Google+: The Resurrection

Somewhat surprising news emerged recently in the social media world. According to Global Web Index, Google+ has surpassed Twitter to become the second largest social network in the world.

Here’s how the numbers break out: Facebook still holds the top spot with 693 million active users, Google+ has 343 million actives and Twitter comes in at 288 million.

Google+ has had quite a journey over its short history. It started with a bang and millions joined in droves. Then, it went through a period of diminished use and got labeled a “ghost town.” But the site has been steadily gaining interest and traction to get to where it is today.

I’ve always liked Google+. Some have unfairly overly compared it to Facebook, and although it does have some  similarities, it’s a very different site with differing strengths and appeal. G+ users aren’t subjected to advertising. It also offers a cleaner and simpler user experience, not to mention that it’s a great site to connect and engage on a deeper level with others that have similar interests.

A couple recent innovations that I think have helped G+ dramatically include the introduction of Communities and allowing brand pages to more easily connect with consumers. Both moves allow finding and connecting with others to be a much easier and enjoyable exercise.

It’s great to see where G+ has landed. Of course, with the competitiveness of social networks, things can change in a matter of months.

Converged Media Imperative

Converged media has been a hot topic the last two years and is picking up speed in 2013. This concept represents a blurring of the lines between the three types of media: paid, earned and owned.

I don’t think there are many who would disagree that this is happening and will continue. But another important issue is: What type of marketing professional will flourish in this environment and bring added value to his or her brand?

A word that comes to mind to describe this professional is: diverse. Fluency only in a single area, be it advertising, public relations, social media, branding or others is career and brand limiting. The value add comes from multi-disciplinary professionals who understand all of the converging types of media at the strategic and tactical levels and can fit them into a bigger, more seamless picture.

The disciplinary silos must come down. They should be replaced collaborative, cross-functional teams that can work together across the media spectrum.

All of this doesn’t mean specialization has no place. It simply means marketers must adapt and grow in their understanding of media, and work together more effectively. Converged media demands it.

We Have Seen the Brand, and It is Not Our Enemy

The explosion of social media hasn’t been good for branding. Somewhere along the way, branding seems to have developed a bad name (although still not as bad as public relations).

I saw a comment the other day on a social media platform to the effect that the concept of branding was outdated because “we’re all connected now.” It’s not an isolated comment these days, but rather it represents what many have stated over the past few years in one form or another. The underlying belief behind this is that any attempt by a company to develop and promote its brand is inherently based on lies. That there is some type of spin being created to trick consumers and lure them into believing something false.

This type of thinking shows really a lack of understanding about what branding is all about. That’s why I like this post about the Zappos brand because it tells the story of what a brand really is: an extension of the culture (people) that work there.

Branding is about taking what is true about the company and presenting that to consumers, not making things up. Ideally the true culture and values of the company add up to a distinct value proposition in the minds of consumers.

Because consumers can talk to each other now via social media doesn’t invalidate brand development and communication efforts. Indeed, it only make these efforts more important. Companies sometimes fail, because they’re filled with people that can make mistakes. That doesn’t mean the great lie of branding has been exposed.