Google+ Pages for Your Medical Practice
Five months after the release of Google+, G+ Pages for businesses have arrived, bringing with it new challenges for marketers to figure out how to use Pages strategically as part of their medical marketing plan.
Much of the discussion about whether Google + will be successful centers on its ability to appeal to Facebook users— and whether or not it poses a significant threat to Facebook. However, assuming for a moment that the two social sites may have to coexist and that market dominance is not the end game for Google, is it worth diversifying your social media effort into a Google + Page? In most cases I think the answer will end up being yes. If your prospective clients are using social media as a forum for accessing knowledge and sharing ideas, it seems counterproductive for any business to avoid joining in on the conversation wherever it may be occurring.
If you are considering launching a Google+ Page, there are several points that need to be considered to make long-term management easier and improve the growth and success of your Pages:
Administration: At the present time, a Google+ page is attached to your regular Google+ account. Although it is promised as a future feature, additional administrators are not yet allowed on a page, so the only access will be through the primary account. This could create issues for those medical practices that outsource social media management or wish to delegate to an in-house resource while protecting the privacy of the main account. For this reason an account specific to your Google social media strategy may be a better option than attaching the page to a private account.
UPDATE: 12/19/2011, Google announced that you can now add up to 50 administrators to your Google + brand pages. This means that attaching your brand pages to your personal Google + account is now okay.
Type of Page: When you create a page you have the option of creating it in one of five categories:
- Local business or place
- Product or Brand
- Company, Institution or Organization
- Arts, Entertainment or Sports
For most medical practices, The Local Business or Place will be the best option. A Local Google+ Page shares similarity with Google Places, as it has Google Maps and contact options. Although much of the information placed into a Google Places page and a Google+ Page is similar, the engagement and interaction features of Google+ are more sophisticated.
Number of Pages: Unlike personal accounts, a business can have several Google+ Pages. This is a useful feature if you provide more than one medical specialty or have several locations and wish to target communication toward different patient groups. It is also a useful feature if your practice features specific products that should be separate from discussions on medical issues.
Link Your Page: Once you have added a Google+ Page it is important to link it to your website as well as linking your website back to the Page. Doing so will help Google determine the relationship between your domain and the new G+ Page. As there is currently no verification process in Google+ Pages, there is, in theory, nothing to stop someone else representing themselves as your medical practice. Confirming ownership through linking may be your best defense to prevent this from occurring.
There are two steps to linking your website and Google+ pages. First place a link from the main page of your website using the attribute rel=”publisher” and then place a reciprocal link from the Google+ Page to the main page of your site.
In the first 100 days of its existence Google+ achieved a user-base of 40 million people. It took Facebook more than three years to attract that many users. Facebook now has over 800 million users and many users are too heavily vested to consider moving. This means that Google+ is late to the party and faces an uphill battle to win significant market share. However, this does nothing to detract from its importance as a marketing channel for medical practices. Google+ offers something that Facebook does not: a close relationship with the largest search engine on the planet. For this reason alone, getting on board with Google+ Pages is an important strategy to implement as soon as possible.