After a week of reading and mental wheel turning over an announcement that caught me off guard, I think I’ve got my head wrapped around things enough to at least take a stab at what it means on a larger scale. A week into the business side of the latest social network, there are only 34 ski resorts on Google+, about 8% of the number that are on Facebook, with a total of 1053 followers. Why aren’t more resorts jumping on the bandwagon? In Thursday’s #mrktchat it was suggested that resorts are too busy with opening days, I certainly think that could be a part, but I really don’t think that’s main reason. The majority of resorts in the US are still a month away from possible openings and the ones that have signed up, in theory, should be the busiest. What I really think it comes down to is lack of users. Why would you want to go through the effort of setting up a page if no one is around to interact with it. Right? Right?
The One Question to Consider
There is only one question we need to contemplate when deciding if Google+ will be worth it and that is this: how committed is Google to making this work? Ignore how many users they have. If we were talking about Facebook, absolutely, user-base would be the biggest factor to consider. Same with Twitter. But Google isn’t a just a social platform, it’s much, much deeper than that.
From my perspective, I see two factors in the analysis.
Factor 1: Failure to Launch
Google is coming off a long line of social failures in Google Buzz and Google Wave. This project is more visible and public, by definition, than all the others. In my mind, Google doesn’t want to fail again, they want this project to work. With Facebook’s power increasing, some of their future business may depend on it.
Factor 2: Massive, Instant Resources
Google holds two aces in their hand: Google Web Search and Google Adwords/Adsense. If they want to send traffic by the billions, they could with the flip of a switch. They’ve already hinted at tapping search power to push pages with Google Direct Connect, but what if that is just the tip of the iceberg?
If they flip that switch and play their hand, the businesses that are already there are going to sittin’ pretty. If they fold, it will be, for the most part, a waste of time. A business’s commitment to Google+ hinges on Google’s commitment to Google+. The better we can answer that question going forward, the better we can gauge how seriously we need to take the site.
Even taking this route and failing to develop a sustainable user base, the traffic they’d pump into the site along the way would be more than worth it for the businesses that have active pages.
Proof Google+ Can Rock: Dan Carr
Dan Carr is a super talented ski photographer based in Whistler, BC. On Facebook, Dan has 2,277 fans. His Twitter follower count is close behind at 1,888. On Google+, however, Mr Carr has a crazy 42,766 followers. Dan committed to Google+, stuck with it, and has reaped the reward. While everyone else was trying to milk a few dozen more fans each week on Facebook, Dan was raking in G+ followers by the thousands. Here’s what Dan said about his success:
The biggest influx of followers comes when people share their circles. This is the key feature. S o people have a circle with their favorite photographers and they share the whole thing. Most photography fans simply then click the button to follow everyone in that circle and I was was around from the very beginning I think I end up in almost every photo circle… I don’t do anything different on there than I do on FB but I find more people communicate directly with me on G+. It often seems like more of a conversation.
Interesting advice and may be worth some testing to ask some of your followers to create circles for resorts (maybe a “favorite ski areas”) and share those with their friends.
What To Do, What to Do
If I were you, I’d take an hour to setup a page. It really doesn’t take long at all. Do it at lunch, do it during a meeting on your iPad. That much effort, I can assure you, will be worth it. As you do, keep it visual. So far, the level of photography I’m seeing on G+ blows what I see on Facebook out of the water. The layout is also more focused on you, no pesky third column, so use it. I especially love what Park City did by taking one image of their ridgeline and breaking it up into the five, initial thumbnails (Keystone did something similar).
To get the ball rolling, I’d post a time or two on your other profiles (Twitter/Facebook) to let everyone know that G+ is an option but not go too overboard yet.
Additionally, I might suggesting encouraging your followers to click the “+1″ button below your profile picture. We do know that these show up in searches as a bit of social proof.
From there, I think choosing the best, highest quality content will be key. Right now, because of a smaller user base and because most users aren’t teenagers who refuse to spell out difficult words like “you” and “are”, there are fewer posts, but the posts are better. Don’t try the gimmicky stuff Facebook fans need to entice them to jump into the conversation. When you have something truly share-worthy, share it. Speaking of which, contests are a no-no on Google, which I hope isn’t a deal breaker for anyone.
Dan Carr has proved that even as Google+ stands there can be rewards to the committed. Getting in early, spending some time to develop a basic presence, and waiting for Google to play their hand seems like the best bet at the moment if you aren’t ready to go all in.
P.S. – In memory of Jamie Pierre who died yesterday in an avalanche at Snowbird, this is how I’ll remember the way he skied and lived. Sad news. RIP, Jamie.