opinion

Google+ for Business: Get in the +Game

Joe D

Google+ is the latest of the large social networks boasting over 90 million users.  However, despite its huge growth since its launch back in June 2011 and the big Google name behind it, Google + still can't quite compare to Facebook's 800 million+ global users, or even to LinkedIn's 135 million+ members.

Google+ is a free-for-everyone social network that invites individuals to register and share all sorts of things including photos, discussions, video conference calls and more with other users.  Like other social network programs, Google+ wasn't really designed initially for businesses.  Following its launch, many marketers scoured the network for ways they could use the new tool to market their products and services.

Google+ Business Pages

Fortunately, just a few months later in November 2011, Google+ made "business pages" available to users.  Now marketers and business owners can create pages for their companies and coordinate those efforts under the Google umbrella, including Google Ads for advertising and Google Analytics for tracking it all with one customizable system.  On the day that Google+ business pages were announced many bloggers, marketers and business owners began poking around to see how they could be used to their advantage.

Unfortunately, with nothing else to judge it by, many looked at it merely as "another Facebook" or "Google's answer to Facebook" and didn't look beyond the basic parameters of what they'd come to expect from a social media network.  However, they would soon discover that Google+ is a completely new platform that can be used in unique ways.  This post will give you an overview of the social network, show you how to effectively set up a fully optimized business page and use it to reach consumers within your target demographic.

Google Power

From the moment you hear that Google+ is a social media network that is powered by Google, you get a sense that this could be oh-so-much-more than other social programs. 

Similar to other social networks, Google+ invites businesses to create pages that they can use to communicate directly with consumers through the use of multiple tools.  Individual users can interact with business brands in a number of ways:  they can show their interest through the use of Google+ Circle, share a specific business page with friends or family in their own network and directly respond to content posted by the company.

Branding, Tagging and Engaging

However, there are distinct differences between Google+ and other social networks.  For one, Google+ has played an influential role in Google's search results, making it a key element in any marketing strategy.  Individual users can +1 (endorse, support, etc.) a brand or page as well as the updates posted by the company.  They can also tag the brand in photos that they upload, make comments and engage with company representatives through the network.  The Google+ Hangouts feature even allows companies to interact with their fans and customers via live video conference calls.

Video Interaction is Key

The Google+ Hangouts feature is really what separates Google+ from any other social media network.  Giving business the ability to engage consumers live from their Google+ business page, allows them to hear directly from individuals in a way that they've never been able to do before.  Seeing your customers face-to-face, hearing their questions, comments and complaints directly through video chat not only helps businesses to improve their products, order fulfillment and customer service, but also helps to establish relationships with the people who buy their products.  Having the ability to see and talk to customers direct is an advantage that was previously only available to local brick-and-mortar store owners.  Google+ makes it possible for Web-based businesses and large national brands to enjoy the same opportunity online.

Targeted Marketing

One of the unique features of Google+ is that companies (business pages) can't add people to Circles until their page has been mentioned by the individuals or added first.  What this does is prevent business owners and marketers from infiltrating a Circle and spamming their product or services to consumers.  Consumers instead "invite" the company reps and marketers to participate in their Circles, thereby creating a truly targeted marketing opportunity for brands.

Getting Started

Believe it or not, getting started with Google+ is a very simple process.  In just three easy steps you can be on your way to using this brand new social media network to reach out to customers, clients and potential consumers as a part of a well-rounded online marketing campaign.

#1 - Start With a Gmail Account

Your best bet is to use the same gmail account that you use currently for accessing Google Analytics and AdWords for your business.  This helps you to keep everything business-related all tied in together in one easy-to-access place and makes it easier to use these other tools to track your Google+ progress.

If you haven't already set up a gmail account for your brand - do so now.  Your best course is to choose something like yourcompanyname@gmail.com or yourbrandmarketing@gmail.com to further identify your business with your account.  Currently your marketing team will all need to log-in via this address, however Google+ has already announced that they are working on a multi-administrative support system and easy ownership transfer for businesses.

#2 - Create Your Google+ Business Page

The next step is to visit Google+ at https://plus.google.com/pages/create and click on the option to create a Google+ page.  If the option is not available to you yet, you may need to contact someone at Google to see what you need to do to be eligible.  Google is rolling out these business pages options on a gradual progressive scale, so some small businesses may need to wait before they are able to join and start using their accounts. 

Just follow the steps that are presented in the creation wizard and select the options that are most appropriate to your business.  Choose between Local Business; Product or Brand; Company, Institution or Organization; Arts, Entertainment or Sports; and Other.  Fill in your company information, such as the name of your page (which should be your company name or brand), your website address, the category or industry that your business goes under and any special classifications, such as 18-and-older users only, etc.

#3 - Customize, Optimize and Promote Your Page

Once your page is set up with all the basic information, it's time to customize, optimize and get ready to promote it!  Use your company logo as your image, describe your business and what you do and take some time to really optimize your page to establish a solid first-impression experience for your visitors.  Add links to informative content that will be useful to your consumers and really flesh out your business page before you begin to promote it to your customers.  Sharing fresh content on a regular basis, interacting and responding to your visitors and optimizing everything you do with the goal of generating leads and converting your traffic goes a long way toward effectively using your new Google+ business page.

Take advantage of social sharing buttons to connect visitors to all of your Web and social media pages to other parts of your marketing network.  Social sharing buttons make it easy for your visitors to share your posts with friends, but they also provide a quick call-to-action point that you can use to increase overall conversions.  Increasing your click-through rate for visitors coming from social media pages or other marketing sources will help to boost your overall success.  The more comfortable your visitors become with clicking on links or buttons to interact with your site, the more comfortable they will be with making a purchase, registering for more information or joining your website.

The Future of Google+

Google+ is really just getting started, so if you can get in now and build your business page and use it effectively, you'll be able to fully use it to your advantage.  There are many unique features of Google+ that you won't find in other social media networks.  Making sure you use these original tools and methods to their fullest should be a top goal with this or any marketing campaign.

Once you have established a presence at Google+, the next step is to monitor your traffic and find out if it’s really working for your business or not.  Tweaking your listing, adding more content and interacting with the network more frequently might be required in order to get the desired results, but you'll never know what's working and what isn't unless you stay on top of your statistics.  If you don't have an analytics program or service monitoring your network traffic, get one right away.

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