Are Your Friends Worth $45 Billion?

Recently, USA Today had an article with the headline,”Google+ adds $45 billion to Net giant’s market value.” It made me think, why? Yes, Google is trying to take over all things online. And while $45 billion is still real money, even for the US government, it’s still about half of Facebook’s valuation. So what does all this mean to a non-business major who focuses on public relations?

Over the years, the value of my services has been tied to my personal database of media contacts. Clients and prospects have felt that because I have contacts at the New York Times or USA Today or “The Today Show,” they would get great publicity. Sometimes, not always, that is true. However, the real value of having contacts at media outlets has been about my connecting to their colleagues. And that’s where I believe Google and Facebook get their multi-billion dollar valuations: knowing you, means getting to know your contacts. Here’s how it plays out in public relations:
  • The Transfer of Trust Factor: Maybe you’ve heard public relations professionals referred to as “flacks” or “spin masters,” two very negative terms that make me ill when people describe my work that way. I knew that when I had a great working relationship with one reporter, who was my doorway into every other contact at that media outlet. Google + is all about access to whom we know who trusts us.
  • Faster Connections: I’m not talking Internet speed; I’m talking about the speed at which you can build a relationship with someone new. If it took me three months, three phone calls or three emails to build a relationship with the first contact at that outlet, it took about a third of the time to get up to speed with the reporters they introduced me to. With Google +, the trust factor that marketers and advertisers are buying into is that if you’re a fan, you can help them get more fans faster.
  • Blog “Circles”: When blog authors list other blogs they like, it tells you in short order who are the other key influencers. A client today asked me about research they needed done quickly. I did not have time to search Google or Yahoo! or to set up alerts. However, I did look at a key influencer and through their connections, I was able to give the client good advice in short order. Google + will also allow them to see how you “endorse’ friends or business contacts and makes it even easier for them to make target pitches, not just through you, but to all your connections.

The value of a blog, Facebook page, or Google + is nothing without personal connections that help marketers sell through you. When I was growing up, network marketing was big with Avon, Tupperware, and Shaklee vitamins. These companies worked hard to get their sales agents to get friends to buy their stuff and then get those friends to sell this stuff. Except then, it took months to build a network, not moments.