Is Google Plus a Plus For your Business?

by Helen Bradley

Helen Bradley explains what Google Plus could mean to your business and how to get started with the social media site.

Just when you've got a handle on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn along comes Google Plus as yet another social media tool demanding your attention. If you think you don't need yet another social media platform you may be right, but there are plenty of reasons to give Google Plus a look.

Google Plus has a raft of features that you won't find in other social networking sites, and it's growing fast. In this column, I'll explain what Google Plus can offer you and your business brand and how to get started.

What Sets Google Plus Apart

Google Plus has strong ties back to Google Search, and that alone makes it a must-consider application for business. Factor in that the audience differs from the one you find on Facebook, and you may discover that Google Plus is a compelling social media choice for you.

Facebook is all about personal relationships and people that you know from school, college, clubs and work. While Facebook Pages lets you bring your business to Facebook, it takes a lot of hard work hard to be found there, and your audience tends to be very small at the start until you build your Likes. Worse still, the Facebook Edge Rank Algorithm shows only some updates to certain users, which means that your updates won’t be seen by all your followers.

At Google Plus, you're more visible, easier to find, and you can make your posts public, which means they can be found by a much wider audience. A post on Google Plus has a potentially much longer lifespan and a larger potential audience than the equivalent post made on Facebook.

Google Plus social media network

Figure 1: Once you have a presence on Google Plus, you can add a Page for your business that can be managed buy multiple users.

On Google Plus, you can post much larger images than you can with Facebook -- the images appear in your stream at 500 x 275 pixels. So you can, and indeed should, illustrate your posts with rich imagery to attract viewers to read what you have to say.

People can opt to follow you on Google Plus, and they don't have to ask your permission. There is also no expectation of reciprocity; people will follow you or your business without necessarily expecting a follow back. Since people can follow anyone they want, they tend to follow people who post things of value to them.

You can harness the power of this feature by following people who say things of value to your followers, and then share these posts with your followers. This is one way that you can provide your audience with valuable content without having to produce it all yourself.

Unlike Twitter and Facebook -- where posts from everyone you follow or have friended appear in your stream making it difficult if not impossible to organize people into lists -- Google Plus is all about lists. Google Plus calls its lists Circles, and you can organize people you follow into Circles and then view just the posts from those circles.

You can adjust the volume on your Circles to see all the posts from a circle or just a few of them. You can also limit your posts to particular Circles. For example, you can create posts of interest to a Circle of your family and friends, and then create separate posts that are aimed at a Circle of your customers. You can also make posts public so that anyone can see them.

Like Twitter, Google supports hash tags so you can add tags to make your posts even easier to find by people searching for that type of information. Google Plus also keeps track of what people say about you, shows who follows you and it delivers this information via Notifications so that you can easily catch up on the latest action.

Getting Started with Google Plus

Get started with Google Plus by visiting plus.google.com, and sign in using your Gmail address or another email address. You need to create a personal profile page, which can be full of rich detail, so include links to your business, your business URL, your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts and everything else.

When someone considers following you, this is the detail they'll see so it is vital that you provide it to establish your bona fides. You can add images to your profile -- you get space for one profile picture and either a larger photo or five smaller photos. It's important to showcase your brand by making use of this feature.

Google Plus social media network

Figure 2: Circles in Google Plus let you organize and categorize the people you follow and want to share information with.

Once you have a personal profile, you can add a business page by clicking Pages on your home screen and add a page. You can add other owners and managers to your page to give them access for posting and working on the site. Unlike personal pages, posts on business pages will be sent only to those people who actually follow that business page.

Tips for Using Google Plus

When you start out, be selective about who you follow on Google Plus, and only follow people who really interest you or are relevant to you and your business. Organize people into Circles so that you can post to those groups when appropriate.

When interacting with people, use +mentions as a way of crediting people with comments and ideas. Write comments that show you're interested in what people say and do -- and always reply to someone who comments on your posts to help develop the conversation and to build relationships.

While it is still in its infancy – it went public in September 2011– Google Plus offers a lot of potential for your business. It is a tool you can use to expand your network and add value to the relationships you have with your customers. Its close ties with Google Search mean you really can't afford to ignore it, especially if you already get a significant amount of traffic via search.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com

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This article was originally published on Tuesday Jun 12th 2012
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