If you were to glance at my Google+ profile, you’d probably think I’m practically inactive. But what you’re seeing is the public view of a very targeted set of actions, based on relevance.
I like to have different kinds of conversations with different people, so when I share content it’s with circles that designate not only relationship but topics too, and Google+ makes it really easy for me to be highly relevant in this way. Take, for example, politics. I like to talk about it, but I’m rarely interested in fighting, so when I share a politically focused news article, it’s not enough to be in my Friends circle. To see it, you have to be in my Friends-Politics circle, where I’ve included people who I know I’ll have an interesting conversation with that won’t result in insults and multiple exclamation points.
There is one thing missing if relevance is an aim of the platform. As of today, my relevance-based circles only apply to what I share with others. What would be especially helpful would be a way to limit the content I see from others in that circle to the topic I’ve assigned it. For example, I’m following Christian Oestlien, one of the Google+ product managers, specifically for updates about Google+. So while the YouTube music videos and Onion articles he posts are probably funny, I can’t say I’m particularly interested in seeing them from him. Now, if one of the people in my Friends-Hilarious circle posted them, that’s another story . . ..
So what are the implications for brands?
Once business pages become available, brands may get the most from Google+ by prioritizing relevance over scale, regardless of how quickly the user base grows. If your audience uses the service like I do, it’s going to be in your best interest to get your brand in our Brands-Deals I’ll Use or our Brands-Great Links or our Brands-Things I Want For My Birthday circles. You’re not going want to end up in Brands-General.
Since business pages haven’t been revealed yet, I can only offer ideas on how brands might be able to accomplish this, but 2 possibilities come to mind:
1) Brands can launch their Google+ presences with a single, focused content theme first (deals, links, new products, etc.). This would mean that users who add you to their circles are interested in that specific content. Then your interaction with customers will be around that particular content theme so engagement expectations will be set on both sides.
2) Consumers could tell the brand what type of content they want, and the brand would create circles and share content accordingly. If business pages work mostly like consumer pages do today, then this would be a manual process involving something like comments from users, spreadsheets, and manual circle creation — probably not something a lot of brands will have the time and energy to do. But this could be a really compelling strategy if Google were to build an easy way for marketers to collect content-theme “opt-ins” and auto-populate circles based on that info. That would allow marketers to diversify the content they’re sharing to maximize the size of their Google+ audience, while still respecting relevance needs.
What business pages will do remains to be seen, and it’ll be some time before true user trends emerge that will show whether I’m alone on the relevance thing or not. In the meantime, what do you think? Is Google+ all about relevance for you? How are you using the platform?