In 2012 Google unleashed its newest social media dragon, Google+, into the ether. It was a mysterious, considerably exclusive and dynamic social network. By 2013 however, almost everyone using either Gmail or YouTube was pushed by Google to create a Google+ profile.
Uh oh, you know where this is going don’t you? Yes indeed. Though you may believe you need another social media platform like you need a hole in the head, the truth is we all need many holes in our head: nostrils, ears and mouth, to name a few. Keep reading.
Right now you’re probably thinking one of two things: either, “Social media sites have temporary heat-waves. Google+ won’t last,” or “How in the world will I fit yet another thing into my schedule? Forego personal hygiene?” Well, let’s hope it hasn’t come to that.
The fact of the matter is, Google is the dragon. Ignore at your own peril.
If your nonprofit is like many other nonprofits, more than 50% of the web traffic to your site may come from Google search traffic. Even people in your company might use a search engine to find your website. And you want that traffic to keep flowing.
Google+ Is Strategic
Google+ Can Help Drive Traffic to Your Website
Google is the largest search engine on the planet. And Google is monitoring Google+ posts and interactions to help influence search results. If the energy is crackling around a topic, Google takes notice.
Google+ Integrates with Other Google Services You Already Use
One of the most interesting (and sometimes annoying) aspects of Google+ is the way it comingles with Google’s other services. For example, to update your YouTube channel profile picture, you need to create a linked profile and update your picture through Google+. This little strategy forced lots of people and organizations to create a Google+ account.
But if you use Gmail or Google Apps for email, it's handy that you can easily get to Google+ from the top of your page, and use the 'Share' button to quickly share content. And if you're already logged into your email, you can easily "+1" content you like as you're browsing the web.
Similarities to Facebook
For the most part, a page on Google+ is a lot like a page on Facebook. You have to have your own personal profile, and can then set up a page or be added as a page manager. You can switch back and forth between personal profile and organizational page.
On Google+ your nonprofit has an online home where you can share photos, success stories, volunteering and fundraising information, project locations, and more – all the same things you would share on Facebook, in the same format.
Best practices are the same – regularly post interesting content, engaging with your users by asking questions, and sharing photos and videos. Many Google+ users are less active than Facebook users, so you're likely to reach fewer people. But if you're going to all the effort to develop your strategy on Facebook, you can just replicate the same content on Google+.
Unique Google+ Features
Google+ also has some uniquely cool features. Using Circles you can easily categorize your contacts into many different groups, and send them targeted messages.
And Hangouts can help you get staff or volunteers across the country together for what feels like an in-person meeting – for free. Or meet with beneficiaries online. Or conduct focus groups remotely.
Unless your target audience is 20-something male geek types who work at Google, the main benefit of Google+ for your organization is not engaging supporters. Instead, it is a strategic place to be to make sure your content continues to get heard. Using the platform right can give a boost to your SEO stratgy.
So if you don't have a lot of time or resources to spend on Google+, set up your website content to stream directly to your Google+ page. Check in periodically. Republish some of your Facebook content to your Google+ page.
And use that +1 button you find around the web to show your appreciation for your content and others'.