.R.O. Award (client); that may not be so unusual, except that I hosted it IN the active +Healthcare Talk Community courtesy of the very bright Kathi Browne. Not only was it a thrill and honor to have the capability to bring together the Resident nominees, but Kathi’s generous invitation allowed us to reach her vibrant 4,800 strong community of physicians and medical professionals.

There is no possible way to have that kind of connection, either technologically or simply via engaging on a page, on any platform other than Google+, which is why at ArCompany we’re paying special attention to how G+ can help us reach the specific communities our clients need to reach. Thus far in our experience Community Pages lack the Spam potential of a LinkedIn Group, and the ADHD tendencies of a Twitter Chat. We are regularly finding meaty discussions on focused topics, and the opportunity to locate and relationship build with the people with specialized interests that we need to reach.

We’d love to hear about your G+ Community Success stories as well.


5 thoughts on “Google+, Communities, and Reaching Your Niche

  1. Krithika Rosenthal says:

    More so communities are great for finding insights too. Seeing what topics people tend to talk about the most and tapping into the crowdsourced information. It also a great way to find content to share not only on G+ but elsewhere.

    Brands are utilizing G+ Helpouts – that combined with community can be very powerful to build authority and create a personalized experience.

    I really believe Google+ has great potential for brands both big and small.

  2. ArCompany says:

    Sabaa Quao – I have a couple thoughts here: for one, you don’t have to BUILD the community in all cases, you can become PART of it. Understand and LISTEN instead of just talking, and understand your target customer better. Communities are a great place to do just that.
    You’ll notice that the 2 Communities I highlighted are not BRAND focused… their interest focused. And Millennials, for one, really do care that the Brands they buy from are decent companies. How do you get that message across if you ARE one? By communicating with the consumers, and giving them a forum to get to know YOUR brand.

  3. Sabaa Quao says:

    I think Millenials caring about the companies they buy from is true. However, I think that has a slight relationship to community or engagement. Their opinions of a company does affect “conversion” (whatever the transaction is). I think marketers are conflating different business objectives.

  4. ArCompany says:


  5. Hessie Jones says:

    We know from research that people don’t want relationships with brands. And brands certainly don’t have the time to build communities. We know first hand when a community is just a dud. Sabaa you’re right followers aren’t community but if you’ve built it correctly the two are synonymous:)

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