The word “Google” has lots of meanings. Most people know of the popular search engine, internet browser Chrome developed by Google, email system, calendar, maps… the list goes on. “To google” has even been accepted as a verb by the Oxford English Dictionary, literally meaning to search for information on Google. When it comes to the internet, the company pretty much has its name in everything—and social networking is no different.
Google+ (or Google Plus) is one of the newest social media platforms out there, but it is definitely no amateur. In fact, with over 500 million accounts and 375 million active users, the site is second only to Facebook in consumer base. It also has experienced an annual growth rate of 33% each year since it launched in 2011, which is pretty dang impressive (Statistic Brain).
Overall, using Google+ is fairly simple. It functions similarly to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Users create a profile, connect with friends and share and create content. Google+ focuses on bringing all of Google’s services (e.g., Gmail, Search, Maps, etc.) together on one platform for people to network and enjoy.
Yes, another social media site. But the real question is, what can Google+ do for your nonprofit organization? Should you even worry about it?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Google Plus definitely merits some consideration. It has a couple benefits that no other networking site has, and as we’ve said before, being more involved in social media will never hurt your cause. Still, here are a few reasons why your nonprofit should consider setting up a profile and engaging with constituents on Google+.
Google Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is important for any group, nonprofits included. And Google, the search engine that owns Google Plus, prioritizes visibility to businesses with a Google Plus account, meaning Google places Google Plus accounts higher in their search results list. So if your organization has a Google Plus profile, its name is going to show up closer to the top of the list when visitors google specific keywords related to your mission and nonprofit. As a result, having a Google Plus profile can increase the amount of traffic your nonprofit’s website gets, which means more visitors who will potentially donate, volunteer, become a member or support your cause.
Circles are a feature very unique to Google+. These allow your organization to divide followers into different groups (e.g., members, donors, volunteers, etc.) and then reach out to specific groups individually. For example, if one of your Circles is “Marathon Volunteers,” your nonprofit could share a post specifically with that Circle, such as “How to Make the Most of Your Volunteer Experience.” This allows your nonprofit organization to target communication more easily than most other social networking sites. You control who among your followers see your updates and whose updates you would like to see as well.
Google Hangouts are like real-life group conversations. Hangouts can be used for messages, phone calls or video chats. This provides a freealternative to webinar and video-conferencing software. Google Hangouts can host a live video call for up to 10 people and provides a powerful personal connection for your nonprofit’s members. If your organization is spread out nationally or internationally, then Google Hangouts is a considerable resource to have for video conferencing. Some groups like the AARP have even used Google Hangouts to broadcast sessions publicly on YouTube. Nonprofits can utilize this feature to host local celebrities, organizational heads or departmental workings online, allowing followers to get involved and feel connected with your mission.
If you’re interested in visitors being able to find your nonprofit location easier, Google+ Local is the way to go. This feature combines Google Pages, Maps and Search to tell followers where you’re located. It also allows users to recommend and write reviews on different locations that other followers can see. As the organization page holder for your nonprofit, you can provide contact information, photos of your location, hours of operation and content about your mission all in one easy-to-find place.
Finally, one of the greatest features of Google+ is the Communities element. Communities are groups of like-minded users that allow brands to join and participate in discussions. They are especially significant in relationship building. Through Communities, you can share specific news and questions, or even post content from your website. By utilizing different Communities, your nonprofit organization can not only gain followers and promote your cause, but you also have the opportunity to learn about other groups in your area. Communities provide a target audience of like-minded individuals that you are both able to share your expertise with and learn from their knowledge.
We know what you’re thinking. Social media profiles can be difficult and timely to consistently manage. But it doesn’t have to be. Spending no more than 15 minutes a day managing your social profiles is feasible and critical to the success of any and all organizations. Google+ is another powerful platform to consider for marketing your brand. Not only does it have a variety of unique and useful features, it also promotes your nonprofit’s name. The fact is, when it comes to social media marketing, Google+ is one important option to keep in your pocket. Maybe just google it.