I’m going to try to convince you that your Small Business not only should be on it, but needs to be on Google+.
Google+ gets approximately 1.2 billion visitors each month! Yes, that is slightly skewed because they count when someone signs in to other Google services like online email and not just the social network. But the point is it’s huge!
Everyone who has a Gmail address is automatically signed up for Google+ so the numbers of members is also exaggerated. But with 728 million accounts in comparison to Facebook’s 957 million(which also has it’s share of inactive accounts) it’s not trailing too far behind.
I know its more stats and numbers and technical mumbo jumbo but stay with me, I want to try to explain that you SHOULD be doing Google+ as part of your small business online marketing strategy.
We’ll also leave aside the difference between using a Page and Personal profile for another post, this will strictly be the benefits of the network as a whole.
Let’s start with why I like Google+:
In my opinion is has a combination of features that lie somewhere between Twitter and Facebook. It kind of straddles the fence between broadcast/discovery and friend network. You can follow or add anyone you want to get updates from them without them adding you back; which makes it great for discovery and networking.
You can categorize who you follow in any way you want in your “Circles”. Which can keep your ‘feed’ uncluttered as you switch between looking at Friends and Businesses for example. You also have the ability to direct your post towards an individual, 1 or more circles, or public(which makes it act more like Twitter). This also helps keep it uncluttered because you’re not posting as many cute cat pictures to the businesses who follow you!
Google+ features broken down and explained:
- Profile: It is very similar to networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. You can add a picture, background image, personal information including location, employers, education, hobbies, and website links. Google is also pretty sticky on the profile image in personal profiles. They want to actually see a picture of your face. It helps keep the network usable, and more importantly shares your identity in Google Authorship(I’ll explain a little further down).
- Circles: This is how you organize who you follow or add from your account. It’s completely customizable so you can do the suggested “following” of business pages, and “adding” friends, or you can “add” business pages as well which does essentially the same thing. When you add someone to a circle they receive a notification letting them know, and then they have the option to add you back. If they do then you get extra benefits like being able to email to their personal email through the account. You also have the ability to add people to more than one circle if you have a “Friend” that is also a “Business Owner” for example. This flexibility of categories is what Google promotes as it’s differentiator between it and other networks.
- Communities: This is one of the best features for exposure and networking. Finding groups that you add value to(not just post links and try to sell) can increase your following very quickly. You can “Join” any community you like, but only up to a maximum of 50. Which, if you’re actually spending time engaging, is plenty enough. Starting your own community is a click away, however, promoting it and keeping it monitored to stay spam free is a task on it’s own. So for beginners I suggest joining established communities. Try to look for ones with real discussions going on with engaged members.
- Hangouts: This is real time connection with others in your network. There are text hangouts as well as private video(great for business meetings), and public video(can be used for free webinars or any sort of interactive video chat with a streaming audience)
- Photos: Google+ has a very visual timeline. The posts take up a significant amount of space and is very conducive to images. If you’ve ever heard of Pinterest, you know that images are powerful. The Pinterest stream is almost exclusively images with small captions. It is one of the fastest growing networks, and part of the reason is how impactful good images can be in portraying a message. While Pinterest is good for certain applications, it lacks the other features of a network like Google+.
- No Ads: As of yet Google does not have any paid services like promoted posts in their network. This is keeping the feed again more clean than some of the other networks with paid services. However it means you will have to be more genuine and creative with your promotion and engagement. Flip side to this is Google+ doesn’t hide your posts from some of your followers like Facebook does and then charge you to show it to the rest. So that’s easily a benefit.
- Authorship: This is easily one of the best features of Google+. Let’s think about it logically here. If your customers/audience is looking for information on a search engine theres a 67% chance they’re using Google. How are you going to get in front of them. Hopefully you’re using a blog or something on your website, and you want them to find your search result and click on it to find your content. What Authorship does is connect your website content with your Google+ profile, so if your web article comes up in the search results, it shows your Google+ picture, name and information alongside the link to your content. This is POWERFUL. Stats show that click through rates can increase up to 35% with those search results with a quality photo linked from the Google+ profile. The key here is linking your website to your Google+ so when search results show up you have a nice photo next to your link which entices people to click.
So how long is it going to be until you sign up for Google+? Everyone knows it’s important to be found on Google search engines, so why not help it along by being everywhere on Google and helping out the search algorithms. But that aside, it’s just another great social network for building followers, fans, audience, and customers.
Joel M. Harrison