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Social media marketing is still critically important to a thriving online presence. Many businesses and entrepreneurs experience fatigue over the number of networks that are available en masse. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest… and more recently, and critically, Google+. Creating content, managing engagement, and taking all the other necessary steps to get things done is exhausting, even for a business that picks and chooses its networks. Still, when Google rolled out Google+, it was clearly time to pay attention.
On a first look, many people feel that engaging with other social networks is much more intuitive than approaching Google+ for the first time. They’ve been around awhile. There’s plenty of guides and good role models for how to handle Facebook and Twitter like a pro. Ignoring Google+ isn’t an option, though. From gaining exposure for your business and content to improving your search engine rankings, an active Google+ account is a must. Here’s how to breathe some life into your Google+ account if you feel like it’s withering away or if you haven’t been brave enough to start one yet.
Why Google+ Matters
Google+ matters for a variety of reasons, but the fact that it’s the social network of parent company Google is by far the most important. As social media usage scaled and the SEO community began to talk about how social signals could impact SEO rankings, there was some dissention about how this would happen. The answer turned out to be infinitely simpler than navigating a bunch of political relationships to prioritize Facebook or Twitter. Google simply released their own social network, Google+.
The initial rollout was a bit flat, but it quickly gained momentum. It might surprise you to learn that Google+ is rapidly growing and outpacing other networks that are seen as being far more active. I can’t put it better than Social Media Examiner. “According to GlobalWebIndex, Google+ now has 359 million active users, which puts it ahead of Twitter’s 200 million active users.” Suddenly, the case for Google+ just got infinitely more compelling. Not only is the reach significant, but it has a direct relationship to how your site and overall presence performs on the web.
The Essential Steps to Gaining Influence with Google+
One of the factors that presents itself repeatedly in conversations with clients and other business owners is a desire to get on Google+; but feeling that it’s a challenge. The good news is that it’s really not that difficult, once you know where to jump in. These are my core recommendations for getting the most out of your Google+ profile. This specific set of recommendations prioritizes a focus on steps that are easy to implement and likely to yield positive results.
1. Set up a business page and use that as your Google+ home base
Depending on the nature of your business, deciding whether you want to use a personal or professional page can be a difficult decision. With Google+, I always recommend building your brand or business page.
Once you have a business page that’s active, make sure that you’re using Google+ as your business for all your interactions. Doing so is easy. Simply click the arrow next to the picture in the upper right corner of the screen, and then select your business page. This will ensure that your status updates, comments, and the items that you “plus one” show up as your business.
On your business profile, invest time in doing a great job with both your visual identity and your content. The cover photos are huge, and lack most of the restrictions that you find on Facebook. The dimensions are 2120 pixels wide by 1192 pixels high, so get creative and showcase what’s most important to your brand. Consolidate your visual identity across channels, and help build your brand recognition by always using your Google+ business account for any commercial interactions.
2. Make the most of Google Hangout
One of the really unique features of Google+ is Google Hangout. It’s essentially a video chat and streaming application within Google+ that allows you to share the screen with up to 10 participants at a time. You can also stream the video in real-time to an audience of any side, making it a great, free platform to create a webinar-like experience. Since video is an effective way to engage with your customer base, this can encourage people to spend the time to connect with you on Google+. Here are some creative ways to think about using it for your business:
- Sponsoring a Q&A with customers to discuss questions, problems, or general thoughts that they have related to your business, products, or industry.
- Conduct a webinar-style discussion on a particular topic, and then use the Hangout features to allow people to do a live Q&A on screen for a few minutes at the end.
- Get together experts on a particular topic and host a “fireside chat” or panel on a topic of interest to your audience.
- Use it as a venue for a live product launch, book party, or other big announcement. Lewis Howes and Ramit Sethi have both done this to compelling effect.
- Have someone in your office manning the Hangout all the time or during “office hours,” and treat it like an on-demand customer service environment or portal.
- Sponsor real-time training and demos for your audience.
- Combine a Google Hangout with a Twitter Chat for an integrated experience that really encourages participation.
- Use it as a forum for concerts, talent shows, or customer-driven chats.
- Face-to-face meetings with clients, where you can whiteboard, share documents, and more. (These are better as private Hangouts!).
- Set up a coffee klatch where you introduce people in your network to each other, when it’s clear that they should start a conversation.
3. Use Circles to Segment Your Marketing
Most marketers are committed to the idea that segmenting your marketing materials into the specific content streams that relate most to your customers are going to get a response. You want to target early leads with a certain kind of message, while you hit your dedicated customers with a different batch of content. Email marketing and landing pages make that easy to do. But historically, it’s been a huge challenge in social media.
Google+ organizes people into “circles.” When you add someone into one your circles, you control what it is that they see. Your classifications might be simple, like family, friends, and colleagues if you’re using the network for personal reasons. But when you apply this same theory to your professional circles, it quickly becomes easy to see why this could be extremely useful. How would you target different messages to following groups, for example, about the same subject:
- Board of directors
- Members of the Press
- VIP Customers
- First time buyers
- Hot leads
- Members of your email marketing list
And so forth. It’s easy to see: when you take advantage of segmenting your audience on Google+, it’s a lot easier to control your messaging and who sees what content that you push out. Take the time to segment out your users, and think about your Google+ content strategy in terms of effectively reaching those different groups. I predict that other major social media networks are going to be tracking in this direction in their development.
4. Take the lead and create a community
One of the most valuable features of other social networks, such as LinkedIn, are the communities that form around specific issues. Google+ offers a community feature. A number of them exist, which you can search for by keyword or by group name. Being active in communities in your space in a constructive, value-added format is a good way to expand your Google+ universe. You’re likely to meet new contacts, and get your content in front of a much broader audience.
If you don’t find an existing community that you want to join or you’re hoping to create a specific experience for your customers or colleagues, consider starting your own community. Google+ has great administrator tools: strong spam prevention, the ability to ban users, and robust privacy settings. If you’re looking for a venue to create a private group for your team, clients, or another community, consider doing it here. Many companies are even using Google+ as part of their CRM system (more about CRM in this article).
5. Own your Google+ local real estate
If you’re a brick and mortar business or you target a specific geographic audience, Google+ is a vital tool for ensuring online visibility in search engines. Google’s Local pages went away and were replaced by Google+ Local. If people are leaving you reviews via Google, it’s happening on your Google+ page, even if you haven’t claimed it yet.
If a Google+ user searches for your business, they’ll later receive a prompt to review it. It also impacts your local search results. Google+ reviews, photos, and other details are now showing up in the SERPS. Google’s mobile Google+ Local app is another venue that has made this an increasingly relevant point. When you establish your Google+ page, ensure that you’ve fully filled out all of your contact information, including location details and that you check the page periodically for new features and content.
6. Claim your Google+ profile for authorship
You’ve no doubt heard about Google’s authorship program by now. The concept is simple: you use a simple tag to attach the content that you write to your Google+ profile. Any content can be connected, as long as you’ve listed the site on your profile and included the rel=author tag in your copy. Here’s my full tutorial on how to do that.
Google authorship is important in several ways. First, your picture appears next to your content in the search results. Studies have shown that this increases clickthroughs and gets you more readers, traffic, and potentially sales. Another benefit is a longer term one: as the focus on brands increases, branded author content will get increased weight in the search engine results. Google authorship will be a key input into that equation.
Google+ is a powerful platform, and its potential impact on your business is far-reaching. To make the most of the opportunities it presents for your business, establish a profile and start using it to actively engage with your customers and prospects. As your community and grasp of the medium grows, experiment with the more creative features of the platform such as Google Hangouts. With an open mind, Google+ will help you improve your search rankings and build your business in an organic way. For more information on using Google+ in your online marketing initiative, see my article titled “How to Integrate Google+ Into Your Online Marketing Initiative.”
Are you using Google+ for business? Let me know about your favorite features in the comments below.