I really like Google Plus. Yes, I'm well aware that it's the butt of a lot of jokes, but Google Plus actually contains a vibrant community of people, brands and content that can be just as interesting as Twitter, and certainly more interesting (and better looking) than Facebook.
Brands have begun to use Google Plus a lot more in the past year. Not only is it good to branch out on several social networks, the SEO benefits of having a Google Plus brand page are also sometimes literally worth more than money can buy. Google Authorship offers companies opportunities to expand their SEO reach even further. The communities section is growing at a rapid pace and offers brands an incredible opportunity to foster discussion and interaction. And Hangouts are a feature found nowhere else on social media. Many companies like Cadbrry, Ford, Virgin Mobile, Forbes and Mashable utilize the service to their advantage with distinct plans and execution. And it appears to pay off for them.
However, many brands think one of two ways when it comes to Google Plus. One, that simply having a page is good enough. Maybe they jumped on the bandwagon early and forgot about the service months later. Or maybe they didn't see the growth they wanted and simply gave up. Either way, brands whose profiles are ghost towns are a great way to make a bad impression on the Internet. It is embarrassing to see a large company's page have one status from September 2011 that says "Trying out this Google Plus thing!" It's not like the world's biggest search engine is directly attached to the service or anything...
Secondly, many brands simply think copying and pasting links of content with no plan, hashtags, mentions or strategy is good enough. There is a difference between an active brand and a smart active brand, and Google Plus' users can discern that difference from a mile away. Brands need to have a clear plan for why and how they post content.
Some signs of this lack of effort include content with hyperlinks still in the post, content without images, content with a single image (like a company logo repeated on every single post) or taking content from other social media platforms and copying it word for word to Google Plus. Each platform operates differently, and requires a different style of content in order to be effective. Posting the same exact content over multiple channels is not only ineffective; it's lazy.
There's a litany of reasons brands should be on Google Plus. But if a brand does decide to start a page, they need to fully commit. Brands cannot half-heartedly maintain a page and expect to see results. The consequences of having a dead Google Plus page can far outweigh the benefits of having a page in the first place. But if used effectively, Google Plus can be a powerful social media and SEO tool, fostering valuable discussions while showing up on that illustrious first page of search results.
By Aaron Brandt, Google+ user. Create a circle titled "Cool People" and add him to it.