This is especially true as G+ is a Google product and as such social signals, such as +1, that are sent using the platform are becoming increasingly important. Add to this Google Authorship, Publishing and Author Rank and in no time at all, G+ will become one of the most powerful marketing tools out there.
How does it compare right now?
Last year, G+ overtook Twitter as one of the more popular social networks and it’s quickly catching up with Facebook, as the below illustration shows:
(Source: Jeff Bullas)
As you can see, G+ is neck and neck with YouTube, another Google product and surprisingly quite well ahead of Twitter and well above LinkedIn, with Pinterest well down the list. Whilst many complained that G+ were merely aping Facebook in the beginning, especially since they had already failed at social twice already, Google has been quietly working away to ensure that they are building a fully-fledged product with integrated aspects of its other products, such as Gmail, YouTube and Picasso.
So how can it be used for marketing?
Like any social network, G+ can be used for distributing content, connecting with others within your industry and following those that are producing useful content themselves. The difference is though that as it’s a Google product (they aren’t known as the search giants for nothing), G+ posts are indexed much faster than other social media posts. It may not seem fair, but of course Google is going to prioritise its own product, wouldn’t you?
Let’s take a closer look at how marketers can take advantage of the G+ platform.
B2B – Leads and Networking
With G+ you can add people using ‘Circles’. This means that you can separate all of your contacts so that you can share with different circles depending on which one they are in. You can create as many circles as you like with one for each set of contacts such as:
- Social Media
Of course, the circles you create will depend on the industry that you’re in and if you want to use it on a personal level you can create one for family too. This makes it a simple matter to share relevant information to targeted circles.
When you hit the share button on a website, you get the option to share with circles that you have already set up. You can select as many of these as you want, but note that if you share with circles only, then you’re sharing privately and this won’t allow the post to be seen by anyone outside of your circles. Add to this that once you’ve shared in this way, you can’t go back and change it to publically shared like you can with Facebook. To share publically, if there are no circles specified in the box, then it’s a simple matter of using the dropdown box to choose as illustrated below:
This way, you can choose to share publically and with extended circles and so on.
In a world where conference calls and collaborative communication is becoming commonplace, G+ offers Google Hangouts, a place where you can have a video chat with up to ten people at any one time. This gives you the opportunity to hold interactive webinars or Q&A sessions with industry insiders or potential clients. You can also do this to explain a new product or theory and even invite bloggers along so that they can later review what you do.
It gives a business an opportunity to speak face-to-face with others when they may not usually have the means to do so; for example, if someone is in another country. It’s also great for collaborative marketing/working if your company has more than one office around the world.
Starting a Hangout is simple – just click on the ‘Hangouts’ button to the top right of your G+ profile and invite people to take part.
G+ for business is especially useful for those that gain a lot of local trade, as it integrates Google Maps and makes your business more visible on the network, leading to more people in your area being able to find you.
As you can see, it’s a case of following the link above and then choosing the ‘get your page’ link. This then takes you to a page that allows you to choose what type of company page you would like to set up.
If you choose a local business, then you will be taken to Google Places, where you can enter your details and be added to Google Maps. You will have to wait for a verification pin to come in through the post, and this can take some time, but it will be worth it to your business if you own a local retailers or other type of local business, as your web visibility will increase.
If you choose to go for a brand, then it’s just a case of selecting which industry applies most closely to what you do.
Then it’s a case of naming the page using your brand name and adding your website. You can choose to connect to your personal profile too, so that your brand is even more visible through what you share with business circles.
Once you’ve done this, it’s then just a case of filling out information just as you would with a personal page. Choose images and colours for the background/cover image that match your other social profiles and website in order to maintain brand consistency and ensure that yours becomes more recognisable. You can assign managers to the page and use Hangouts just as you would with your personal account.
Another tool for getting yourself known on G+ is by joining Communities, which are a little like LinkedIn Groups.
When you are on your company page, you will see a link to Communities to the left of the page; simply click this and you will be able to browse Communities and join those that are relevant to your industry. This is a great way of promoting thought leadership as you (or your staff/marketing agency) can get involved with chats about the latest industry news, tactics and so on in order to show off your expertise.
Hangouts On Air
You can also use Hangouts On Air to further promote your business and as video is becoming one of the most popular marketing tools, this is highly useful and recommended. You will need a YouTube account, if you don’t already have one, and you can broadcast through G+, YouTube and your own website.
This can be an interactive broadcast in that you can market it in advance, asking your followers/clients to send in specific questions, which you can then use to answer during your live broadcast.
Alternatively, you can visit the Hangouts that are currently being broadcast and join those that interest you. It’s also possible to schedule Hangouts on Air so that you have plenty of time to prepare and drum up enough interest to make it worthwhile.
As you can see, just like any other type of sharing on G+, you can invite people using your circles, or you can invite the whole world; whatever works best for you. You can choose to go on air right at that moment or set up a specific time later. You could even set up a couple to cross time zones.
For more information on Hangouts On Air, see the official Google video below:
Personal accounts have the ability to review products and services, so cultivate a circle for doing this for your business. Look for influencers in your field and ask nicely; but only do this if you’re prepared to answer any potential issues that reviewers may pick up on.
Saying that, one of the best things about social media is that if you’re transparent and address issues sensibly, then it can lead to better PR and more respect from potential customers. This is because nobody likes companies that hide behind corporate blinds; social media has placed the power firmly in the hands of the consumer and out of those of the advertiser – get used to it and use it to your advantage. We’ve all heard about horrendous ‘social fails’ where companies refuse to address complaints online, or make a comment on Twitter that’s ill-advised. These things do happen, but how you deal with it makes all the difference.
Ignore people at your peril. This tactic can snowball quickly and completely destroy your online reputation. But if handled properly, it can be turned into a positive.
Google Plus is not to be ignored if you’re serious about getting your business noticed online. It will become more and more important in the next couple of years, so get in now whilst it’s still growing and you have a better chance at being noticed.
With all of the products that Google now owns, integration is excellent and will become more so and it’s not worth missing out on the opportunity to use it. Whilst we haven’t covered Authorship, Publisher and Author Rank in this article, it’s enough to warrant one all of its own and we don’t want to give you an overwhelming amount of information all at once.
Suffice to say, if you haven’t joined G+, then do so and now, make your company page, play with the various features and enjoy better rankings in the SERPS.