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In the vast sea of social networking, how a brand decides to spend precious time and resources is both a concern and priority. Besides the 800-pound gorilla — aka Facebook — there are hundreds of active social networks around the globe; now there’s one more — Google+ — and its arrival provides an astute lesson on timing and jumping on board the Next Big Thing. For the past month, Google+ has been the topic on the tip of every electronic tongue. Since the launch of its trial phase on June 28, Google+ has amassed over 20 million users. So far, more than 60% of Google+ users are men, and 38% of them are between the ages of 18 and 34. Equally compelling is that the rise of Google+ happened exclusively; not just anyone can sign up for a Google+ account, although Gmail users have instant access to the network, and invites have gone out to Hotmail and Yahoo! users, as well. It makes sense, then, that the majority of the early users are engineers, developers, designers and software engineers — the same people who historically shape Internet trends. It also explains how — impressively and intentionally — Google is launching its Google+ brand without the help of Facebook, the now 750 million strong monster and current Queen Bee of social networking. Google has made no secret of its desire to compete with Facebook (while Facebook has made no secret of its boycott of Google+), and if any social network could, one backed by Google certainly seems poised to do so. But as more statistics are published on Google+, and as Google reveals its supreme vision for the network, marketers will be forced to ask themselves some tough questions.
Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but it seems like timing is everything, and brands that engage in emerging media selections early can win big. The future of marketing depends upon new ideas and the opportunities they can provide.
For now, brands need not get too worked up over Google+, mainly because they can’t. A few major brands — including Ford Motors and MTV — were part of the trial process, and the social network did offer a brief application process to brands and businesses seeking involvement that is now closed. In an interview with Ad Age, a lead product manager for social advertising at Google revealed the company eventually plans “to include everything from small businesses to individual contractors all the way up to the largest brand names in the world.” But there is currently no ad content on Google+. Then there’s this: “What we’re really looking for is companies that on the one hand have a real rich history of being active in the social sphere, brands that have strong, loyal audiences and are proactive and engaging and who want to spread it out a little more.” Spread it out a little more. In a world where a handful of players dominate the social networking landscape and have come to define the ways in which we talk about what it means to “like” something, it’s an interesting idea, and it could prove challenging — both conceptually and creatively — for brands and marketers in the future. But it’s also — in a way — a call for brands to think about the ways in which they engage with consumers online, and it’s a sign of where that engagement could land them.
Little will be seen until Google+ opens its virtual doors a little wider, but we can surf assured: Google+ is causing a fuss for good reason. My colleagues and I at Vertical Marketing Network will certainly ready to advantage of what comes next.