It’s important for any business to have a strong online presence these days and social media marketing (SMM) is one of the best ways for you to establish that much-needed presence. Whenever SMM is mentioned, Facebook and Twitter usually comes to mind. However, there’s one social media platform that’s often overlooked but is actually critical to your success—Google+. The mere fact that this social networking site is a Google product should make you pay attention.
Google+: Why You Should Take Notice
As more and more people began to use social media, search engine optimization (SEO) experts started talking about what impact social media could have on website search rankings. It soon became apparent that social signals could show how much a particular web page or site satisfies users’ needs as regards certain topics or industries. Google, however, soon found that the two most popular social networking sites—Facebook and Twitter—weren’t very cooperative in their drive to make social media and SEO work together. Their solution: create their own social networking site. As of this writing, Google+ already has well over 230 million active monthly users; reason enough for you to definitely take notice.
How to Gain Influence with Google+
Whenever Google+ comes up in discussions, many business owners tend to express their interest in creating a Google+ account along with their concerns about not really knowing what to do once they’re there. Here are a few tips to make things a bit easier for you:
1. Set Up a Google+ Business Page
It’s understandable that you’d start out with a personal account on Google+. It is, after all, a social networking site. However, you also need to establish a Business Page if you want the site to help you grow your business. You should then link your business page to your personal account by clicking on the picture found at the upper right corner and then selecting your Business Page. As soon as this is done, all of your status updates, +1s, and comments will be displayed as your business.
Be sure to take some time ensuring that your business profile presents an excellent visual identity and that your business page has excellent content. The good thing about Google+ is that it doesn’t have the same cover photo restrictions Facebook does, so you can be as creative as you want in showcasing your brand’s identity on your cover photo. You should also draft a solid bio that tells visitors exactly who you are, what business you’re in, why you’re on Google+, and what type of content people can expect on your page.
2. Take Advantage of Google+ Hangout
Hangout is one of the most unique features of Google+. It is basically a streaming and video chat application where you can make conference chats with nine other people within your circles. The streaming function allows you to share the video conference with a much larger audience than the ten people who are actually participating in the conference. This allows for some excellent face-to-face webinar-like experiences. Remember that people are a lot likelier to trust a business when they can put a face to the name. Here are a few examples of how you can use Hangout for your business:
a. Sponsor an open forum where you answer questions and where your customers can share some problems or issues they may have with your business or even with the industry in general. You could also discuss general thoughts and industry topics during this forum.
b. Conduct a webinar-type discussion covering a specific niche- or industry-related topic. Don’t forget to do a short Q&A at the end of the discussion.
c. Conduct a live book party, product launch, or any other form of gathering where you can make some major announcements or inform people about the latest developments in your business.
d. Sponsor real-time demos and training.
e. Conduct face-to-face client meetings in a private Hangout setup where you can freely share important business documents.
3. Create Market Segment Via Circles
Where Facebook has fans for business pages, Google+ has circles. The good thing about circles is that you can segment them according to your needs. You could, for example, create one circle exclusively for family and close friends who may also be your customers at the same time. You could also create a different circle for potential customers to whom you’ll still need to promote your business. Another circle could be for new customers who need to learn more about your business and another circle could be for regular customers you need to keep for the long term.
With different circles for each segment of your contacts, you get to control what each group sees. This way, your most loyal regular customers won’t have to be bothered with messages that are meant only for potential customers who still need to be convinced of your brand’s value. In the same way, prospective customers won’t be bombarded with messages they won’t fully understand until they’ve learned more about your business. Circles are therefore excellent ways of targeting your messages.
4. Use Google+ Local
If you have a brick-and-mortar store or you’re operating your business exclusively within a certain geographic location, you need to take advantage of Google+ Local. This feature has replaced Google’s Local pages and is an excellent way of getting found by people looking for businesses specifically within your locality. Of course, you’ll have to make sure specified location details in your profile so you can take full advantage of Google+ Local.
5. Create and Join Communities
Communities is one of the most recently added platforms to Google+. Just like in any other social networking site, building communities is one of the most important things you can do on Google+. You could familiarize yourself with the way Google+ Communities work by joining one and contribute to the discussions there. Note that any post shared in a community you’ve joined will automatically be displayed on your Google+ stream, which makes it a good idea to join only those communities that are related to your niche or industry.
Being active in one or more niche-related communities is an excellent way of expanding your Google+ network. Once you’ve gotten the hang of Communities or if you haven’t really found any community worth joining, you may want to consider creating your own. Here’s a piece of news you’ll surely appreciate: Google+ has strong privacy settings, has excellent spam prevention tools, and gives you the power to ban users.
6. Claim Authorship
It’s a safe bet that you’ve heard about Google’s authorship program but may not fully understand how it works. The concept behind this program is actually pretty simple: You attach any content you create to your Google+ profile by way of a tag. The most important things you need to remember when taking advantage of the Google authorship program are:
a. Profile Photo – Your profile photo is most probably the first thing people will notice when any of your content appears on search results, so make sure you have a professional photo associated with your Google+ profile.
b. “Contributor to” – When you set up your Google+ profile, you’ll find a “Contributor to” section. Make sure you list all websites where you publish content on this section. To be specific, provide the link to the page on the website that shows your bio and a list of your posts. Be sure to update this section each time you become a contributor for another site.
c. The rel=author Tag – To complete the authorship setup, you need to include a link to your Google+ profile with the rel=author tag in every piece of content you publish. If you can’t add the rel=author tag for some reason or you simply want to seek another option, you can verify an email address via the Google+ Authorship page.
You can verify if your authorship has been set up properly by using Google’s free Rich Snippet Testing Tool.
Google+ is indeed one platform you need to use as part of your overall SMM strategy and you need to make the most out of the various opportunities it has to offer. However, this doesn’t mean you should focus all your efforts or publish all of your content on Google+ alone. The key is to keep an open mind and use the platform in a smart way. In time, you should start seeing your search rankings improve and your business grow.