My Take: Sports Teams on Google+

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Last week, Google+ launched its brand pages and a few sports teams came along with it.

When G+ came along last summer, I was admittedly excited (with a dash of GoogleWave skepticism). It was fun trying to get and then giving out invites and there was a lot of anticipation about what the platform would offer. Then we all got on and played around with it. Posts and conversations soon focused on “Is there anything happening here?”, and then people maybe checked back once a week or so – if that.

Behind the scenes, G+ wasn’t ready for brands and shut down any Profiles that were brands. It was a bit of a gong show, but it did build anticipation for what the Brand Page experience would be like.

So – here’s my take on sports teams on G+…

First off, I would have (and recommend) to hold off for now. There’s no rush here.

Don’t get me wrong – a big part of me is excited to get teams busy here and the tech-side of me is keen to do it. But remember – this is a Marketing initiative. Why are teams on Facebook? Because their fans are on Facebook. I’m not sure the same is true of G+ with numerous articles (here’s a good one) that have my wonder if G+ is really the right market at this point in time.

Yes, building a G+ Page is cool – but is it smart marketing?

Another big factor with G+ is how it affects search. It seems obvious that Brands with a G+ page will rank higher in Google searches. But consider that from a sports team perspective – is ranking your team site, which has corporate partners invested in it, lower than a social networking site really a good idea?

Given the heavy load of content production, customer service and good old engagement required from a small digital staff, is layering on another social network from the ground up a wise investment of time?

I see less and less of teams actually using social media in a social way. There is increasingly less interaction with the Brand. Teams need to think fans first with Facebook and respond to their comments, answer questions, thank them for their photos. Teams on Twitter should be spending as much as 2/3rds of their tweets on @replys to fans.

Simply using social channels to drop links to your team site is not the point here. These are social networks.

Don’t forget how we got here in the first place.

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What’s the Deal with Google+?

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In case you’ve been living under a rock, Google is launching a new social layer to its services called Google+

I’ve received a few invites, but the service is still closed in a field trial at the time of writing – so this post is not so much of a “How to…” or “Look how awesome I am, I’m on the network and you aren’t!”

This post is more about “Where does this fit alongside Facebook and Twitter?” and “What does this mean for sports marketers?”

So here goes…

Where Does Google+ Fit with Facebook and Twitter?

It’s no secret that Google would like to take down Facebook. Previous attempts that Google have made at being more social didn’t work out. That would be Google Wave (email “reinvented” – the service is now extinct) and Google Buzz (if you’ve never heard of it, or cared to click on it on the left rail of your Gmail page – you are not alone).

Consider the potential of a Google social network. I mean, (just about) everyone uses Google – if they were successful in getting their Search users, their Gmail users, their Docs users, etc… they already have all the users – over 1 billion of them (Facebook has 700M), they already own YouTube…  Google could carve out a pretty hefty social network – IF people adopted it. But they don’t have to adopt it – Google has already figured a way around this – by forcing all users on to Google+.

No more asking for an invite… you won’t need one. Google+ will come to you soon enough. How? Some time ago – Google launched Profiles, another stand alone social project that was left seemingly in isolation. But as of July 31/11, all existing profiles will become public. If you have a gmail, or any Google Profile, you are also about to be a Google+ user too. So be patient.

From what I understand, Google+ will integrate Twitter and Facebook to some degree. The big question is… “Do we need or will be benefit from another social network?” We shall see…

What Does Google+ Mean for Sports Marketers?

Straight up – I don’t know (yet). Many teams have gone and invested dedicated resources to social media – and for very good reasons. We all know that change is the one constant in this space, and here it comes again in the form of Google+. But does this mean that your social media coordinator and Director of Digital need to become an expert admin in this space too?

Only time will tell – I have no insight into how brands and teams can leverage Google+ or how important this will become or how fast. It’s up to the users, it’s up to the fans. Consider the rapid rise of Facebook – fans were their first with home-made fan pages for their favorite teams. Will that be repeated here? Should “innovative” teams look to move rapidly into Google+?

I can’t wait to answer these questions – this is what is exciting about the digital and social spaces. For the time being, keep a close eye. Get involved, follow this blog and others who are concerned with social media and sports.

* UPDATE * (July 6/11) Here is a link regarding Google+ and Brands… the short story = hold tight, sports teams and brands, Google+ is working on the experience for businesses now.