In previous instalments of ReviewPro’s Google For Hotels series, we addressed questions from webinar attendees related to Google Local and Hotel Finder. Today, we turn our attention to the increasingly popular Google+ network.
What exactly is Google+?
Google+ is a social network launched by Google in 2011 that now has over 359,000 active users. That makes it the No. 2 most popular social network in the world next to Facebook and ahead of YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. And while Facebook’s growth seems to be levelling off, Google+ continues to grow.
Any business can create a brand page on Google+. Bricks-and-mortar businesses like hotels can then verify the page and merge it with your Google+ Local listing. This creates an integrated platform where users can view location information, photos and videos, check rates and ratings, write a review, and interact with the hotel all in one place.
What are the advantages to having a Google+ page?
Aside from the ability to interact with users and brands within the Google+ environment, the true value lies outside the network. Google products like Search, Maps and YouTube are integrated with Google+, either pulling content from Google+ pages or pushing traffic to them. And thanks to the near-ubiquitous “+1” button, the rate of sharing is growing so fast that Searchmetrics predicts it will surpass Facebook by 2016.
Google+ adds a social layer to the most popular search engine in the world, making search more personal, relevant and immersive for users. As David Zammitt, Google UK Travel Industry Manager, explained during ReviewPro’s webinar, content from Google+ is increasingly populated in search results, giving businesses with verified Google+ pages more real estate on the page.
Zammitt also tells us that AdWords advertisers with Google+ pages who enable Social Extensions see an average click-through ratio uplift of 5 to 10%.
What are some of the unique features of Google+?
The Circles feature allows you to segment contacts into groups, such as guests, clients, employees and industry and share news and content relevant to them. When people add you to their Circles you can send them direct email messages.
Communities, which both users and brands can join, allow you to network and share content with other users who have shared interests, such as hotel marketers, travel bloggers and local tourism partners.
With Hangouts you can join live video chats or hold your own chat and broadcast it in real-time. And you can connect your Google+ page with your YouTube brand channel and save video chats to your channel.
We have limited resources. Is it more important to be on Google+ than on Facebook?
Now that’s a tough question. Creating a page on either channel is free, but it’s a long-term commitment. Maintaining pages can be labor-intensive. I see lots of abandoned Google+ pages out there, and that benefits no one.
Unlike Google+, most Facebook activity takes place within the walled garden of the network itself. Search and travel planning on Facebook aren’t terribly efficient, but Graph Search and Nearby Places may change that, allowing users to more easily tap into activities and interests of friends and its massive user base.
Google integration with Google+ enables access to personalized results too, but the pool of contacts, shared interests and activities is much smaller, at least for now. As a travel planning tool, however, Search just keeps getting better, though it favors Google products like Maps, Hotel Finder and Price Ads.
So back to the question: Facebook or Google+ page? If you have to choose, for now I’d focus on Facebook as a social network and more essential Google products like Search, Local and Hotel Finder.
For hotels and hotel groups that have a more sizeable budget, in my opinion Google+ is fast becoming an essential part of a comprehensive marketing program. Take a good hard look at traditional marketing expenditures like print advertising, collateral and tradeshows and ask yourself if you’ll get a higher ROI by shifting more resources online. Keep in mind that social media is more than a marketing tool; it benefits service, loyalty and advocacy too.
Whether or not you create a page, discussions on travel, hotels, restaurants, destinations and other topics related to your hotel are taking place on Google+. At a minimum you need to listen in. ReviewPro can help by monitoring and aggregating Google+ content, reviews and YouTube videos.
Where do I start?
Note that because there’s no advertising on Google+ (yet), you can’t pay to amplify content and followings like on Facebook. You must do it organically, which makes the quality and relevancy of content even more important. Be sure to add the G+ icon and share buttons to your website to build your circles and encourage sharing.
Good luck, and have fun!
Once you’re page is up and running, check out these Seven Habits of Highly Successful Google Plussers by Mike Allton.