What is your Google + circle strategy?

Over the last month there have been a flood of opinions and articles about Google +.

Mike Troaino reported early on that its Google + vs. Twitter, not Facebook, Jeremiah Owyang later agreed and provided 5 Ways Google + Can become Mainstream, only to be outdone by 6 Ways Google + is Winning and Losing. Then, only a month after launch we learn that Google + hit 25 million visitors, at which point we acknowledge having Social Media Fatigue or maybe just Circle Fatigue.

The core differentiator and value proposition of Google + is circles. The idea is that I don’t want to talk or listen to everyone in my social network at once, just specific circles of individuals at a time.

It sounds easy right, make some circles put the right people in the right circles and you are ready for “real life sharing.” Not so fast.

If you have ever participated or better yet led the Information Architecture (IA) phase of a website redesign project, you will understand that defining what content goes where today is difficult. Planning for tomorrow, requires professionals. Taking from those experiences, here are a few ways to think about circles:

  • add new circles as new things come along does not require any planning but will eventually result in dozens of redundant and overlapping circles. Google already responded to this problem by adding a new feature.
  • create a circle for each of the groups in you life is easy to align to the real world today; work, friends, family, etc., but managing the overlap of the individuals within these groups will be difficult going forward.
  • create a circle for each type of content you want to share is a better approach because it is less important that I play soccer with a group, than it is that I want to share “personal” content with some individuals and “soccer” content with others.
  • limit Google + to a specific group or content type is the most common approach I have heard, probably because we have all been trained by bad Facebook experiences. It will keep things tidy, but using Google + for just a specific group or content misses the point.

There is no question that leading with circles is a big idea, but only time will tell if Google + is a revolutionary platform or just another social network.

How are you managing your Google + circles? Share your tips above.

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If you get brand jacked don’t call the police, invite them in for dinner.

Twitter will be experimenting with a beta preview of what they’re calling Verified Accounts this summer. The experiment will begin with public officials, public agencies, famous artists, athletes, and other “well known” individuals at risk of impersonation. While this is a positive (albeit small) step to help improve the lack of identity confirmation on the web, marketers shouldn’t wait for the police to show up before taking action.

With Facebook and Twitter adoption continuing to pick up steam, even cautious marketers are starting to take notice. A common recommendation for these lagging marketers is to 1) monitor ongoing conversations to understand what is being said about your brand or industry and 2) register your brand to avoid being brand jacked and shut down existing jackers.

For the prior there are several free tools like, search.twitter.com, blogsearch.google.com and technorati.com, that are easy to use and a good place to start. For the latter I would recommend the martial art of Aikido, whose techniques blend with and leverage oncoming energy instead of trying to stop it.

If you find a brand advocate, give them the tools and access to spread the word and recruit other advocates. Like the ability to post on your corporate blog, access to figures and facts or insider previews to new products and strategies. If you find a brand hater engage them in a public discussion, focus on creating clarity not winning, or ask for their recommendations to improve your products and strategies.

The value of social technologies is the ability to have authentic, and transparent conversations with customers and prospects, whether they are positive or negative. If someone is passionate enough about you and your brand to start the dialogue then 1) they are probably not the only ones and 2) the conversation will happen with or without you… so you better invite them in.

Does it take Twitter to provide good customer service?

Growing at 1000% with about 10million users and lots of mainstream buzz makes Twitter an attractive platform. However, the real business benefits of Twitter are also clear, immediate conversations with users who choose to follow you.

Many organizations have found success using Twitter for customer support functions. For example, Comcast set up an account called “ComcastCares” that’s dedicated to answering Comcast support questions it detects from monitoring Twitter and Bank of America is answering online banking questions from its customers on Twitter.

While some marketers have found success on Twitter by answering customer questions real-time, they key takeaway is that customer want more immediate and responsive support. So what about the majority of your customers who don’t tweet?

Instead of Twitter companies need to focus on how they can address changing consumer needs and expectations. Two key reasons for this: the micro-blogging fad may fade as quickly as it came and by focusing on consumer needs instead of the latest trends marketers can leverage a variety of channels and technologies to help customers accomplish their goals.

Offering interactive chat on the corporate website, developing a mobile site or application or providing shorter response times for email support are other ways to help keep your customers happy. These existing channels serve a broader audience, provide better analytics and tracking, and allow marketers to better deliver the message and potentially cross-sell.

So, in addition to experimenting authentically with emerging channels, marketers must focus on the customer needs and push these learning’s across marketing channels and consumer touch points.