In early December, Google announced it is testing a new ad format, which they coined +Post ads. This new advertising method allows Google+ users to promote their posts through AdWords’ display network. In other words, advertisers may now be able to spend money to directly promote their content and grow engagement with their Google+ pages. Although the fact that you pay to acquire social shares is controversial since it somewhat contradicts established Google webmaster guidelines, your business will profit ahead of competition if its ready to embrace +Post ads as soon they are launched.
With that mind, here are some tips that will help you use +Post ads to their full potential.
Unlike Facebook’s promoted posts, +Post ads can be advertised anywhere on the web. In addition, since Google+ pages carry page rank and appear in search results, promoting them with +Post ads, may actually help your SEO rankings. Hence, if your primary goal is to promote your business website, Google+ advertising could turn out to be a much better tactic than using Facebook’s promoted posts.
Your goals may also be to reach specific target audience and grow their engagement with your brand. Although many social networks including Twitter and LinkedIn can be used effectively for this purpose, Google+ is now the second most used social network globally, just behind Facebook. With the ability to create tailored follower circles and multiple ways to connect with other users (circles, +1s, comments, shares and messages), the platform should definitely be considered as an advertising medium when +Post Ads are released publicly.
One of the biggest challenges brands run into when they promote their brands on social media is the inability to sustain conversations with users. The two primary reasons for this are unfocused content and poorly designed messages, which do not encourage engagement. Both of these problems are caused by companies’ failure to establish a clear mission statement and following its principles when using social media. With the arrival of +Post ads, it will be increasingly important that brands not only connect with their target audience, but that they also continuously maintain dialog with them.
Therefore, spend time to define what it is that your business is all about and what makes it stand out from competition. Take the example of Simply Business. The company created a dedicated microsite with a manifesto and a video, in which it explains what the brand stands for, what its core values are, and how it wants to change the insurance industry. Having stand-alone pages with the mission and aims makes it easier for a company to separate the day-to-day activities from the long term vision, but even more importantly, it allows the business to refer its followers to a dedicated and unique piece of content rather than just another page of the website. Consequently, it lets companies have a more consistent and engaging conversation with its social audience.
Having an active business page on Google+ is a pre-requisite to even considering taking advantage of +Post ads. An “active” page means that you publish posts at least several times a week, as well as comment on messages from other in your circles, +1 and re-share content. It would be counterproductive to spend money on the new advertising format – aimed at enhancing visitor engagement – if you provide hardly any activity people can engage with. Hence, before you start spending money on +Posts, make sure your Google+ page is buzzing with posts and that most of them get at least several +1s, comments or re-shares.
When it comes to selecting which posts should be promoted, consider these words taken from an article Social Media Today by Courtney Hunt “Your social media engagement should be driven by your goals and objectives, as well as by the nature of the individuals/organizations with whom you want to interact”. Although the comment refers to all social interactions, it is especially important to consider when you decide to spend money on +Post Ads. In order to get the most value for your investment, the posts you promote need to be a good fit for the page on which they are placed. Moreover, each post should consider the behaviour of users on the website where you advertise and what motivates them to interact with content. For example, a handyman who visits a discussion forum for his industry will not have any motivation to click on a +Post about best techniques for sewing, but he or she is likely to be curious to read a story about recommended tools for tradesmen.
According to new research by Shareaholic, organic search visits have actually decreased over the course of last year. At the same time, between November of 2012 and 2013 the share of traffic from social referrals has gone up by more than double (from 11.23% to 23.69%). The dramatic growth in social traffic indicates you need to take time to review your PPC spending and consider testing several new campaigns focused on social media. Right now, this means you may have to limit your budgets in AdWords or similar paid search platforms and instead transfer money to one or several social networks with which you advertise.
However, the arrival of +Post ads will let you integrate search and social PPC campaigns platforms within AdWords, although the details of how this is going to work are not yet available. Nonetheless, we can expect that Google+ advertising will have its own dashboard in AdWords allowing you to run multiple campaigns at once. It will also likely provide advertisers with data on engagement metrics, overall costs and costs per action (which may include sharing, commenting, messaging, adding to circles or even watching a YouTube video). Overall, the end result of integrating Google+ and AdWords may break new ground as to how social advertising campaigns are run and measured.
Although it is too early to say if +Post ads will be released full scale and how they will exactly work, there are several things you ought to do now so you are not caught by surprise. First, make sure you have clear goals for your social media activities and that they are aligned with a well-defined brand mission. Second, become more active on Google+. Connect with as many of your followers as possible and use all tools available to do so (posts, +1s, comments, re-shares, messages and hangouts). Finally, think through how much of your PPC spend could go towards social advertising and what kind of return on investment (think metrics) would make it worthwhile. After all, your sales are dependent on both the quality of your services and products as well as what people think of your brand.