Small businesses and multinational brands alike need to stretch their marketing resources. Getting the best word-of-mouth for the smallest investment in time and money is a universal need
I own a small company called Elgan Media. I write opinions for a living. Itís just me and my wife. But our business is similar in many ways to even the biggest enterprises. We create products (opinion columns and posts), and have clients (publishers) and customers (readers). And most importantly, our marketing requirements include market research, community engagement, promotions, and all the rest.
The difference is that our marketing budget is zero. We rely entirely upon social media and the Internet for marketing. Much larger companies donít rely entirely on social media, but they are still important, and increasingly so with each passing year.
Social media marketing is challenging. Social media have fractured into a hundred different pieces and scattered potential audience into far too many social silos.
Last year, I spent nearly all my time on two blogs and an email newsletter, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, Foursquare, Google Buzz, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon, as well as a dozen or more sites that donít really qualify as ďsocial networks.Ē
This was a lose-lose proposition. I busted my keister chasing community all over the Internet, to little effect. To illustrate: Imagine that in 12 hours in a day I could post 12 items on 12 sites, plus spend 30 minutes on each of those sites cultivating community. Iím posting and engaging like a maniac. But to each person on any given network, Iím just a lazy stranger who posts one item and spends only a half hour a day. Big effort. Little connection.
I was engaging everywhere, but not really engaging anywhere. Plus, it fried my brain constantly shifting from one network to another.
Then Google+ changed everything.
Google+'s open and flexible model transformed how I interact. By open, I mean that non-members can read posts and even receive them as email. By flexible, I mean that posts can be private, public, or narrowly targeted. Circles make it easy to cultivate, target, and manage different groups of people.
When Google+ launched last summer, I stopped using my blogs, newsletter, and other social media, and now use only Google+. My new strategy was this: Instead of posting separately on all these different media, Iíll let either automated tools or my community do it for me.
I post in one place, and I monitor one stream.
Now, my public Google+ profile is my blog. Software tools auto-generate and send my email newsletter. Other tools auto-post to Twitter and Facebook. My friends on Google+, many of whom use other social networks, post links to my Google+ posts. Best of all, the links on other services bring the world back to my Google+ post, where a single conversation takes place.
Excellent anti-troll and anti-spam tools on Google+ mean I can moderate effectively. And great search means anyone can find me.
Anyone who consistently posts high-quality, original content on Google+ and engages actively experiences major follower growth. People who post full-time on Google+ can expect to exceed the total number of followers they have everywhere else combined in just a few months.
Those who fail on Google+ do so because they have merely added it to their existing long list of social networking sites to keep up with. As a result, they fail to fully engage, gain traction, or reap the benefits of Google+.
The promotional opportunities are huge. Getting on the ďWhatís HotĒ list will attract tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of eyeballs.
Warning: Itís possible that the extreme power of Google+ is temporary -- a result of its newness, which creates an imbalance favoring people hungry for content and people posting content. Eventually, every content creator in the world will be flooding Google+ with posts, and users will be less motivated to add yet another source of content. But for now, Google+ís millions of users are starving for content and eager to circle. Permanent leadership in niche categories are there for the taking.
For someone who trades in ideas, Google+ is the best thing that ever happened to my career. I now spend less time interacting with an order of magnitude more people. Best of all, the quality of my work has improved because Iím learning faster, connected better, and donít burn myself out managing two dozen communities. Now I just have one community -- one huge, brilliant, fast-growing, and active community.
Editor's note: Mike will be the special guest at a live chat on The CMO Site on Friday, March 16, 1:00 p.m. ET, where we'll talk with him about his controversial gung-ho attitude toward Google+ (many people think it's a "virtual ghost town") and the implications for marketers. Join us there and then: Live chat with Mike Elgan, tech journalist and Google+ champion.
Google+: The Liveliest 'Virtual Ghost Town' on the Internet
Why Google+ Is More Than Just a Facebook Ripoff
Google+: Google's Best-Kept Secret
— Mike Elgan is a Silicon Valley-based columnist, writer, speaker, and blogger.