Why the Best Brands Are Still Investing in Google+

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You might think that it's okay to ignore Google+, thinking it's a ghost town no one actually uses, instead focusing on Facebook and Twitter. But it turns out you would be making a huge mistake. A Forrester Research analyst says marketers are crazy to ignore Google+. They ran a survey in which they "asked more than 60,000 US online adults which social sites they used - and 22% told [them] they visited Google Plus each month." In addition, "Brands' Google Plus posts generated nearly as much engagement per follower as their Facebook posts - and almost twice as much engagement per follower as their Twitter posts."

But it doesn't stop there. Google+ actually has 540 million active users. That's more than twice as many as Twitter which only has 259 million and has been around for five more years.

Plus, since it's easy to target accounts on Google+ (posts can be sent publicly, to a circle, or to an individual) the quality of engagement is amazing. As per The Next Web, "Google+ users spend more than three minutes diving into links shared by their circles, view 2.45 pages during each visit, and bounce only 50.63 percent of the time."

And if that weren't enough, just by using Google+, marketers can help push their content into Google's top search results. Pretty much a no brainer, right?

Here's a look at the current Top 10 brands on Google+ to find out what they're doing to get-and keep-followers.

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1. Android

It's not much of a surprise that the Android community - "a place for Android fans everywhere to meet, share, and get the latest on all things Android" - is the most popular Google+ page. After all, Android is a Google product. The posts include a mix of product launch announcements, tips and tricks, as well as contests to keep users engaged.

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2. H&M

H&M's Google+ page encourages followers to "ask questions, share fashion tips, and meet fans from all over the world." It is moderated daily, so that questions are answered in a timely fashion and also hosts contests, provides style tips, and has a great mix of styled photos and polyvores.

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3. Burberry

Burberry's page includes a mix of "latest additions," campaign photos and videos, and classic Burberry pieces, but what we love most is that that every Monday, Christopher Bailey, Burberry's Chief Creative Officer shares a video of whatever he's listening to for #MusicMonday. It's a great mix of promotional and personal.

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4. Toyota

Thanks to a partnership with Google in which Toyota's Google+ posts appeared as ads outside of their Google+ page, Toyota has over 3.3 million followers. Their +Post Ads contained interactive posts that people could leave a comment on, ask a question, +1, or converse with other users who engaged with the ad. All without ever leaving the website where the ad appeared.

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5. Cadbury

Cadbury was also one of the first brands to try Google+ Post Ads and their success with the program shows just how important it is for brands to be active and engaging. Their page is full of fun photos and videos that remind us a little of what Oreo does on Instagram and Vine, but with a delicious British twist.

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6. Google Maps

Again, like Android, it feels a bit like cheating that Google Maps is in the Top 10, but since it's part of Google, the page is always kept to up-to-date with the latest product news, learn tips & tricks, and info about members of the team. What makes it interesting though are the posts that show far off places and travel destinations.

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7. Nissan

Nissan has our favorite Google+ banner simply because they chose to animate it. It's simple, sure, just a Nissan car changing colors, but it's eye-catching and that matters. That's not the reason they have so many followers though. Rather, Nissan's VP of Marketing Jon Brancheau says in an interview with CMO.com that, "In 2011, we became a true believer in social media and assigned a director to the task of establishing Nissan as a leader in the space within our industry and beyond." He points out that though they want to post information about the other things they're doing, like charity work, but people really just want information about cars and so that's what they post. The other thing we love that he recognizes is that with social, it's not always about ROI. "Our response to this question is always, when it comes to social, don't focus too much on ROI. Instead, ask, "What's the COI--the cost of ignoring-this fast-moving channel?"

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8. Ford Motor Company

When Google+ announced its trial phase in 2011, Ford didn't wait around for an invite. Instead, they set up their own hacked brand page and started doing hangouts with customers. Their aggressive and enthusiastic approach to social media is what keeps them in the Top 10.

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9. Volkswagen USA

The automotive industry far and away leads brand engagement on Google+. But Volkswagen also has a quirky and lovable side that a lot of auto brands don't. That also happens to be why their Google+ posts are so successful. They know who they are and why people like them and they don't stray too far from that equation.

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10. Travel Republic

Travel Republic is a UK "Award winning online travel agent, giving you the best deals on hotels and flights." Google+ has become by far its most popular social media channel. They got a bit of luck in that Google promoted their posts on the "What's Hot" page, but they kept the followers by altering the type of content they share. Their marketing executive said Google+ "showed us that by including unique content and sharing interesting images and news means you get much more exposure. Now a lot more thought and care is put into the type of posts we do, making sure that it's fresh and interesting and stands out from other travel pages."