While Google+ is still dwarfed by Facebook in the U.S. in terms of usage, at least one agency -- Omnicom's Resolution Media -- is telling clients that the new site could be a powerhouse marketing vehicle, given some of the ways it is differentiating itself from the pack of social-media sites.
The agency is urging clients to come up with plans now so they will be ready when the search giant activates a slew of brand pages for its social site -- expected in about six weeks, according to Chris Wallace, associate director at Resolution and the author of a guide to optimizing marketing goals on the Google+ site. That guide was recently issued to clients.
"The big differentiator is the way that Google+ allows users to segment their contacts into different circles," said Wallace. "It will be much easier for marketers to pinpoint their target audiences and only give them information that they find important," he said.
"Because there are no brands on Google+ today other than Ford, marketers have a huge opportunity to really go out there and be front runners and steal traffic" when the site finalizes its marketing parameters, said Wallace. "The first 10 or 20 brands that get out there and really do something different are going to be the ones that own the space and help evolve what the Google+ offering becomes."
Wallace said that other brands had created profiles on Google+, but that the site had requested they be taken down until it activates the brand pages it is finalizing. Google says the site is still in test mode, and the Ford page on the site is clearly labeled "Test Account."
One thing is clear, Wallace said: "The Google+ plus that is here today will not be the same offering that we will see a year from now. But that's a really good thing, to be able to interact with consumers and get feedback and help Google evolve the product into better fits for brands and customers."
While it is growing fast, Google+ is still relatively small in terms of traffic. Comscore reported that the site had a little over 5 million visitors in July, just a month after its launch. By contrast, during the same period, Facebook had a record 162 million visitors to its U.S. site.
In his marketing guide, Wallace states that Google+ will incorporate brand assets, like earned media, beyond the brand Web site on search engine results pages, "making it all the more important for marketers to integrate their digital marketing programs."
He also indicated that the site, from a paid media perspective, will be more heavily focused on click-based advertising, "driving higher click-through rates than other social networks have been historically."
Wallace notes that one feature of the Google+ site is a "Hangouts" section where a user can instantly video chat with any person, circle of contacts or even an entire contact list. Two suggestions for clients: Use Hangouts for real-time customer service, and use the hangout to launch a product to one or more circles with specific interests.
Earlier this week, Ford used the hangout section of its test page to stream a forum it held in New York called "Cracking the Code on Millennials."