The power of ecosystems? On Google+

Google Plus

Google Plus

Do you still remember the day Google launched Google+? This much awaited and highly anticipated social networking platform was launched about a half a year ago. “Social media gurus” immediately announced the death of Facebook. At that point, I was convinced those people understood the phenomenon wrong. So to put things in perspective, I wrote a blog post called “Why Facebook wins the Social Network Battle. On Flirting, Sex, Porn and Mr Rogers.” As from last week, I believe we entered a new stage in this debate. After all, Google plans to implement an updated version of its search algorithms that will change how the web works. This time it was up to the “SEO gurus” to have their say on Google+.

I don’t know what type of guru I am – I believe none at all – but it felt like time for my take on Google Plus. And let’s start with the hottest topic these days: SEO and Google+.

Google’s announcement on G+ integration

Regardless of the fact that Google Plus looked like “a Facebook” at launch, Google always insisted that it concerned a “project of bigger scale”. How big that scale is became clear with the announcement made by Google at the beginning of January 2012.

Simply stated: Google plans to integrate information from Google Plus to personalize search results. For SEO gurus it was a signal to jump into action. Suddenly SEO drastically changed: it’s no longer about how to get sites ranked high in search results but about having content on Google Plus. This not rarely resulted in advice similar to “you need to be on Google Plus.” As a result, brand pages flourished like mushrooms.

Of course, I cannot have anything against enterprises and brands being on Plus, but I can object the proposed tactic by the gurus. I believe the “New SEO” is more about getting real people post information about a business or brand on Google+. That’s something completely different from merely broadcasting marketing messages through a brand page, no?

However, there’s more at stake than just the impact on search. As one observer cleverly noted: “Google has a lot of other products that contain personally relevant information. Google Docs has documents, Gmail has contacts and calendar entries, Google Music has playlist information, and so on.”

Google as an integrated online collaboration platform. Google+ as social layer.

Google as an integrated online collaboration platform. Google+ as social layer.

Google+: social layer on top of collaborative cloud ecosystem by Google

Have you ever looked at Google’s navigation bar in detail? You should. I believe it’s not a coincidence that Google Plus is integrated into this bar. Google Plus is a part of a wider ecosystem. That ecosystem is neatly designed through a navigation bar. It contains multiple collaborative cloud solutions, amongst:

Google's collaborative cloud solutions as an ecosystem

Google's collaborative cloud solutions as an ecosystem

  • Gmail
  • Docs
  • Translate
  • Calendar
  • Search

I have a feeling this ecosystem will pay off. Not in the way that it’ll outperform Facebook or whatever other social network but in an unprecedented position within the organizations of the future it might take.

The organization of the future: fluid networks of interconnected freelance workers

Based upon a study by SD Worx on “the Future of Work”, I’ve deducted 3 core principles about the organization of the future:

  • Organization based upon strength individuals
  • Individuals work autonomous
  • Collaboration between individual people is more than the sum of all individual co-workers

The above means that organizations will form themselves organically between engaged people who connect. This connection can occur online and offline. However, as the strength of the individual becomes key to an organization, they’ll look for the best individuals. During this search process they won’t take geographic borders into account. In order for those talented people to collaborate effectively in a remote manner, they need collaborative tools that are available 24/7. And what exactly is available 24/7? Right: the worldwide web.

There we are: the Google web tools listed above are a great solution for future organizations. A lot of people will work through the Google Docs platform, use Gmail, translate through Google Translate, etc. Added to that is a tool that allows you to easily message, share, video call,…: Google Plus.
What else do you need to effectively execute your job as a knowledge worker? Almost nothing?

Google Plus a social layer for the future enterprise, not a Facebook killer.

Do you see the power of ecosystems at work?
Do you know other products designed with an ecosystem in mind apart from Apple’s app store?

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Most influential brands 2010 index: where are the FMCG giants?

We often wonder what the most influential corporations or brands in the world are. To answer this, we need to pass two challenges: how does one define and measure “the most influential”? We searched for a list that could express “most influential”. We believe we found one that expresses this concept: the Thought Leadership index of TLG.

Defining influential as “Thought Leadership”

With the expression “most influential brand” we mean those brands and corporations that have impact on “opinion formers”. Opinion formers are human beings that, through their own actions and attitudes, shape those of others. They reside within several areas, such as business, politics, media, etc. Those opinion leaders often base their opinion upon the expertise available through organizations. Those companies are conceived and labeled “thought leaders” within a specific industry/sector/subject. “Thought leadership” is often cited as a strategy to build trust in your company and products – which in turn leads to growth.

Thought Leadership companies according to TLG

Thought Leadership companies according to TLG

“Most influential brands 2010 index” aka “TLG’s Thought Leadership index 2010”

The TLG index lists the “Thought Leadership” top companies aka “the top influential brands”. We believe that the TLG index is based upon a valid method: in-depth conversations with opinion leaders. We don’t have information on who exactly were the “opinion formers”, so one could question whether researcher selected “genuine opinion formers”. Let’s assume they did and analyze the list.

List trends: no FMCG concerns & dominance of web-based corporations

Have a look at the list again. There’s not a sign of FMCG concerns such as Unilever, P&G or Nestlé. On the other hand, relatively new corporations with web-focus seem to dominate the list (Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon).

Do these FMCG groups realize they are not conceived (“decoded”) as thought leaders/influential? Do they need to deploy another communications (pr) strategy? Are they not striving for thought leadership? The latter is hard to believe. Let’s see whether they’re in the 2011 top list!

Running an e-commerce website? Watch out for Google shopping.

Apparently Google launched a Beta version of “Google Shopping” (Google Achats) in France last week. The application looks very promising and might change the online shopping experience. If you sell over the internet, you definitely should consider listing your products in Google Shopping. How you index your products is explained below the screenshots.

Google Shopping France - homepage

Google Shopping France - homepage

Google Shopping - Bèta in France : search for iMac

Google Shopping - Beta in France : search for iMac

Google shopping : bèta in France - price comparison

Google shopping : beta in France - price comparison

Index your products through a feed in Google Merchant Center

In order to appear in the list, an e-commerce website or webshop needs to provide a feed of their products to the Google Merchant Center. Consequently Google indexes the data and makes them available for search and price comparison via a web interface on google.com (or in case via a country-specific url extension).

In addition, consumers are able to immediately buy the good if the e-commerce website supports Google Check-out.

Indexed enterprises in France that offer iMac on google.fr

Imagine you want to buy an iMac and want to know the perfect place and price for your purchase.
Imagine you’re a go-getter and will search for all places online where you can buy an iMac.
Imagine you accurately archive all information in a spreadsheet so to compare the offers.

How long would that take? How long does it take with Google Shopping?

Can you see the benefits already?

Companies that partner with Google within the “market of the search term ‘iMac’ on Google Shopping France” are listed below.

Just one more thing: online shopping is a global phenomenon

Isn’t it? Why roll out this service by country then?

Google: a new phase in brand management techniques?

Google is without a doubt one of today’s global brands. What’s remarkable, it gained that position without deploying branding techniques previously known as effective. If one compares the manner by which the Google brand grew to the strategy used by brand institutes like P&G or Unilever, one might believe a new phase arrived.

1. Google & adverts

Marketing used to follow this logic: manufacture with the lowest cost and spend money on adverts. This will do the trick. Google (almost) used no adverts (as far as we know). They relied on “viral” and pr to build the brand. Funny aspect: ads are Google’s main source of revenue.

Google logo - bert&ernie style

Google logo - bert&ernie style

2. Branding: corporate design, corporate identity

It used to be important to have a consistent display of the corporate design / identity. To simplify: the logo has to look always and everywhere the same. Google plays with its logo – expressing change and hence its identity (?). Equally striking are the options to customize your homepage (e.g. by modifying the background). What’s more the corporation itself encourages users to personalize their homepage: have a look at the movie below.

3. Product extensions and sub-branding

Strategy deployed by the big brand institutes was in fact one of “sub-branding”. Every product was conceived as a separate brand. An element that could explain the power of the brand Google is the fact that nothing is in fact sub-branded. Google is actively creating product extensions that all become an part of the brand google (e.g.: Google Mail to Google Maps) to ensure that it can grow beyond search. Other corporations such as Unilever choose to build a brand for each product, ending up with a big portfolio of different brand names.

Unilever branding techniques: sub-branding

Unilever branding techniques: sub-branding

Does this introduce a new stage in brand building?

Does this make the profession of brand management totally different?

Google Adsense: why should you consider it?

Google Inc.

If I ask people to “just name a brand”, then I often get the answer “Google”. Yes, Google is a powerful brand these days. Nevertheless, people often know nothing more about Google then it being a search engine. Of course, Google is much more than a search engine. Just think about the apps “Google Earth”, “Google Maps”, “Google Video” “Google Docs”, “Google Calendar” and last but not least “Gmail”.

It’s clear that Google isn’t just a search engine. But how do they generate revenue then? Google introduced an innovative business model – AdWords – and the pay-per-click (SEA) concept. The new business model proved to work because today AdWords is still the main source of revenues of Google Inc.

Google and its highly targeted advertising options

The powerful element in the Google business model is the fact that advertisers are ensured their ad appears only when people are interested. A search engine ad only appears for relevant keywords (in the case of the pay-per-click model). People only enter keywords when they are explicitly interested in a subject. An Adsense ad only appears in between relevant content. This means the ad is advertising the same good or service as the page it is on. Bottom line: advertising via a Google platform is cost-effective since it only reaches people who are interested. Compared to “mass advertising media” such as television, this way is much more effective.

Example: Google Adsense on this blog

Have a look at the below screenshot of this website. It’s an Adsense ad that was placed next to an article on “brand management”. For a company specializing in brand management, appearing next to an article like that is very useful since the reader of the article is already interested in the advertiser’s core business.

Google Adsense for "brandtrust" on this blog

Google Adsense for "brandtrust" on this blog

Benefits Google Adsense

  • The most robust targeting of any ad network
  • AdSense’s innovative targeting options allow advertisers to more precisely reach their desired audiences on a third-party website — resulting in more revenue for the third-party website owner as well as more sales for the advertiser.

  • Contextual targeting
  • AdSense ads are related to the content of the webpage. This is an advantage: your ad pops up there were it doesn’t interrupt. It fits in between the content on the website.

  • Placement targeting
  • An advertiser can target a site based on demographics, vertical, geographic location, or URL.

  • Interest–based advertising
  • An advertiser can show ads based on users’ interests and previous interactions with that advertiser.

  • New Media?
  • AdSense isn’t just for websites. Earn extra revenue by displaying ads on your:

  • Site search results
  • Mobile webpages
  • Feeds
  • Parked domains
  • Mobile applications
  • Videos
  • Online game
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    On the oil spill: BP to deploy SEM techniques for reputation management

    BP deploys SEM techniques for reputation management

    BP deploys SEM techniques for reputation management

    BP: attack on nature and mankind?

    You might have heard about it: there’s an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. BP – held responsible for this disaster – is doing everything within its reach to solve the issue as soon as possible. Instead of discussing the engineering operations by which the company is trying to stop the leak, I want to say a word or two about the marketing (public relations) aspects that come into play.

    Reputation at risk.

    Needless to say that a natural disaster can seriously harm the reputation of a company – resulting in fewer “likers” (cfr: the Facebook like hype on external websites…) or even less people willing to fill up their car at a BP service station. For BP this is as much a disaster as is the oil for the nature and our planet. BP can’t afford to have a decrease in revenue – the cost of the oil spill is already sufficiently high.

    Reputation management: what is the reputation?

    One could think of BP as a “money-making machine while destroying our planet”. One could think that is correct – but it’s not. In the past – as well as today – BP has been glorified for its environmentally responsible business model. Yes, BP is not just about oil. BP is about: oil, natural gas, wind, solar, biofuels, efficiency, energy security, energy diversity, …

    SEM techniques as a means for reputation management

    SEM stands for search engine marketing. It is the “art” of positioning website pages in the Google query result pages. One can pay Google to be on the result pages. You’ll end up in the “sponsored links” and pay each time somebody clicks your link. This type of search engine marketing  is called SEA: search engine advertising. An other approach is to build your website in such a way that it organically (without paying Google) lists well in the search results. This type of SEM is called SEO: search engine optimization. The latter is more sustainable than the first, but takes more time to prove its efficiency.

    In order to understand the point, one needs to know a bit more about “the psychology of Google result pages”.

    • people usually look no further than the results displayed on page 1
    • people believe that they receive good information via this technology – and they actually do !
    • people believe the “best” companies are  at the top of the list
    • Google has become the number 1 source for people to obtain information.

    Is SEM a powerful reputation management technique?

    SEM, both SEA and SEO, are valid reputation management techniques. As a matter of fact, companies should consider thinking about this aspect not only when dealing with so-called crisis communication.
    SEO: long-term reputation management?

    What if the first Google result page of your company’s brand name is entirely filled with webpages that you own or that you have relations with? Well, then you would control your reputation when people search for you. How to handle that? Well, just think on the following set-up: index your company (product) specific website in Google, make a Facebook page as well, set up a blog, deploy a twitter account, etc. You’ll note that after a while when people browse your company or product they see pages in Google that are managed by yourself. The reputation that develops in people’s minds is completely under your control.

    Why BP ran an SEA campaign

    As stated above, SEA is a means to appear in the listing with a finger flick while SEO takes time to have impact. For this reason BP had to run an SEA campaign on the keywords ‘Oil Spill’. Is it wrong to do so? Actually no, it’s not because they paid for inclusion that it is immoral to do so. As a matter of fact, nobody would have questioned BP buying a newspaper page in order to put an ad for e.g. apologies about the oil spill (they might even have done so).

    Finally, a word about BP.

    Looking at the BP case, we have to admit that they are quite committed to the environment. We see that the engineering operations are doing everything to get the leak fixed as soon as possible. This is also what they want to make clear to the general public. However, if they had deployed a more extensive reputation management strategy before the disaster… it would have been more powerful and people wouldn’t have questioned the adwords campaign that much. Nevertheless: BP is environmentally responsible. They just had a little bad luck with their operations on the Gulf of Mexico…

    Special reputation management pages on BP.com

    Special reputation management pages on BP.com

    Live stream of operations at Gulf of Mexico

    Live stream of operations at Gulf of Mexico

    BP's environmentally responsible business program - not specifically related to the leak!

    BP's environmentally responsible business program - not specifically related to the leak!

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