When Google+ first launched in 2011, there were so many social networks around so it would figure that Google, already the dominant name in online search, would get in on the act by launching its own, right? Google+, however, is not quite a social network, in the traditional sense. The Oxford Dictionary defines a social network as:

A dedicated website or other application that enables users to communicate with each other by posting information, comments, messages, images, etc.

But Google+ is not a website or mobile application. It is a suite of social tools to enhance the Google experience, or a “social layer.” Think of it as software components that allow a user to comment or share content on a blog or newspaper website. Except, instead of a newspaper website, these tools are integrated into Google+’s vast array of software applications.

While Google+ may be described as a social network by the media and by the average user, this distinction is important, primarily because harnessing the full benefits of Google+, depends largely on how much and how well you use the rest of Google. It’s also important because the metrics for assessing a successful implementation are slightly different than those of successful networks.

How to Use Google+ for Business Purposes

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In this article, we will explore 1) the history of Google+, 2) the purpose of Google+, 3) the benefits of Google+, 4) setting up a Google+ account, 5) using Google+ for Business, 6) Google+ terminology, and 7) best practices/case study.

HISTORY OF GOOGLE+ 

Google+ first launched in June 2011 and was available to users by invite only, and due to significant demand, increased its original invite list within two months, by allowing each invitee to invite 150 users. A month after this, Google+ was opened to all users over age 18. By October of 2011, a mere five months after launch, it had reached 40 million users. (By contrast, it took Facebook three years to reach 25 million users and Twitter two-and-a-half).

Google+: Sharing but like real life

 

PURPOSE OF GOOGLE+

While Google+ is considered by some to be an attempt to rival Facebook, Vic Gundotra, the head of Google+ from June 2011 to April 2014, has described the application as:

“This is just the next version of Google”. Mr. Gundotra has noted that he sees Google Plus as a social blanket for the entire Google experience.

While Google+ does enhance the Google suite of products, it also has a number of social media features, such as link-, photo- and video-sharing, instant messaging, and commenting, which can also be used for marketing purposes.

BENEFITS OF GOOGLE+ 

As Google+ is integrated with the Google suite of software applications, use of Google+ can help optimize your Google search engine visibility. But there are so many other apps Google offers, of which Google+ enhances their functionality, such as its video-conferencing app, Google Hangouts. Unlike Facebook, Google+ allows you to upload animated GIF files. It helps extend your content and enhances your communications capacity – internally and externally. It can be used to facilitate recruitment. And Google continually releases new products, making its potential limitless.

SETTING UP A GOOGLE+ ACCOUNT 

Setting up a Google+ account is easy. You will need to visit the Google+ account, and create a Google account if you do not already have one. To do this, you will need to click Create an Account, and fill in your name, preferred username, preferred password, gender, alternate email address, mobile phone number and birthday, as well as agree to Google’s Terms of Service. Because you are ultimately setting up a personal profile in order to set up a Google+ page for business, the username and other personal details should be appropriate for business.

After doing so and logging into your Google+ account, click on Create Profile to create a Google+ profile. Complete the personal information fields and then click Upgrade. Google+ will then prompt you to search for friends on Google+. Do so, and then click Next. You will then be prompted to follow other pages Google thinks may be of interest. You can do so and then click Continue. You can then add a profile photo, and enter further information. Click Finish to complete the process.

To set up a Google+ page for business, you will want to use the newly created Google+ profile and visit this website. This page will enable you to create the page and categorize it as a:

  • Local Business or Place
  • Product or Brand
  • Company, Institution or Organization
  • Arts, Entertainment or Sports
  • Other

Once you have categorized your business on Google+, you will be prompted to fill in details about your business, such as its name, address, products and services, and website address. You can then customize your profile by adding a tagline, and a logo. Once you’ve done this you should begin adding updates, photos, and video, and other content before beginning to promote your page to your Circles.

How To Create a Google+ Account

 

USING GOOGLE+ FOR BUSINESS 

Google+ has considerable benefits for users, especially those using Google Apps for Business as their software environment. But even if your firm does not use Google, Google+’s social tools can be effectively harnessed to achieve a number of marketing goals.

Extending reach and visibility 

Google+ usage considerable enhances the SEO of the websites promoted by its users. A recent experiment by Business Insider, in which websites were promoted on either Google+ or Facebook, resulted in a more than 200% increase in position in Google search engine rankings for the sites promoted by 100 or more Google+ followers, and a more than 150% increase in sites promoted by 300 or more +1 votes. In addition to Google+ usage providing a big boost to your Google search results, you can join Google+ as a brand (unlike many other social networks), and engage its users. Google+ pages may in fact rank higher than your own website, depending on your website SEO. And +1s can enhance your presence in the local carousel results. 

There may be fewer users on Google+ compared to other social networks like Facebook, but there are also fewer brands on Google+ – providing you with more of an opportunity to engage potential customers.

Strengthening communications 

Google+’s integration with Google Hangouts provides businesses with the ability to hold face-to-face conversations with up to 10 users for free. Because this is two-way communication, user engagement is much deeper than a simple Facebook Share or Like. You can use Hangouts to reach out to target users to solicit offers, conduct research, or search information. For example, a new firm might identify key influencers in its industry on Google+ and invite them to a Hangout discuss their insights into a new planned product launch.

Hangouts On-Air allow you to record and broadcast (by publishing on a website) a Hangout you’ve held – again, free of charge. This can be used for product demonstrations, consumer Q&As, and/or conferences. For example, you could show a small group of users how to use a product, and allow them to ask questions. You could then take a recording of this Hangout and post it on your homepage, your Google+ page, and other social networks. For example, a professional services firm might use Hangouts to create video content showcasing their expertise and post it to burnish their reputation and increase their credibility as experts in the field.

And, of course, you can use both tools to enhance internal communications capacity with staff. You can use Hangouts to conduct small group trainings with staff in various locations. You can use it to relay messages from the executive team firm-wide. You can use it to conduct staff meetings. The possibilities are wide-ranging.

Best of all, all use of Hangouts requires is a Google+ account, a webcam and microphone. The latter two devices are built-in to the overwhelming majority of new computers of models these days. For those using an older model, a decent webcam can be purchased for under $50.00. For a marginal cost, you can greatly enhance your internal and external communications capability.

Recruiting talent 

First, Google+ is well known for having a significant number of technology professionals within its user base, which makes it an ideal location to recruit. Recruiters can use Google+ to find candidates by keyword, and then categorize them in Circles. They can use Google+ to then send out recruiting messages to specific candidates or specific Circles of candidates. In-house recruiters can hold informational interviews about their firm and broadcast these on their firm’s website to engage potential hires. Outside recruiters can also use its tools to enhance their professional profiles – by posting quality content, engaging followers and garnering +1s, and allow candidates to find them.

In addition to viewing how potential candidates present themselves on Google+, Google Hangouts can be used to conduct interviews via videoconference. This can broaden the reach of your search by allowing you to conduct cost-effective interviews of out-of-state candidates. The process of the interview itself can also be an easy test of their facility with technology, and Google in particular. You can even use it to manage group interviews.

Boosting SEO of content with Google Search 

Not only does using Google+ increase your performance in Google search engine rankings, shared content also gets a big SEO boost. You can enhance the performance of your distributed content on third-party blogs and microsites by sharing it with your Circles. Your YouTube content, if it is compelling and engaging, can be extended through +1s. You may even see Google+ buttons associated with Gmail messages from businesses, allowing you to follow them.

Integration with other Google Apps 

There are dozens and dozens of Google apps. Perhaps the best known of these are Google Search, Gmail, YouTube, Blogger, and Google Docs. ComScore notes that five of the top six most popular mobile apps are of Google origin: Maps, Google Play, Google Search, and YouTube. There is Google+ functionality for all of these applications as well as many others. Further, Google continuously develops and launches products, all of which have Google+ functionality. And Google is well-known for having considerable cash in its coffers and acquiring promising technology. This means there are more than likely promising new applications and features underway, even as you read this.

Growing your Business and Engaging your Audience with Google+

 

GOOGLE+ TERMINOLOGY 

There are a lot of terms associated with Google+ that are good to know before you take the leap. But don’t be daunted. A shortlist is available here: 

Circles: a way to categorize your followers and ensure that your content is only shared with those followers in the categories you select.

Extended Circles: Those in your followers Circles who can see content you’ve shared with your followers on your folllower’s profile.

Hangouts: a feature that allows you to videoconference with up to 10 people.

Hangouts On-Air: a feature that allows you to publish your video conference, and record it for future playback and publishing.

Instant Upload: A feature that allows you to share smartphone-generated photos instantly with those in your Circles.

Ripples: A tool that allows you to see the effect of your shared content on Google+.

Messenger: Google+’s instant messaging application.

+1 Button: A button that allows Internet users to share content on Google=, similar to the Share link on Facebook.

Stream: A feed of content from the members of your Google+ Circles.

Profile: A Google+ page for an individual Google+ User.

Page: A Google+ page for a brand.

Badges: Sidebar widgets that can be incorporated into a website or blog, allowing you to give users the ability to promote your content on Google+.

Data Liberation: a feature that allows you to download and backup all of the content in your Google+ account.

BEST PRACTICES / CASE STUDY 

In order to best use Google+, first know and understand the full suite of Google products, as Google+ is designed to enhance them. This can be a bit unnerving, given Google’s extensive suite of products. But start by learning which of its products most suite your aims, and go from there. A few other best practices to follow include:

  • Make sure to fill out all fields when you sign up to enhance your presence in search results.
  • Don’t post the same content on Google+ that you post on Facebook and Twitter. Focus on quality content that incorporates the strengths of features like Communities and Hangouts.
  • Use Google+ Badges to promote your content on other sites.
  • Upload quality photo and video content, which generally creates more engagement than text-based or link-based content.
  • Use the Data Liberation feature to backup and protect your content.
  • Use hashtags.
  • Ask for reviews on Google+, which enhance your visibility in Google search.
  • Post, comment, and engage with people frequently. This will help you gain followers which greatly helps you improve the SEO of your Google+ page and of your overall digital assets.
  • Connect your website to Google+ to increase your SEO.
  • Use Google+ Communities, where like-minded Google+ users gather and discuss topics of common interest. This can be a good way to gain followers and +1s.
  • Review Google+’s Case Studies in-depth, which can give you ideas about what works and what doesn’t.

While many brands choose the larger and more popular Facebook as their social network of choice, there are some brands doing quite well on Google+. One such brand is Cadbury– the United Kingdom’s number one chocolatier, which makes extensive of Google+’s features, such as Hangouts and Circles, and creates exclusive content for them. Jerry Daykin, the Social Media Community Manager at Cadbury, has used Hangouts to connect consumers with chocolatiers and personalities, and even created a replica Google+ page, out of chocolate, which, of course is only viewable on their Google+ page. They also use Circles to match creative content to their audience. For example, according to a recent case study you can:

…[J]oin the Cadbury Creme Egg circle if you don’t want to miss out on recipes using this product. Or join the Cadbury London 2012 circle to keep up with news around the Olympics. Meanwhile, a tasters’ circle of 1,000 of Cadbury’s most committed fans can contribute their valuable feedback on products and adverts. 

This had led to some impressive results. Through use of Google+, Cadbury boosted followers by 150,000 through Hangouts, and has been gaining, 10,000 new followers per day thanksto the Google+ badge. They’ve seen a 17% uplift in CTR across AdWordscampaigns, and an increase of 7.5% of traffic from Google URLs. Cadbury has also credited Google+ with contributing to Bubbly bar achieving sales of £8m since product launch.

Google+ For Business by Chris Brogan

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