Google Plus' Staying Power
Insurance Experts' Forum, December 9, 2011
Possibly the last thing we all need is another social network to manage. So, the first question is: Can't we ignore Google Plus, at least for now? Well, in the very short time Google Plus has made brand pages available, 46 insurers and thousands of agencies have already opened accounts and are attracting audiences. Allstate, Flo (Progressive), Aflac and AGLA have all come out swinging. Does that mean they see something exciting about the new social network?
In general, no, the reason is in the name. Google Plus is “an extension of Google itself.” Even the iconic Google navigation bar was changed to highlight the platform.
While their search algorithms have been best for a long time, the addition of social helps them better “understand” what visitors are really looking for. Google is seeking to unite recommendations and search. For an industry that lives on recommendations, this is important.
The Google "+1" button is already on more than a million websites and will soon be everywhere. It is the fastest growing social recommendation widget and receives 5 billion impressions a day. Most importantly, the +1 allows Google to track who is recommending and interacting with your brand.
It is widely believed that content receiving +1's will appear higher in organic searches. Additionally, if a user is logged-in to Google Plus, Google will consider the +1's of both the user and their connections to decide on search results. Google is assigning weight to social recommendations as a metric of content quality and relevance, making search results more personalized. When offered two equal options where one is recommended by a trusted friend, who’s going to choose the other?
The integration with search is critical to insurers. For many, social media is a sideshow but when it starts to effect search results, now that’s important.
Clearly, there are nice features in Google Plus. Circles allows insurers to separate audiences into customers, agents, employees etc. and post much more relevant content. Hangouts look cool and may even play a role connecting with an agent or customer service but these are “nice to haves”.
Consumers that choose to research insurance options online, and we now know that this is the majority, could feel the effect of Google Plus even if they never join. In which case, insurers need to pay attention.
Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group, has covered technology issues and innovations in the insurance industry for many years.
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