July 18, 2011
Just to show you how fast technology is changing the landscape of marketing these days, no sooner then I sent off the mobile food business book to my editor – complete with pages upon pages dedicated to marketing – did I get an invite to join Google+. Do I need to add this to the book? More importantly, is Google+ something you might want to use for your small food business?
Google+ appears to still be in the works and going through some testing by limiting how many people receive invites (as in, there are only 10 million currently on Google+…so, you know, a small testing group). Don’t worry if you haven’t gotten one yet – “back in the day” gmail invites were hard to come by at first and now just about anyone (or any business!) can get one.
In a nutshell, Google+ is Google’s answer to the social networking phenomenon. Think Facebook or MySpace (which News Corp recently sold for the bargain basement price of $35 Million) and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what they’re going after. While there will undoubtably be new features added in the coming days, weeks, and months, some of the highlights of Google+ (as provided by the program’s interactive tour), is that it lets you put people into groups – or Circles as Google+ calls it – and then send specific messages to specific groups. This is mighty handy for 15-yr olds who want to share all the details about their latest date with their friends but don’t want their parents, who are also on Facebook/MySpace, to see what they’re saying. Instead, they can group parents in one Circle and friends in another. As the saying goes…”never the twain shall meet.”
For a small food business, the benefit this has for you is the ability to target your message to different customers. If you know that certain people really love your lemon sorbet then you can send out a message to them the day before you bring said product to the farmers’ market. The quandary for small businesses is determining how you get that information. Do you ask everyone who approaches your company a series of questions to determine which circles they best fit into? For online food business though, especially those that have a local store (or food truck) presence but also sell online, being able to separate your online customers and your local in-person customers means you could communicate and present different offers to both such as free shipping to one and $2 for payments in cash to another.
All of this of course depends on the fact that your customers are on Google+. Compared to Facebook’s 750 million, Google+ 10 million people seems pretty slim in comparison. And this is not the first time Google has tried to create a social networking site – there’s reason you likely never heard of Wave or Buzz. Given that it’s Google though and given all the *buzz* around this launch, I won’t be surprised the number of users jumps fairly quickly, but I’m sure some people will weigh the pros and cons of having multiple social networking sites. Not to mention what Facebook’s response to this increased competition will be. The big question you as a small business owner faces now is whether you should get on Google+ and “claim” your space before someone else jumps in there with a similar name that you later have to work around. Ideally you could grab the same name that you already use for Facebook/Twitter/any other social media you use for your business so that the name is seamless throughout. So when you get that Google+ invitation in your inbox take a minute to check it and see if it might be worthwhile for your business.