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Why Your Nonprofit Needs to Be On Google+ Today!

Resource Center - Foundation

A year and a half ago, Google unveiled a new social media network called “Google+”. Google+ had some cool new tools but was basically seen as an attempt to compete with Facebook. Since then, Google+ has become the fastest-growing social media platform in history. More importantly for those of us in nonprofits, Google is using Google+ posts and interactions to influence normal Google web searches.  The implications for this are huge! 

Why Should I Care?

google plus 125pWhen you hear about a new social media site, you probably have one of two reactions: either “So what? These sites come and go.” or “How in the world am I going to fit anything else into my schedule?”

You already have a full-time job without social media. Who has time for yet another social media platform?

Normally, I would agree with you. Social media platforms come and go at a dizzying pace. One of the nice things about being in a nonprofit is that we don’t have to be up to date with the latest fad. We can let businesses and other people test them out before actually engaging in them ourselves. 

But this is Google. If your nonprofit is like many nonprofits, more than 50% of the web traffic to your site comes from Google. Even people on your board will often use a search engine to find your website! So, isn’t it in your best interest to at least look into what Google is doing?

Google+ Is All About Driving Traffic to Your Website

One of the most powerful things about Google+ is the way it is being incorporated throughout Google’s other offerings. If you use Gmail, you’ve probably noticed the now-ubiquitous black bar at the top. Not only does it share your link to Google+, it even lets you interact with others on Google+ right from Gmail.

But pushing that black bar across its products—like Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and even incorporating Google+ Hangouts into YouTube—is not the only reason Google+ will be important for your nonprofit. Google is the largest search engine on the planet.

Facebook still has many more active users than Google+. But Google search has far more users than Facebook. Google is even now a verb synonymous with search. Ask someone a question he can’t answer and you’re likely to hear, “Hold on. Let me Google that for you.”

And Google is baking Google+ into its search results.

Align with the Biggest Search Engine

You want people visiting your website. Convio’s 2012 Nonprofit Benchmark Index shows that fundraising online is the fastest area of nonprofit fundraising growth. Last year, online fundraising jumped more than 15%, and it was even better for small nonprofits. Small nonprofits saw online fundraising grow at more than 26%. In addition, people’s online contributions tend to be larger when made through a nonprofit’s website than when given through Facebook. So, you want people to find your site.

Over the years, Google has been refining search. One thing it has discovered is that people are not necessarily looking for the same thing even if they type the same word or phrase into a search box. Someone searching on “axe” may want any number of things:

Information about splitting wood

Directions to a restaurant in Venice Beach

Details on men’s deodorant

Advice about buying a new guitar

To help deliver the correct results, Google infers intention from a searcher’s past search history and social profile (the profile of interactions, posts, and comments between a person and that person’s friends). Google calls this search plus your world. It’s tried working out deals with sites like Twitter and Quora. But those companies can cut off Google’s access to that information. With Google+, the difference is Google owns it. So, Google has much more complete and reliable access to Google+ than to any other site. So now, if a person you know posts something in Google+ or +1s an article, you might see it right on the first page of results.

Social Proof for Your Nonprofit

Can you see the power in this? Psychological research in human interactions, including that done by Robert Cialdini, shows that when we’re trying to make a decision we intuitively look for social proof. Whether we admit it or not, we tend to assume that the actions of others, especially of people like us, indicate correct behavior. Robert Cialdini even did an experiment with door-to-door fundraising. People were more likely to make a donation when shown a longer donor list. And they were even more likely to give if the list included people they knew.

It stands to reason. Each of us wants to see that other people like us are already doing whatever we are thinking about doing. Google+ gives you tools to super-charge social proof for your nonprofit! Just think about what landing on the first page of search results could do for your nonprofit. Could you use more support for your cause? Would you be open to new donations? Will your email list grow?

It’s Not Just Another Social Network

Search engine traffic alone is enough reason to explain why you need to include Google+ as a part of your social media mix. But it keeps rolling out tools that can help your nonprofit. Google Hangouts can be used by your leadership to answer donor questions or have team meetings. Those can even be broadcast over YouTube and recorded for later viewing or posting to your website. And Events has a direct line in to Google Calendar, giving you multiple opportunities to invite people. (All people who have a Google+ account have a Google Calendar, and as far as I know most use it.)

The nonprofit space keeps getting noisier. You need all the help it can get to be heard! Google+ significantly helps.

Marc A. Pitman is the author of “Ask Without Fear!” and Google+ for Nonprofits. The founder of, Marc’s expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences around the world and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News.  And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family!

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