Is Google+ Good for Small Businesses?

As part of this new debate series, we’re hosting conversations about topics that matter to you. Today, we discuss whether Google+ is a beneficial platform for small businesses. Read the debate and share your thoughts in the comments!

Arguing for the “Pro” side is Gini Dietrich of SpinSucks.com, a blog for PR and marketing pros. Arguing for the “Con” side is Paul Sutton, the brains and blogger behind FutureComms.

The Argument For

Ah my nemesis! Hello Paul Sutton. Hope you’re ready to lose another battle today!

For those of you who don’t know, Paul and I disagree on a variety of topics. The most recent? Whether or not Pinterest has marketing power (I say yes and I won the debate, according to the polls!).

My track record is 1-0 and I’d like to make it 2-0 with the pros on using Google+.

  1. It drives an inordinate amount of traffic to your website or blog. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that Google now is pushing up their own products in search rankings. Which means if you have the +1 button on your website and/or blog and you also promote your content via your Google+ page, your rankings will be higher than your competitors who do not. Over on Spin Sucks, we began testing Google+ as a traffic generator. It is a top 10 referring site for us.
  2. Hangouts provide the face-to-face interaction we’re losing with technology. Sure, we have Skype. But it goes down. A lot. In the middle of your session. And Hangouts allow you to have up to nine people on video at once. Skype allows 10, but only if you pay for it. Hangouts are free.
  3. The ability to segment audiences allows you to create specific and targeted communication. The Circles feature of Google+ allows you to segment your audiences so you can deliver different, and targeted, messages. You can have Circles for family, friends, customers, and colleagues. You can define them as broad, or as defined, as you like. Facebook lets you list people in this way, but it’s cumbersome and hard to use. Circles is as simple as drag and drop.

All in, there are options for you to use video calling and segmenting audiences, but your options for driving traffic and increasing your search rankings aren’t better than Google+. The fact that it has all of these other options makes it a one-stop shop.

The Argument Against

From a personal viewpoint, I’m a big fan of Google+. As it stands today, however, there are three big reasons why small businesses should think twice before setting up a profile.

  1. The people you want to reach probably aren’t using Google+. This is the single biggest reason to give G+ a wink and walk on by. Sure there are now 90 million people worldwide with a G+ profile, but Google itself is extremely vague about how many of those users are actually engaging with the platform in any meaningful way. Added to this, G+ was adopted and driven heavily by the media, comms and tech fields. Unless you’re in those industries, you’re going to struggle to gain any sort of following. And if your customers, influencers and advocates aren’t using G+, what possible benefit is there to you of doing so?
  2. There’s no point in just repeating what you do on other platforms on Google+. When it comes to social communications, you simply must have a content strategy for each and every platform you use. Maybe you use Facebook as a promotional tool to engage your community around your specialist knowledge? Maybe you use Twitter as a customer service channel? So how does G+ fit into that? G+ is a platform in its own right and it needs contents to suit that platform. If you can find it, then great, but be honest with yourself before you dive in.
  3. You could spread yourself too thin. If you’re convinced that you do in fact have a suitable content strategy, the next thing to think about is who’s going to do it. Just like Facebook and Twitter, G+ needs to have time devoted to it. And for the vast majority of small businesses, time is somewhat of a luxury. There’s a very real danger that you’ll end up being ineffective across multiple platforms rather than effective on one or two. Concentrate on maximising the impact of what you’re doing already, rather than diluting your efforts.

One final word about search engine optimisation. With the advent of Search Plus Your World, Google is now pushing G+ profiles and updates heavily in the SERPs. So you could argue that there’s a case to have a G+ profile purely for SEO reasons. That’s a fair comment…but someone still has to spend the time updating it with relevant content and to get conversation going. Is that going to be you?

What are the benefits of each? Let us know in the comments.