With one and a half million followers on Socialcam, just shy of 13 thousand followers on Twitter, and more than four thousand friends on Facebook, it would seem that I have a pretty big following on social media.

So why, then, when you Google my name, does it look like this?

 

 

 

 

 

I’m only in 455 people’s circles? That sounds tiny! How did this happen?

Google+ inside Google searches

For better or for worse, Google is integrating its social network, Google+, into its search results. While this may seem unfair to Facebook and Twitter, which have been around for a lot longer, it was a necessary step if Google really wanted to drive traffic to its Google+ network. It seems to be working—as of this summer, Google+ boasted a quarter of a billion accounts. That’s about half of the number of Twitter users, and one quarter of Facebook’s billion. A pretty respectable number, to be sure.

But I never made Google+ too much of a priority. I’m primarily on camera all day for the TODAY show and CNN, so it makes sense that my #1 social network is in video. And I’ve been on Twitter since 2007, so it makes sense that people have managed to find and follow me there.

But with Google+ account and follower information appearing in search results, the social networking service has gotten too big to simply brush off.

If we ignore it, will it go away?

A lot of people’s strategies in regards to Google+ seems to be to ignore it and continue to focus on Facebook and Twitter primarily, as well as continue to have a presence on smaller networks like LinkedIn.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with this strategy. Focusing on building a following on even one or two social networks can be a full-time job. The more networks you try and focus on, the more diluted your message becomes. It becomes harder and harder to respond to everyone directly, as well as ensure that your best content is getting in front of the right audience.

But Google+ is growing and gaining more influence every day, and it’s getting too big to pretend it doesn’t exist. So how do you figure out if it’s right for you? I have a couple of questions you should be asking yourself.

Will a demographic analysis of Google+ help?

In one of my first articles for Networking Exchange, 5 Tips for Devising a YouTube Strategy, one of my tips was that you should be sure to identify your demographics before deciding to become a video producer. So it’s probably a good idea to take a look at the Google+ demographics before deciding to jump in there as well.

A study by datadial revealed some interesting facts about Google+. The biggest countries represented on Google+, by far, are the USA, India and Brazil, in that order. Users are overwhelmingly male (roughly 60-40 in the U.S., with more men using the service in other countries), and very young (nearly half the US user base is 18-24). In fact, almost 70 percent of Google+ in the U.S. is under 35.

If your product, business, or brand targets a young male audience, then Google+ might be the best social network for you, end of story.

Are you running a website? Then you need to be on Google+

Unfortunately, if you’re a personal brand or run any kind of personal blog, being on Google+ will help your search results no matter how many followers you have.

Let’s take a look at a Google search for one of Networking Exchange’s top bloggers, Brian Solis:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google+ adds three important things to this search result that make it a lot more attractive to any potential audience. First, it puts his profile picture right next to his search result, which adds a human element to the result that other searches lack. Secondly, where it reads “In 55,492 Google+ Circle” Google isn’t just providing you with information—that’s a link to Brian’s Google+ account, so you can see his activity and choose to follow him there if you like.

There’s another link in there too: “More by Brian Solis.” This link ties in “Google Authorship” results, which attaches all articles written by a Google+ account on all websites. If you click there, you can see a variety of posts written by Brian, across every site connected to his Google+ account.

These rich search results offer more ways for you to connect with your readers and help them see more of your content, but it only works if you’re on Google+ and have connected it to your site.

Google+ isn’t the perfect social network, nor is it the largest. But Google drives a tremendous amount of traffic to websites, and the added benefit of these personalized search results outweighs any negatives.

Are you using Google+? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll be sure to respond!

 

Mario Armstrong, Digital Lifestyle Expert, is an Emmy Award winning, tech commentator for the TODAY show and CNN, and the host of a tech talk radio show on SiriusXM. An entrepreneur by nature, Mario made his passion his career by quitting his day job and founding Mario Armstrong Media. Follow Mario at @MarioArmstrong. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.