Yet the average visitor spends less than 7 minutes per month on the site. While it is clearly a social network growing in both power and influence, it has been suggested that it is also struggling to attract the large consumer brands that would otherwise ensure more regular and sustained interaction with its audience.

Love it or hate it, we shouldn’t underestimate the capacity of this platform. The key to Google Plus is its integration with other Google products – including Search, Gmail, Calendar and Drive – to create a social platform providing a seamless internet experience. Although brands understand its marketing potential, their target audiences remain more active on established networks such as Facebook and Twitter, which limits the amount of time and effort that businesses are willing to invest in Google Plus.

What is likely to become the game changer is Google’s idea of authorship, whereby the authority of its users and their relationships with one another is used to create a trust-based network. Search results are reprioritised according to the content shared the most, giving savvy marketers the opportunity to directly personalise the search results of people in their extended network, and use this to influence consumers directly.

By creating valuable and shareable content in this way, and then linking this to other relevant material, companies have the opportunity to grow their brand influence and promote thought leadership. And as social signals (likes, shares, mentions and follows) become more influential within Google’s complex search algorithm, it’s the companies that are investing time on the network now that will reap the benefits in the future.

Google’s toolset is particularly relevant for global news agencies. Its videoconferencing tool, Hangouts on Air, allows up to 10 people to join a single conversation. Broadcasts can be streamed live and then stored on YouTube, and this technology has been used by high-profile institutions such as the White House. This interactivity allows content producers to alter their relationship with consumers, and could have a significant impact on the future of journalism.

As such, Google Plus should be viewed as more than just a social network and it’s those companies willing to invest the time laying the groundwork that stand to win as part of a long-term strategy for brand promotion and content marketing.

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