In An Era Of Social Media Distrust, Some Brands Are Finding Ways To Get Intimate

In March of last year, a whistleblower revealed that political data firm Cambridge Analytica gained improper access to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users. One month later, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg faced a congressional hearing where the social network’s data practices were the subject of intense questioning.

Facebook was not the only social network to suffer this level of public scrutiny in 2018. Twitter suspended more than 70 million accounts from its network last year in response to growing public pressure against bots and trolls that were shown to influence the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

In many ways, 2018 marked a turning point in the public’s distrust for social media. Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer Report found that 60 percent of people no longer trust social media companies to behave responsibly, and independent research firm Ponemon Institute reports that trust in Facebook has dropped 66 percent.

This increased social media skepticism presents new challenges for brands using these platforms. Users are now less likely to trust celebrity influencers, many of whom have inflated audience counts and are less relatable than friends, family and micro-influencers. At the same time, newer, ephemeral formats, like Stories on Instagram and Snapchat, are growing 15 times faster than traditional news feed-based sharing.

Some brands are rethinking the way they use social media, shifting toward relatable, individualized content to sidestep recent skepticism.

The Guardian, for instance, found that for their Instagram Stories, simple static graphics and quick explainer-style videos vastly outperformed their more polished and labor-intensive videos.

Meanwhile, women’s retailer EVEREVE found that their target consumer loves to engage with them on social, so they make it a priority to repost customer-generated content in their Instagram Stories. A representative for the company explained via email that their digital manager even works off hours to make sure the company is engaging with its target audience at the right times.

Using Snapchat or Instagram Stories is by no means unique — in a recent Hootsuite study, 64 percent of businesses confirmed that they have either implemented Instagram Stories into their social strategy or plan to do so in the next 12 months. But the way these big brands are experimenting with replacing or supplementing high-production value posts with more spontaneous and relatable photos and videos is a savvy way to boost engagement with an audience that has come to expect that kind of interaction from their friends and family, not corporate entities.

Condé Nast Traveler took this idea further by stepping out of the way and letting their fans to talk to each other.

The media company launched a private Facebook group called Women Who Travel, which provides a safe space for passionate female travelers to ask each other questions, leave suggestions and offer encouragement. Since the group is private, it requires moderator permission to join and provides a sense of exclusivity and authenticity that can be hard to find elsewhere on the web. The group has quickly grown to more than 120,000 members strong.

Other brands are choosing to use micro-influencers -- those with thousands of followers, rather than millions -- in lieu of more famous celebrities to access more niche communities and keep their marketing efforts more relatable.

Adidas followed a grassroots approach when they built their Tango Squad program, partnering with more than 1,400 specially selected football-obsessed teens across 11 countries who are leaders in their respective communities. These micro-influencers are a part of an exclusive group that gets access to their sports idols, events and competitions, and can help Adidas design and launch new products. In return, these influencers help spread the word to their teammates, friends, and followers.

While Adidas chose to use Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to coordinate and stay in contact with their Tango Squad, other brands are using messenger apps to communicate with their audience at large.

Beauty retailer Sephora, for instance, launched the Sephora Assistant, a bot for messenger that gives customers the ability to book in-store makeover appointments in just a few simple steps. The bot, which has been live since late 2016, has cut down booking steps by over 60 percent and increased in-store bookings by 11 percent.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, meanwhile, became the first airline to expand their service to Facebook Messenger. KLM customers can access their bookings, get flight service updates, and contact customer service — all directly from the messaging app.

The airline has seen a 40 percent increase in customer interactions since it began using Messenger, and today 15 percent of KLM’s boarding passes are sent via that service.

The number of customer-company conversations hosted on messaging apps is growing at a rapid clip: two-thirds of consumers have increased their use of messaging with businesses in the last two years and 53 percent say they are more likely to do business with companies they can message.

The reason is simple: direct messaging offers customers a greater sense of empowerment, not to mention relief from waiting in long queues or phone holds to resolve a customer service issue. Being able to seamlessly contact a large company to resolve an issue -- or get access to their booking info -- dramatically mitigates the slow bureaucratic stresses of dealing with larger brands.

Companies looking to take these customer relationships to the next level are focusing not only on alleviating stress, but also on proactively improving the customer experience. Sephora and Nike, for instance, are part of a select group of companies participating in a closed beta test of a new Facebook feature that lets customers message companies to see products ahead of time in augmented reality.

The fact that customers change their preferred methods for receiving corporate communications comes as no surprise. The recent skepticism of celebrity influencers and social media channels evolved from a former trust of those same outlets at the expense of traditional TV commercials. For companies looking to ride this most recent wave of social skepticism, the key appears to be developing a more relatable, intimate and customized relationship with each customer.

That is, until the tide changes again.

Here's How Major Brands Measure Social Media Impact

In 2017, then-16-year-old Carter Wilkerson jokingly asked Wendy’s on Twitter how many retweets it would take to score him a year’s worth of free chicken nuggets. To Wilkerson’s disbelief, Wendy’s actually responded “18 Million,” and he pleaded with the Twitterverse to help him reach that noble goal.

That Twitter exchange has since racked up 3.5 million retweets, breaking the record Ellen DeGeneres set with her 2014 Oscars selfie. Wilkerson got his nuggets in the end, and Wendy’s earned a flood of praise and positive press for the virality of the social media interaction.

Within 6 weeks, Wendy’s had earned 2.5 billion media impressions and 5 million mentions of Wilkerson’s quest for nuggets, increasing overall mentions of the brand by 376 percent.

Businesses pay a lot for that kind of virality -- it’s a dream come true for content marketers everywhere. But what kind of impact does Wendy’s social media activity have on its bottom line? What’s the right way to measure this kind of customer engagement, and does Wendy’s sell any more chicken nuggets as a result?

How To Measure Social Media ROI

Measuring return on investment (ROI) is relatively easy for businesses that can tie their social media metrics directly to financial gains. When a direct-to-consumer brand invests $10,000 exclusively on Facebook ads and tracks $30,000 in online sales, for example, they know the monetary return of their social media efforts.

But many businesses don’t have that luxury. Wendy’s, for example, does not sell its hamburgers online through easily-trackable lead funnels. Measuring social media ROI can be difficult, and the challenges are in some ways unique to the nature of the platforms .

Nowhere else do businesses have customers engaging on a single channel for so many different reasons. Wendy’s Twitter account, for example, fields customer service complaints and interacts with superfans while simultaneously roasting competitors and promoting new deals.

"Never before have we seen so many departments with overlapping business objectives having to play in the same sandbox,” said Teresa Caro, the SVP of Marketing at Atlanticus. “Each department has its own KPIs, which poses a tremendous challenge when it comes time to measure the impact of any one individual social media campaign.”

That challenge can be lessened by detailing ahead of time what success means.

“You have to tailor your objectives, goals, and KPIs for each individual campaign,” suggests Ben Ricciardi, CEO of the full service agency Times10. “If the goal is sales, then you’ll measure success by your financial return. If the goal is brand awareness, then you’ll measure the impact by impressions, followers, or views.”

But, experts warn, it’s a mistake to conflate the two. Trying to measure financial return on a brand awareness campaign, or vice versa, is where ROI conversations get incredibly messy.

“When you have an organic audience on social, the value you provide them is different than an advertisement,” explained Todd Lombardo, Managing Director of Brand & Social at creative agency The Many (previously Mistress). “The measurement should reflect that.”

To measure improvements in brand awareness and loyalty, social media channels offer the usual metrics like followers, views, impressions, shares, and comments. Though these measurements sometimes get flack for being ‘vanity metrics,’ that criticism typically stems from business owners whose goal on social media is direct sales rather than brand awareness or brand loyalty.

Ricciardi encourages businesses not to underestimate what it means to grow their organic following and engagement on social.

“Choosing to follow a brand means they're sharing something compelling,” Ricciardi said. “When people follow you, they’re making it clear they have loyalty towards your brand and the content being shared.”

Caroline Kalentzos, the CEO of PR and branding agency POSH PR, agrees emphatically.

“We know that younger audiences have no problem switching brand loyalty, so likes, comments, and shares are crucial components to defining a social media account’s success,” Kalentzos explained. “At the end of the day, a client who feels ongoing intimacy with your brand is more valuable than a one-and-done client.”

From that perspective, Wendy’s return on investment is pretty easy to measure. Assuming brand loyalty and awareness is the goal, then the stats speak for themselves: 213,000 new Twitter followers, 23.9 million visits to Wendy’s Twitter profile, over 2.5 billion earned media impressions from 1,076 placements, over 5 million online mentions of Carter's quest for Wendy's nuggets, and a 376 percent increase in mentions of the Wendy’s brand.

If, on the other hand, increased sales is the goal, then measurement gets much trickier.

To Measure Financial ROI On Non-Financial Goals, Wider Is Better

In some ways, the difficulties of measuring financial ROI on social media are no different than the ones businesses face with other media outlets. When Wendy’s earns 2.5 billion impressions, it has to assign a monetary value to that level of consumer reach to get some semblance of monetary ROI.

“Major brands have been doing research around impressions and engagement levels and the corresponding increase in sales,” explained Caro, who has years of experience working with top brands on social media. “It’s very much like measuring the impact of a TV advertisement.”

But solo measurements can only go so far. Evan Berglund, Senior Partner at the Gonzberg Agency, suggests that consumers today move seamlessly between channels within seconds -- from social media on their phone, to a subway ad, to a billboard, and back to their phone again to check email. For businesses looking to tie non-financial goals back to their bottom line, experts suggest widening the measurement scope.

“There is no easy way to financially quantify what each social media interaction is worth,” Ricciardi explained. “It’s much more effective to take all the marketing channels you’re budgeting for and compare it against the general lift or decline you see in sales.”

In other words, a more accurate financial correlation comes from measuring an entire marketing mix, and aligning it holistically with a brand’s business objectives.

With that in mind, we can begin to understand how Wendy’s might measure the financial impact of its activity on social media. After all, the brand enjoyed a 49.7 percent increase in profit from $129.6 million in 2016 to $194 million in 2017. It may be impossible to know how much of that increase is due to the #NuggsforCarter campaign in particular, but with a wider perspective that looks at all of the brand’s marketing activities, Wendy’s could get pretty close.

How To Respond To Negative Reviews (Including Examples)

All businesses make mistakes: a package doesn’t arrive on time, a restaurant brings out the wrong dish, or a doctor’s office forgets to log a patient’s appointment.

Sometimes those mistakes lead to negative reviews. Other times, poor reviews aren’t even due to mistakes, but simply uncontrollable events or a mismatch of tastes. There are countless negative reviews of the most famous national parks, and my all-time favorite poor review comes from Sandra A. of Portland Oregon who says of the Eiffel Tower: “[Y]ou see the city from high up. Big deal.”

Whether your negative reviews are well-deserved or unfairly given is slightly beside the point: your online reputation suffers either way. And while you cannot control a person’s review, you can control how to respond.

If you’re already rolling your eyes at how dreadfully trite that sounds, consider this: a Harvard Business Review study found that when businesses respond to customer reviews -- good or bad -- their ratings subsequently increase.

That increase is due, at least in part, to how little people like confrontation. According to the study, customers who see previous management responses decide not to leave trivial or unsubstantiated negative reviews to avoid a potentially uncomfortable online interaction with the manager.

Even so, not all responses are created equal. Critical reviews can make anyone get defensive, and a poorly worded reply will get seen by 89 percent of customers, many of whom will use that information to judge whether or not they ought to do business with you.

With that in mind, here’s how your business should respond to negative reviews to make the most out of an otherwise unpleasant situation.

Acknowledge and Apologize

Yes, an apology is appropriate — even if you don’t think you did anything wrong.

The reviewer’s experience is their own. You may argue with the facts of the situation (which you probably shouldn’t, at least publicly — more on that below), but you can’t argue with how they feel. It’s how they feel.

A little sympathy goes a long way toward defusing the situation. If the reviewer is complaining about bad service, you can still apologize that they had a bad experience without supporting their criticism of your attention to detail. A simple “We’re sorry to hear about your experience” will do.

Add a Touch of Specificity

A public and anonymous review platform is not the place to mount a serious defense. Yelp isn’t a court of law; you are not going to be awarded justice simply because you proved a reviewer wrong and effectively stated your case.

Even so, it’s often a good idea to briefly speak to the reviewer’s primary concern. Doing so shows that you’re paying attention to their review — that you hear them and care enough to tailor your response to their unique situation.

If possible, this is also a good opportunity to contrast the reviewer’s bad experience with your company policy or what customers usually experience when they visit your business.

Think of it as a way to address the reviewer’s concern while delivering a little backhanded compliment: “We’re usually known for our exceptional customer service and we regret that we didn’t live up to those expectations here.”

Move the Situation Offline

Very rarely will you be able to completely resolve a reviewer’s bad experience thanks to your empathetic online reply. In fact, trying to fix everything in one electronic response can often do more harm than good.

Instead, aim to take the conversation offline. Provide contact information, including the name of a specific company representative, if possible. Doing so demonstrates your receptiveness to feedback and shifts the power dynamic by turning a monolithic organization into a personable one-on-one encounter. It also shows that your company takes customer service seriously enough to have someone in charge of addressing those problems.

“If you’re open to discussing this further, please call us at (888) XXX-1234 and ask to speak with Jamie, our General Manager. We’d greatly appreciate the opportunity to make things right and work toward earning back your business.”

Keep it Short and Sweet

When it comes to responding to negative reviews, less is more. Three to four sentences is a good rule of thumb.

No matter how unfair a negative review, resist the urge to defend every point and prove your case. It may sound counterintuitive, but long-winded responses can actually legitimize the complaint, as if the review needed defending in the first place.

For that reason, don’t go into detail (it can sound defensive) and don’t ask follow-up questions. You want to avoid saying anything that could further incite an upset customer and encourage them to add more detail and negativity to their review.

While your response certainly matters for the individual who left the review in the first place, it’s actually much more impactful for the 89 percent of other customers who will be reading it for weeks or months to come. Keep that in mind as you’re responding to negative reviews and you’ll be much less likely to let your emotions get the best of you. 

And, if you're tired of letting a small number of negative reviews represent your business, there's always room for improvement.

4 Embarrassing Online Reputation Mistakes Businesses Are Still Making

Online reputation management is all about cleaning up, protecting, and improving what people find about you online.

That process is by no means simple; negative reviews, unflattering news, and algorithm updates are all par for the course. No one can control those hurdles, but businesses on the path toward a clean digital presence can sometimes makes self-destructive mistakes that turn routine challenges into long-term consequences.

Are you falling into any of those traps? Here are four of the most common online reputation mistakes business owners are still making today.

Leaving Listings Unclaimed and Profiles Unreserved

One surefire way to take control of your business’s first impression is to claim and update your company information on platforms like Google and Yelp. Those listings are usually one of the first things to pop up in a Google search, and customers know they can go there to confirm simple business information like hours of operation and company addresses.

Incredibly, most business owners are still leaving this opportunity on the table. A study from 2017 found that 56 percent of local retailers still haven’t claimed their Google my Business listing and 66 percent haven’t claimed their Yelp listing.

Unfortunately, Yelp and Google’s automatically-generated local listings can often prove even more disastrous than a missing one. There’s no telling what information is correct and what isn’t. Potential customers who take the listing as gospel may be surprised and frustrated to find a business closed when the listing promised it would be open.

While Instagram and Twitter don’t automatically create accounts for businesses, an unreserved social media profile can be just as devastating.

Businesses that fail to reserve their preferred handles across top platforms early on may find them no longer available the next time they check. Or even worse, they may find the profile has been taken by an impersonator or bad actor trying to sully the business’ name.

Ignoring Social Media Notifications

When customers have a question or a complaint, how do they let the business know? Over the phone? Via email? In person?

Not anymore. Nearly 60 percent of Millennials prefer to use social media to voice concerns and complaints. Even non-Millennial customers are likely to vent their frustrations online: 47 percent of buyers across the board address customer service issues over social media, second only to in-person complaints.

Taking care of customers online is important for brand perception, but it also impacts a business’s bottom line. Customer care is an opportunity to form a relationship, not just solve an issue.

On the other hand, brands that ignore customer complaints on social media risk losing them forever. When consumers complain and get no response at all, more than one-third will never buy that brand’s product or service again.

Scheduling out posts using an automation tool like Buffer or Hootsuite can be helpful, but remember that social media is not a one-way street. Make time to regularly check back in to see how people are responding and audit notifications for customer questions and concerns.

Forgetting About Online Reviews

Picture the scene: a business begins to invest heavily in its digital marketing program. The content team writes dozens of articles and creates engaging videos to increase brand awareness. They share all that content on social media channels, launch various pay-per-click campaigns to drive leads, and start to build up an engaged audience.

The only problem? As soon as those potential customers decide to look deeper and research the company, they find the company’s negative online reviews.

A few negative reviews here and there is completely normal, but the real damage comes when there are no positive reviews from happy customers to balance the score. All customers are left with at that point is an unrepresentative sampling of negativity to inform their purchasing decision.

That's a concern worth taking seriously: 86 percent of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business.

It might be impossible to prevent unhappy people from posting negative reviews. But there are two important steps you can take.

First, it’s critical to respond to those reviews to mitigate their impact. Nearly 90 percent of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews, so an unanswered review is a missed opportunity to balance the scales.

Second, it’s worth putting a process in place to generate new positive reviews. Angry customers aren’t the only ones with a voice; happy customers are willing to write about their experiences too, as long as it’s easy to do so.

Handing Responsibility to the Under-qualified

What happens when businesses realize they need help with their digital footprints? Usually, they either look to either hire the right staff internally, or else partner with firms that specialize in digital branding and online reputation management.

But sometimes they make the decision to start delegating responsibilities internally -- often to people who lack the necessary experience.

It is not uncommon, for instance, for CEOs to delegate social media responsibilities to interns or executive assistants. Neither is it unheard of for content marketing or review management tasks to fall on executives who don’t have the time nor ability to do an effective job.

Unfortunately, that’s when mistakes are made. Those mistakes can undo months, or even years of hard work spent building up a strong brand and a loyal customer base.

Facebook and Twitter responses are often the first line of defense against angry customers. Blog articles and social media posts contribute to the first impression people get when they research your company for the first time.

Online content takes many forms, but regardless of platform or length one thing is certain: that content needs to represent the brand well. Accidents, misrepresentations and customer service flubs are far too common to risk delegating those responsibilities to a first-timer.

There are enough challenges along the road to a clean and positive online reputation without suffering embarrassing mistakes along the way. There’s nothing wrong with involving interns in your social media activity, but do yourself a favor and leave management to the experts.

New Research From 200 Top Brands Shows How Effective Instagram Stories Really Are

There’s only so much space in the Instagram feed. That harsh reality has inspired brands to try a variety of creative growth hacks and trends to reach larger audiences on the social media platform.

Commenting on celebrity photos and joining Instagram “pods” are two common ways accounts have jockeyed for attention in a crowded market. Meanwhile, some of the most popular meme pages are experimenting with turning their accounts private so that people have to follow them in order to see their posts.

But Buffer’s latest research suggests that posting to Instagram Stories is perhaps a more sustainable solution to reaching larger audiences.

The social media management platform partnered with Delmondo, a social media analytics platform, to analyze more than 15,000 Instagram stories from 200 of the world’s top brands in one of the largest Instagram Stories research studies to date.

The study found that the more stories top Instagram accounts post, the higher their median reach and impressions. Accounts that posted a series of 10 stories earned twice as many median impressions as accounts that didn’t post at all, and those with 20 stories earned five times the number of median impressions than the non-story posters.

Take one look at the Instagram feed and it’s obvious why that might be so. Instagram Stories take up additional real estate at the top of the news feed, giving brands another opportunity to get their content seen. The more a brand can maintain its position at the top of the feed -- as well as in it -- the more often it will reach its audience.

But it’s not just about improving reach. The users who consume Instagram stories content (all 400 million of them) are so engaged that brands see a 75 percent completion rate on their stories, meaning that their audience stays to watch all the way to the last story frame.

In fact, according to Instagram’s internal data, one-third of the most-viewed stories come from businesses, and one in five stories earns a direct message from its viewers.

Engagement rates on Instagram Stories are so high that brands are finding early success advertising on the feature. Oreo’s eye-catching ads on Instagram Stories helped the cookie brand drive significant growth in ad recognition and ad recall with a 17 percent lower cost per lead.

L’Oréal Paris Russia saw similar success, with a cost per click 22 times lower compared to their average result using Instagram’s carousel ad format. While the costs fell, L’Oréal ads simultaneously enjoyed a 16-point lift in ad recall.

For businesses looking to follow in Oreo and L’Oréal’s footsteps and dramatically improve Instagram reach, timing is everything.

Buffer and Delmondo found the largest spikes in completion rate fell outside of normal U.S. working hours (4-6am EST, 8-10am EST, 12pm-2pm EST, and 8pm-10pm EST).

While this is a helpful starting point, it’s worth remembering that these spikes are averages. In other words, different brands are likely to have very different optimal posting times. While a sports team may find more success directly before and after big games, a travel brand may earn more reach on weekends when wanderlust is highest.  

Timing isn’t the only factor, though. Even the number of stories posted at one time can impact a brand’s Instagram analytics.

Buffer and Delmondo found that one to seven stories was the optimal posting length to maximize the number of people who make it all the way through a series of Instagram story posts. After that seven-story threshold, completion rate dropped below 70 percent.

Then again, the number of stories posted positively correlates with an increase in reach and impressions. So while completion rate did drop to 60 percent for a series of 20 stories, the median impressions was still nearly three times more than the seven-story threshold. In other words, the more a brand posts on Stories, the more it can expect to reach a larger audience but get diminishing returns on completion rate.

Regardless of the number of stories a brand posts, prioritizing the best or most important content first is a good idea. Doing so gives people the highest chance to see what matters and maximizes their chances of clicking through.

Finding out what that ‘best’ content is, though, requires patience and testing. While Louis Vuitton posts highly polished video ads, The Guardian found that for their Instagram Stories, less labor-intensive posts like simple static graphics and quick explainer videos outperformed their professionally-produced videos.

Thankfully, that testing process doesn’t have to be super painful. Those looking for deeper analytics than Instagram offers naturally can try Delmondo to get a more detailed view of who is watching their content and when. That way, jumping on the latest growth hacking trend can be more of a scientific experiment and less of a guessing game.

Google+ Never Really Stood A Chance (And That's Okay)

News of Google shutting down Google+ was met with sighs of relief last week from marketing professionals everywhere who were only publishing on the scarcely-used platform with hope that it may improve Google rankings.

The ultimate reason Google pulled the plug? Low engagement.

Like any social media service, Google+ had its power users; but Google admits that 90 percent of Google+ user sessions lasted less than five seconds. Those numbers are embarrassingly low for a social network that was meant to be aFacebook competitor from its conception. Though the company’s slow reaction to a security bug earlier this year definitely didn’t help, the low engagement numbers provide context as to why Google finally decided to put the platform to rest.

The odd thing about Google+, though, is that it never really stood a chance against competitors in the first place. The reason boils down to Google’s seemingly bizarre and misguided obsession with organizing information.

Despite its mission statement (“To organize the world’s information…”), Google’s business model actually relies much more on its ability to help users find the right information at lightning speed. Advertisers don’t care how Google organizes web results as long as their ads are shown to the right people. Google searchers are no different; users simply want questions answered as quickly as possible. A mission statement centered on organization is terrific for a company like The Container Store, but for Google, it’s just a means to an end.

Imagine if Amazon’s mission statement were, “To organize the world’s commercial goods.”  While Amazon needs a terrific warehouse organization system in order to service customers, that system doesn’t exist for the purpose of organizing things. Its raison d'être is to efficiently deliver products to people.

Google’s preoccupation with organizing information was the inspiration for Google+’s design -- and the reason for its ultimate downfall.

Google (Tries To) Build A Facebook Rival

In 2011, the overwhelming majority of Google’s revenue came from advertising (as it still does). Facebook was threatening to eclipse Google in the Display Ad market (which it now has) thanks in part to its treasure trove of personal information that made for very effective targeted advertising.

Google felt compelled to compete by creating its own social network.

This wasn’t the first time Google had this idea. It was what inspired the creation of Orkut back in 2004 (which flopped), Google Wave in 2009, (which also flopped), and Google Buzz, (which suffered the same fate in 2011).

For its next venture, Google planned to carve out its own distinctive purpose. But the only way Google distinguished Google+ from Facebook was -- you guessed it -- by helping people organize their information better.

Users could distribute a post among various Circles, share it with Communities, or categorize it within Collections.

Alas, of the folks who were losing interest in Facebook in 2011, a little extra organizational flexibility proved not to be enough of a distinction to inspire a switch to Google’s all-too-similar social media platform.

Should Power Users Mourn The Death Of Google+?

Though Google+ built up a user base of at least one hundred million users, the majority were either completely inactive or those merely syndicating content to maintain appearances and appeal to the ‘search engine optimization (SEO) gods.’

But as with any social network, there still were Google+ power users who were able to leverage the platform to support their brand in a big way. Ford Motor Company is one example, whose page attracted four million followers and encouraged legitimate engagement from its fans through weekly postings.

For those like Ford, it’s easy to feel frustrated. A significant piece of their online presence — and all four million followers — will poof out of existence when Google shuts down Plus in August 2019.

It’s enough to make Ford executives shake their head in disbelief.

But the fact that Google is sunsetting Google+ doesn’t take away all the traffic, clicks and brand equity earned over the last seven years. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are such regular fixtures in many people’s day-to-day lives that it’s become easy to accept them as permanent. But they, too, will one day suffer the same fate as Myspace, Friendster, and now, Google+. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Does their eventual demise mean marketers ought to ignore all the possible traffic and leads those platforms offer?

Of course not. Social media marketing is still in its infancy, and experimenting with new and existing platforms is how companies find the engagement and brand loyalty they’re after. The results may only be temporary, but so are the benefits gleaned from alternative forms of marketing, advertising and public relations. (How long does the user engagement earned from a single news article last?)

It’s easy to say Google+ never stood a chance, in hindsight. But even if Ford had the foresight back in 2011 to predict the platform’s eventual demise, the company would be foolish not to do it all over again. Google may be removing four million Ford followers, but it can never take away all the brand equity Ford built in the process.

For those who were just posting for the supposed SEO benefit, we’ll just have to wait for Google’s next social media platform. Until then, I’m going back to LinkedIn.