Last September I chronicled the growth of the Slingshot SEO Google+ page in which we hit critical mass around 1,000 followers resulting in an exponential growth in followers. Between the months of October 2012 and January 2013, follower growth continued to rise at a breakneck pace to where we are now boasting a community of around 6,400 followers. As a marketer, proving ROI on social media activities is always a challenge. So what’s the real value of having a Google+ page with a large following?

An Explanation of Follower Growth

The exponential growth of a social media following past a certain point suggests the effect of “social proof,” wherein a network (or piece of content) with more followers or shares tends to be more attractive to prospective followers than a network with a small following. This would explain why our Google+ page grew slowly to 1,000 followers over a 6 month period, then grew by approximately 5,000 over the following four months.

Google+ Growth

Who Cares?

Having a lot of followers is great, but at the end of the day it represents nothing more than a vanity metric. What really matters is how your network is performing from a referral traffic and conversions standpoint. Here’s a look at the numbers:

Referral Traffic (data via Google Analytics)

Between Oct 1 2012 and Jan 23 2013, Google+ is our #6 source of referral traffic:

Google Analytics Traffic Sources - Oct-Jan

Compare that to a date range of Feb 1 2012 through Sept 30 2012 (a longer date range in which the follower count was much smaller) and you’ll see that Google+ barely cracks the top 10:

Google Analytics Traffic Sources - Feb-Sept

There appears to be a correlation between the volume of referral traffic and follower growth.

Conversions (data via Hubspot)

Between Oct 1 2012 and Jan 23 2013, Google+ is our #1 converting social network, despite being #4 in traffic:

Hubspot - Oct 1-Jan 23

Interestingly, Google+ is trending at around a 6% conversion rate in just the month of January 2013:

Hubspot - Jan 1-Jan 23

Why is that? We share the same kind of content on Google+ as we do on the other social networks, with a similar posting schedule and cadence and a comparable amount of followers. Perhaps the Google+ community is more engaged? That would certainly fly in the face of frequent “Ghost Town” epithets. It’s more likely that Facebook’s EdgeRank and the sheer volume of Twitter content represents a broadcasting handicap versus Google+ that marketers can take advantage of.

How To Get There

If you want your Google+ business page to become a referral traffic powerhouse, you’ll have to invest a considerable amount of time in growing the network.

Slingshot SEO Google+ Page

1. Complete your profile

  • Fill out profile information
  • Upload a cover photo
  • Optimize your avatar
  • Assign multiple managers
  • Upload photos and videos

2. Acquire 1,000 followers

  • Post relevant content at least once a day
  • Add people to your circlesGoogle+ Community
  • Add a Google+ badge to your website

3. Apply for a verified page and set a vanity URL

4. Utilize Events and Hangouts

5. Create a Google+ Community

6. Interact with followers regularly

Conclusion

As with any social network, you’ll only get out of it what you put into it. If you find yourself spending the most time on Facebook and Twitter, consider shifting some of those minutes or hours into Google+. You might be surprised by the results!

tl;dr

Google+ is our highest converting social network. It certainly isn’t a ghost town, but it does take time to foster an active community there.

Need help getting your social media efforts off the ground? Download our Increasing Conversions with Social Media guide.

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