Why Institutions Should Use Google +

Janna Crabb (@jcrabb) is director of online communications at CASE.

You’ve all heard (and maybe even participated in) jokes about Google +. Remember this Daily Show episode?

The Daily Show–Jon Stewart Looks at Floaters

(Google + reference at 1m 50s.)

But, all joking aside, there has been a lot of discussion recently around the value of Google + for education—with plenty of opinions on both sides. And, last month’s announcement that Google+ head Vic Gundotra stepped down prompted additional speculation about the future of the platform.

When Google + first launched in 2011, many institutions jumped on to reserve their space and test it out, but few used it seriously. That seems to have changed.

Results from the recent CASE/Huron/mStoner social media survey report that the use of Google + grew from 22 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2013, indicating that more schools are at least beginning to experiment with the platform.

I spoke with several institutions with different levels of Google + engagement about why  a presence on Google + is important, even it only means spending an hour or two a week dedicated to the platform. Takeaway: Institutions shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Google + is important in part because it links Google products together, including:

Google Hangouts. Launched in May 2012, hangouts are group video calls that can be recorded to YouTube and replayed and shared via Google + (of course).  They can also be livestreamed and watched by anyone. Hangouts offer endless possibilities for institutional promotion, including:

  • On-the-ground reporting from student and alumni events, by students and alumni.
  • Question-and-answer sessions with admissions counselors, housing and dining staff, academic counselors and other personalities of interest to prospective students.
  • Interviews with faculty experts on topics in the news and opportunities for media outlets to connect with faculty researchers.

Search Engine Optimization. According to recent statistics, 67.5 percent of searches in the United States happen on Google search versus Bing and other search engines. Search engine experts also believe that Google positively weights content posted via Google +  in its search engine algorithms, including crawling Google + content more quickly.  (There are tons of articles on the topic, including these from moz.com and Social Media Today. Have a favorite resource? Include it in the comments.)

Recommendations for increasing search engine optimization using Google + include:

  • Post content regularly, whether photos, links or videos, and ensure that the content is informational and of value to your audience.
  • Engage with followers and increase the number of interactions around content.
  • Increase number of followers by providing value, both in your profile and via shared content.
  • Include author information when sharing links to your content.

Google Maps.  With a 42.5 percent reach in The United States, Google Maps has more impact than any other map app or service.  The Apple maps app has a lower reach of 24.8 percent. And, does anyone use Mapquest anymore? Many institutions use Google to provide custom, interactive maps and virtual tours of campuses—and photos and information shared on Google + will also display when someone searches for your location on Google maps.

Search Google maps for your institution and see what shows up—you are likely to see photos, institution details, reviews and a link out to the institution’s Google +  page. (Examples: Duke University, University of Virginia, University of Cambridge and University of Sydney.)

Is your institution using Google +? Do you have tips or resources to suggest? Share experiences, thoughts and successes in the comments. (And, stay tuned for additional posts on how specific institutions are using Google +).

Thanks to Matthew Anderson at Western Washington University, Chris Butler at Georgia Southern University, Sandra Ordonez at St. John’s University, Cara Rousseau at Duke University, Danielle Stapleton at Southwestern University and Kimberly Stern at Colorado State University for taking the time to discuss their institutions’ Google + presences and initiatives.

2 responses to “Why Institutions Should Use Google +

  1. Great piece, Janna. All great points to be on the platform. Usage is all over the map at this point, but some pages (Duke, for example: https://plus.google.com/+dukeuniversity/) are evidence that the people ARE out there.

    An additional note: Google has recently converted all Google Local pages to Plus pages. These are the pages that are linked from Google Maps (the “more info” link) and probably have far more views than the original Plus page. Institutions shouldn’t forget to get control of these pages and brand them just as they have their original Plus pages. Google hasn’t yet allowed us to merge those two pages, so in the meantime we’re maintaining both. As an example, I’ve linked below the local and original pages from my school. They both have a ways to go, but I think, as Janna says, that they’re worth pursuing.

    https://plus.google.com/103861619565118836348/about
    https://plus.google.com/b/106506639389789049402/+wwu/posts

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