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Google+: Must or Bust for eBay Sellers?

Some features of this emerging social-networking site make it worth a look.

We know what you’re thinking, and we don’t blame you: “I’m already on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and busier than ever running my eBay business. Who has time for another social-networking site? What can Google+ offer me that I can’t already achieve through a different site?”

We were thinking the same thing. And when the media’s 24/7 hype machine cranked into full gear when Google+ was announced in June, we had to wonder how much of that hype would come to pass. The way some outlets crowed on about Google+ (sample headline: “Well hello Google+, so long LinkedIn”), you’d think it was time for the employees at those other sites to fold up their tents and move on.

If you haven’t yet tried Google+, you are now free to do so. When it was first rolled out you couldn’t just sign up and check it out. Someone who already had access had to “invite” you to join. No more. You can sign up for Google+ as easily as you can sign up for Facebook.

Let’s consider what Google+ offers eBay sellers and what it offers today. That way, when it’s more of an open access platform, you’ll have an idea of what to expect.

We aren’t trying to replace what’s currently available. We just want to introduce a new way to connect online with the people who matter to you

‘A new way to connect’

For some insights we turned to Jim Prosser, Google’s manager of global communications and public affairs. He explains the thinking behind Google+ this way:

“We realize that today people are increasingly connecting with one another on the Web. But the ways in which we connect online are limited and don’t mimic our real-life relationships,” he notes. “The Google+ project is our attempt to make online sharing even better. We aren’t trying to replace what’s currently available. We just want to introduce a new way to connect online with the people who matter to you.”

By a “new way to connect,” Prosser is referring to the concept of “Circles,” which provide an easy way to organize those in your Google+ universe. As soon as you start using Google+ and locating friends and contacts who are also using the site, the site prompts you to add them to a circle—either one of its ready-made circles (say, family), or one you create for your own use (such as eBay customers). So, right from the start, you can have people organized in a way that’s convenient for you.

This is important, as you don’t want to share the same links, news, questions, videos, whatever, with everyone. Your whole network doesn’t need to know that the family reunion is scheduled for Dec. 26. Similarly, you may want just your eBay customers to know about your latest eBay promotion or hot new listings. In our view, anything on the Internet that helps you with organization is a tremendous boon, so Circles show promise.

It’s true that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn also allow you to organize your friends, followers and contacts in various ways. Google+, however, provided that functionality from the start, unlike other social networking sites, which added those capabilities down the road. For longtime eBay seller Karen Locker—who uses all the major networking sites, and is now also using Google+—on those other sites, “It was too much of a pain to go back and group them later.”

Features look promising

Google+ has some other features that are worth noting, even though the functionality is available on some competitive sites. One is Hangouts, which let you bring together basically whoever you want from your circles for an online meet-up. Google feels that Hangouts are a better way to get together online than other Web tools like instant messaging or video calling, which may result in your inadvertently interrupting someone’s plans. Instead, Hangouts’ tools combine the casual meet-up with tools such as live multiperson video. The result is that people can join you when they’re free.

Prosser notes that Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell makes a habit of having regular Hangouts with people who have him in their circles. Of course, when Michael Dell talks, a lot of people are going to listen, but Hangouts may indeed provide a good way to casually interact with customers or other sellers, for example.

Sparks, another Google+ feature, is what Google calls “an online sharing engine.” Sparks is designed to provide a customized feed of videos and articles based on your own interests. That way, as Google explains, when you’re free, “there’s always something waiting to be watched, read or shared.”

Finally, Google+ has a feature called Mobile that’s intended to simplify sharing information via your mobile phone or “pocket computer.” There are other features as well, which you can read about on the Google+ landing page.

Anything we can do to promote ourselves and increase our keyword density for the Google search bots is going to give us that competitive edge

Is it the right tool for business?

Now, what about using Google+ for business purposes? One of Facebook’s best features is the ability to create a Facebook Page for your business. There, you can carve out your own little corner of Facebook’s 800-million-strong universe and have a place for marketing and promotion, as well as helping customers with questions, or providing news that would interest them.

So can businesses create their own pages on Google+? “Not yet,” according to Prosser, “though our business profile product is coming in the next few months.”

Of course, you want to be ready when that happens, so we encourage you to check out Google+ as soon as you can. With Google’s 1 billion users, and its unmatched ability to slice and dice the Web’s content—wherever it resides (including on Google+)—no one who is serious about promoting or marketing a business online can afford to ignore it. Already, after just four months or so, the site has an estimated 30 to 50 million members.

“As a social media and marketing junkie, I believe that everyone should dip their toe into the Google+ pool,” says Stephanie Inge, founder of the Dallas eBaybes & eMales. “It is important to reserve your brand name, and your real name, before someone beats you to it.”

While Inge also notes that Google+ doesn’t let you create business pages yet, “it won’t be long, so why not get ready by getting all your Google+ ducks in a row? When the announcement is made, I want to be ready to roll. You know what they say about the early bird,” she adds.

So perhaps the way to look at Google+ now is to consider what you can use it for, rather than what’s missing. As Inge says, “Anything we can do to promote ourselves, our eBay Stores or our brands, and increase our keyword density for the Google search bots, is going to give us that competitive edge.”

Already, adds Locker, “It is better for conversation than Twitter and easier to manage people than Facebook.”

To answer the question posed in the title of this article, it’s too soon to tell whether Google+ will be a must or a bust for online sellers. But we’re confident saying it’s a must that you check it out for yourself.

About the author

Brad & Debra Schepp
Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book is How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Brad is also a literary agent for Waterside Productions. For further information, visit the couple's website, Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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