+1 Anyone? Sparks Fly as PR Pros Ponder Google’s Social Network

When the world’s largest, richest and most successful search engine company decides to challenge the “old guard” of social media, people stand up and take notice. Thus, the buzz around Google’s new social media platform, Google+, is loud. Very loud. Which makes public relations pros, most of whom have a stake in social networking, very interested. The excitement around the newest—and likely the most formidable—challenger to Facebook, Twitter and possibly even LinkedIn is palpable. Consider that after its June launch, it took Google+ 21 days to reach 18 million users. It took Facebook 2.5 years to reach that number.

Is this rabid adoption and excitement carrying over to PR pros? Well, yes and no. For Mary Long, digital media strategist at Jaffe PR, the feeling is more like shock and awe.

Shock because she’s concerned about becoming more entrenched in the “Google machine” and has worries about online privacy; awe because Long believes that eventually Google+ will dethrone (but not destroy) Facebook as the king of social networking platforms.

Besides, says Long, “Whether we like Google+ or not, odds are our clients and competitors will be using it, so we must be prepared accordingly.”

And from the interest in a PR News Google+ Webinar held August 17, which drew hundreds of attendees, a lot of PR execs and social media practitioners feel the same way. “The idea of getting ready for Google+ early is a good one,” says John Bell, global managing director of Ogilvy’s 360° Digital Influence unit.

And “early” is the key word, because in terms of opportunities for brands rather than individual users, Google+ is not yet ready for prime time.


“Without a doubt, Google+ is not ready for brand integration yet. When it happens, it will be better to be prepared with a plan, a tactic and a budget in hand…”

Those words are from Google itself, as the company fine-tunes its Google+ “Business Profiles” offering. Those in the know predict that will happen before this year is up. In contrast, it took Facebook three years to launch brand pages.

And what will Google+ likely feature in those pages that should get PR pros excited? Here’s a rundown from Bell:

• Integration with Google advertising product (paid search dollars)

• Superior data and analytics

• Better search

• Integration with Google Apps

Such features have some social media pros licking their chops. Others are not so sure. Here’s a sampling of opinions on the pluses and minuses of Google+:

â–¶ Jonathan Kopp, partner and global director of Ketchum Digital

Google+es: Great features like Circles for organizing contacts, Hangouts for instant group video chat, Huddle for watching a Web video together, and Sparks for tracking content by topic. It’s also got a lot of extensions that seamlessly integrate Facebook and Twitter contacts and streams.

Minuses: For now, the conversation on Google+ is heavily dominated by early adopters in Silicon Alley and Silicon Valley navel gazing about Google+ itself. We don’t yet know how the mainstream Internet user will adopt and use Google+.

Outlook: I’m bullish on Google+. Yes, Google’s had some very public failures in the past, but they’ve gotten off to a hot start with this one.

â–¶ Susan Tellem, partner, Tellem Worldwide

Google+es: The ability to separate people into groups. But who has time to talk to everyone?

Minuses: Goggle+ does not distinguish itself in any way from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter that I can determine. I joined a new one called Referralkey.com because it does something completely different than the others.

Outlook: As of this moment I give it a thumbs down. Facebook does not have anything to worry about.

â–¶ Nicholas Mazzucco, account executive, digital media practice at Environics Communications

Google+es: With Sparks, Google has proven its mastery of developing great data collection algorithms, so having a feature that really knows behavior and recommends content accordingly is unique.

Minuses: There isn’t a simple way to transport your digital baggage to it, which means for most users the transition from other platforms may be too time consuming.

Outlook: The odds are stacked against Google on this one, since they are taking on such a well-established competitor. I’m optimistic, however, that Google+ can be successful.

As you can tell, there’s a variety of thoughts on what might make Google+ a success or an also-ran. What’s clear is that as the time nears for Google’s launch of its brand pages, communicators shouldn’t be caught short. Organizations are already building Google+ messaging into their social media schedules in preparation for “Business Profiles.”

One such company is PepsiCo. Joshua Nafman, PepsiCo’s digital engagement manager, says it’s important to start creating brand profiles now. “You need to see how the network works, and figure out the nuances,” says Nafman.

“The wave of adoption is so fast that you can’t get behind, says Bell.

That’s why it’s better to be first. PRN

[Get the latest best practices on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more at PR News’ Oct. 5 Digital PR Summit in NYC. For more information visit www.prnewsonline.com/digitalsummit11.]


Mary Long, mlong@jaffepr.com; John Bell, john.bell@ogilvypr.com; Jonathan Kopp, jonathan.kopp@ketchum.com; Susan Tellem, stellem@tellem.com; Nicholas Mazzucco, nm@ecius.net; Joshua Nafman, jnafman@gmail.com; Marcy Massura, mmassura@webershandwick.com.

  • Jonathan Kopp

    Interesting prologue, as FB this week quietly introduced smart friend lists that start by pre-sorting your friends based on some common characteristics, like school, employer, etc.