Home Fairfield Businesses weigh new networking entry

Businesses weigh new networking entry

At least once a week, Bill Brucker sets aside 15 to 20 minutes to post information to the Facebook page of Family Centers of Greenwich. And he monitors the site throughout the workday as well.

He suspects he will soon be duplicating those efforts – and thinks it will be worth it.

With Google Inc. opening its Google Plus to general beta use from prior field trials with select customers, the company has created a possible conundrum for legions of small businesses that have adopted Facebook as a major marketing and communication channel: run with yet another social media site as an early adopter or sit back and see how the take-up rate fares on Google Plus?

For small-business staffs with only so much time on their hands with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ning and any other social media sites they might plug in, it might add up to an unwanted consideration – albeit one they might have to make.

“I think what it’s going to come down to is, we are going to hear more and more about Google Plus … and I think we’ll put our toe in the water,” said Brucker, communications director for the Family Centers. “It’s just training yourself to go on the site and spend an extra 15 or 20 minutes a day to keep it fresh. I don’t really dread it, it’s just another step.”

As of April 2010, when Facebook published state-by-state statistics, nearly 1.1 million Connecticut residents were on the social networking site. That amounted to 31 percent of the state’s population, the lowest rate of adoption in the Northeast. Rhode Island led the nation with a Facebook user share totaling more than 39 percent of the state’s population.

Since opening up its own social media site to general use, however, Google can boast an impressive adoption rate all its own – Experian Hitwise said traffic surged more than thirteenfold on Google Plus in a single week.

Among other features, Google Plus includes “hangouts” where people can meet using live video, including on their mobile device. Individuals can use a hangout to “broadcast” to up to several other accounts – with clear implications for businesses pulling together impromptu presentations or meetings.

And in another move tailor-made for corporate marketing, a “sparks” feature allows people to search for a topic using Google Plus and jump right in to the give and take.

Not all features on Google Plus were designed with inclusiveness in mind. Following its original field trial debut in June, Google also played up a “circles” feature that allows people to create small groups of friends, family and acquaintances for differing levels of intimacy – in other words, what one might share with drinking buddies is not necessarily for the boss’ or mom’s eyes.

Websites exist to help people post messages to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites with a single click, notes Marc Halpert, owner of a Fairfield-based consultancy called Your Best Interest L.L.C., who conducts seminars on how businesses can optimize their use of LinkedIn. Those sites include HootSuite, Sendible, and TweetDeck, but Halpert cautions that audiences are different on each platform, and may not be receptive to a “mass blast” attempting to generate responses across all.

“If you are a business … you need to tell people why they should choose you,” Halpert said. “It’s just one tool in your tool box. If you are using a dull blade, you will get dull results.”

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