uk’s foreign & commonwealth office: a google plus success

Google Plus is a social media platform that surprises. It has survived predictions of demise to grow to  100m active users. But how can it be used as a comms channel? Look at the UK’s Foreign Office which has more than 130,000 users.

by Shane Dillon

When Google Plus was launched in July 2011 the FCO’s Digital Team began tracking this new social network. Some members of the team eagerly adopted Google Plus and reported back. This was a time when people, not organizations and brands, could have a presence and Google Plus pages were not an option.

Over the past year the perception of Google Plus has taken many turns, both negative and positive with some questioning whether it would survive. However one year on Google Plus has not only survived it is on the up. The latest stats show the network in just one year has 400 million users of which 100 million are ‘active’.  

When Google Plus launched organisation pages like many others the FCO set up a page and began distributing content on its new Google Plus page. This has paid off, the Google Plus page has 133,374 people from around the world have added the FCO to their Circles. 

How can this success be explained? Well early adoption and posting content regularly has its reward the FCO Google Plus page is on Google’s Suggested User List (SUL) no doubt about it this boosts our figures. More importantly the FCO make its Google Plus presence known to others by putting G+ on the front page of its website. Having the page verified by Google was a winner that led to a significant spike in the numbers of people adding FCO to their Circles but this has since slowed down.  

Google are rolling out vanity urls for pages and the FCO Digital Team was far from shy getting Google to let us have a vanity url www.google.com/+foreignoffice Both these actions signal to the community on Google Plus that the page is one they can trust. Google Plus is one way to keep up to date with all things FCO, the digital team post great content from the FCO website and blogs on a regular basis.

Make no mistake both Facebook and Twitter of which the FCO has a considerable and successful presence are the focus of our efforts to engage digitally. But this should not blind us to other social networks like Google Plus and Pinterest. An ambitious digital team should always be experimenting on other platforms. The question is how much resources you put into managing your presence on social networks beyond the big two that are Facebook and Twitter. The mantra ‘go were your audience are’ makes sense and the FCO’s audience by the very nature of its work is international as is Google Plus.

Hootsuite makes it efficient and easy to post content to your Google Plus page. In common with other social networks content posted to the FCO page can be plus oned (liked) and comments can be added. At the very least posting content on Google Plus opens up the possibility that your content will be more visible on Google Search. If you search Foreign Office on Google our page shows up in an FCO Google search alongside the search results.    

Aside from the FCO flagship Google Plus page we have dipped further into Google Plus with a Farsi page and one to promote our Chevening Scholarships. Having firmly established the FCO on Google Plus  we can start thinking about how it can engage more with its audience. An obvious route will be to explore what is Google Plus’s killer application; Hangouts which we’ll be using for upcoming events

Shane Dillon works in the FCO crisis management department.

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