Back in June of last year Google launched “Google Plus”, its latest foray into social media and a further attempt to build a rival to Facebook. 

Initially Google Plus was only available for use by individuals only but in November it was opened up to companies and brands. Very rapidly a whole raft of familiar names and logos have begun to appear including a number of retail brands that would be on the “wanted” list of most retail developers and shopping centre owners, including : H&M, Hugo Boss, TopMan, Burberry and Puma.

Very soon after its launch it was reported that Google Plus had over 20 million users and high profile technology bloggers such as Robert Scoble were praising the new social media platform.  More recent estimates have suggested that its use is growing at a phenomenal rate of around 625,000 new users per day and then on 19th January, as part of a quarterly fiancial reportLarry Page, CEO of Google said: “I am super excited about the growth of Android, Gmail, and Google+, which now has 90 million users globally.”

Until Google Plus was opened up to brands its users seemed to be mainly from the technology and creative sectors. This is changing as it is adopted by those in the mainstream, but so far there seems to be only a handful of property professionals actively using Google Plus.  Along with our own page,  Lambert Smith Hampton, Copping Joyce and IPINglobal also have pages.  

There are also some familiar individuals: John Corey (currently number three on the Property Week Twitter 100), Antony Slumbers (number 20) and Andrew Waller (number 83) are some of those that I have found. There are more registered but not active.  

So what is Google Plus?

It has been described it as “a cross between Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.” That’s not a bad description, but doesn’t give a full picture.  

Being a Google product it has a certain familiarity to its look and feel and it takes some features from its other products, combining them with some clever new ideas that help users follow and view content that friends, colleagues and businesses have posted onto their own profile page.  

Users can control what they want to see and what they want to be seen by using Google Plus’s “Circles” – groups of friends, professional contacts, businesses, etc.  Security and privacy settings have been beefed-up since the PR disaster that was the launch of the ill-fated Google Buzz.  An experience the world’s favourite search engine had clearly learnt from. One of its key features is the ease with which a range of images, videos and links to other web pages can be uploaded and shared.

If you have a Google account then getting onto Google Plus is just a click away as it uses any profile that a user has created as the starting point.  Business owners can then add and manage separate pages for their enterprises or brands.

So why is this important? Well - mainly it’s because of who is behind it.

Google still occupies the dominant position in the search engine market and, as such, can have a massive impact on a business by driving web traffic and generating new business leads.  It can also impact on a company’s public image by influencing what people can see, hear a watch about a company on line.  

To stay one step ahead of its competitors and to retain its market position Google has, for some time, been looking at incorporating human recommendation into the online search process.  As part of this process Google has introduced a “+1” button (similar to the Facebook “Like” button), which allows visitors to web pages and sites to recommend it to others, and can be found all around the web.

This process of human recommendation is core to Google Plus which allows users to “+1” and share posts, pictures, videos, blogs, brands that the come across.  Each time someone does this you just know that somewhere a Google algorithm is making a note of it and gradually this feedback will impact the search engine rankings of the recommended website or page. 

Or a high definition video to promote a new office property in the City fringe. 

Or a shopping centre or an individual retailer looking to increase footfall by encouraging the public to visit. 

Or your company blog

Google is also keen on fresh, regularly updated content and the reality is that by posting content on a Google Plus page you are doing so in the belly of the beast.  This is Google and it is inconceivable to think that it will not index its own social media platform as a matter of priority when looking to calculate the relevance of online content.  

Basically Google Plus is Google.

A further development has been the recent introduction of Google’s “Search Plus Your World” which, when a Google user is logged into their account, includes the recommendations of those individuals and organisations from the user’s Google Plus ‘circles’ within the results. 

In addition to this, content from Google Plus pages is now increasingly appearing in regular Google searches. For example, a Google search for “Fox News” (see below or click here) and you will see the results for Google Plus and the latest news stories that have been posted there.

Google search screen grab

How long before other broadcasters and media outlets get in on the act?  

How long before your competitor’s news releases start appearing on Google Plus too?  

Sometime early last year I was asked by a client how they could best improve the return on investment for his website?  My reply was simple: “Use social media to drive visits.”  He took my advice and is now concentrating all his online PR effort on social media.  My latest advice to him was to set up a Google Plus page.  

It’s the same advice I would give anyone who is remotely interested in improving their online reputation.

I look forward to adding you to the circles on my Google Plus page.