Technology Solutions

Hang Out with Google+

Google+ received a lot of fanfare when it launched more than two years ago. Since then, however, Google’s social networking site hasn’t gotten nearly as much respect or ink as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or even Pinterest. And, understandably, many commercial real estate practitioners have been cautious about the role of social media in their marketing and business development efforts, particularly when considering less popular sites such as Google+. But to ignore or dismiss Google+ as part of your social media strategy is foolhardy.

While it might not be as pervasive as Facebook, Google+ is growing rapidly. The number of active users on Google+ jumped by 33 percent from 2012 to 2013, and there’s little evidence that that trend will slow down. In May 2013, Web analytics firm GlobalWebIndex released data showing that Google+ had 359 million active users, making it the second-largest social network, behind Facebook.

Given Google+’s upward trajectory and its backing by Google — which can’t be overlooked — the social media platform can be an important marketing and business development tool for commercial real estate professionals. Of course, there are many ways a company or solo practitioner can leverage Google+. But the following three reasons justify giving the platform a closer look.

SEO

Search engine optimization alone makes Google+ an important tool. Google’s search engine ranks Google+ content high and often returns Google+ posts in traditional search results. Delivering consistent and useful content should help improve your position in Google search results.

Take, for example, two multifamily projects located in highly competitive markets in Virginia. The management company created Google+ accounts for both properties and linked the accounts to the company’s traditional websites. Then the management company began providing consistent and relevant content via Google+, including event announcements, property photos, and resident profiles. Within a month, searches for keywords such as apartment, senior living, and all-inclusive community returned not only the management company’s traditional sites but also two Google+ posts on the first page of search results. Simply put, your business is much more likely to be found on the world’s top search engine if it has a Google+ presence.

Building Online Communities

Unlike many social media platforms, Google+ was designed for both business-to-consumer and business-to-business networking. Google+ allows you to join or create a variety of communities for those with common interests. A hybrid of Facebook groups and LinkedIn discussion groups, Google+ communities can be used to engage with others, build brand awareness, and showcase your expertise.

For example, the Llenrock Group, a real estate advisory and investment banking firm, created the Commercial Real Estate Finance community on Google+. This group encourages discussion and networking among professionals in the commercial real estate finance sector. Llenrock Group’s participation in the community, which has more than 100 members, positions the company as a leader in the industry.

Using communities and discussions for information mining also can be helpful when compiling business development research. There are a number of existing communities related to the commercial real estate market and investing on Google+.

Hangouts

One of the coolest Google+ features, Hangouts offers great marketing and collaboration options via video chat. Hangouts can support video calls with up to 10 people, and the calls can be broadcast to a much larger audience with Google+ Hangouts on Air. Videos can also be saved to your YouTube account for further use. In addition, you can create a platform in which to discuss the commercial real estate market or host meetings with employees or colleagues.

Many companies use Hangouts to offer free webinars to current and potential clients. These webinars can highlight your services and expertise while creating content that can be posted on Google+, your website, and YouTube, which happens to be the second most popular search engine. The Hangouts feature truly differentiates Google+ from other social media platforms and underscores how the platform can be used creatively for internal collaboration and external marketing efforts.

Despite these features, many companies are still overlooking Google+. And that’s another great reason to use it. By taking advantage of this opening in your market, you can help to differentiate yourself, like the management company with two Virginia multifamily properties. It was the first in those markets to link Google+ to its property websites, and it’s noticed a significant increase in leads originating from online searches. By standing apart online, it’s been able to get more potential tenants in the door.

Mike C. Gray and Andrew K. Ryan are co-founders and partners with Commonwealth Partnerships, a marketing and consulting firm specializing in the real estate industry. Contact them at mgray@cpgroupllc.com and akryan@cpgroupllc.com.

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