Getting Started on Google+ for Businesses and Marketers [GUIDE]

Love it or hate it, Google+ is here to stay. Many social media enthusiasts (myself included) have dragged feet/knuckles/you name it when it comes to active engagement on Google’s social platform. The jig is up, kiddos. It’s time to get started on Google+. I know, I know, I can’t believe it, either.

That being said … I can almost guarantee that the Google+ landscape has changed since you checked it out a few months, or a year, ago. I’ll be the first to admit that I had not given Google+ much thought (ever) until the SmartFile page became my responsibility earlier this summer.

I’ve spent the last three months researching, testing, and tweaking to figure out what makes Google+ matter. You will find my guide for businesses and marketers below.

Why do you need to use Google+?

First things first. Why should you use Google+ to begin with? What makes this platform any different than the others?

1. The cool kids are doing it: As it turns out, Google+ is not “the next Google Wave” and should no longer be ignored. The so-called ghost town actually has over 350 million monthly active users. Whoa! Talk about huge marketing potential! Those monthly active users (MAUs) make Google+ the second largest social platform; Facebook is number one, with over one billion MAUs.

2. Engagement on Google+ directly impacts rankings. I knew that would get your attention. The latest algorithm update from Google, known as Hummingbird, references the importance of all social network activity as a factor in determining your SERP (search engine results page) ranking(s).

Now this is just author speculation, but I challenge you to guess which platform Google is likely to favor … that’s right, their own! Pair that with the potential and actual ranking factors behind Google Authorship, and that’s what I call a power couple! (For more information about Google Authorship, I highly suggest Steven Shattuck’s slideshow from last month’s Indy Social Media Breakfast.)

Tl;dr: Google treats Google+ content like another website page, making it the most powerful platform for content. If you ask me, Google+ is optimized to let images and video shine bright like diamonds and for that I am grateful.

Who is on Google+?

Before I tell you who is hanging in the Google+ circle, please promise that you will approach Google+ (as a business, for marketing) with the mindset of finding and engaging with your target market so that they visit your website and become leads. You will know you are successful when you notice an increase in traffic from Google+ to your website. Continue to tweak your strategy to raise the conversion rate.

Google+ users are:

  • Predominantly male (63%)
  • In their late 20s
  • Primarily located in the United States
  • Considered a tech savvy audience

Tech savvy is key here; I’m willing to make the leap and say that Google+ users are highly likely to be early adopters. How can you use that to your marketing advantage? Do you consider your target market to be tech savvy and/or early adopters? (For more information on Google+ demographics, check out this infographic.)

Where do you begin?

Here are a few starting guidelines.

1. Complete your personal profile. Fill it out all the way, using a personal gmail address. You will use this account to admin your Google+ page (if desired), so the more information you include, the better. Remember that consumers like to see the people behind the brand. This means use a photo of you, not your business.

2. Create a Google+ Page for your business. Again, fill it out completely. Include  contact information, hours, address, etc. of your business. Make good use of the description section; this is the place to utilize targeted keywords and highlight what makes your business special. Be sure to describe any products/services thoroughly, too.

The photo space allowed on Google+ is quite large compared to other platforms. How can you use that space creatively? This is also a great place to include your call to action.

3. Take a look around and start experimenting. User accessibility and content sharing is the platform’s core. Explore the different ways you can share and review content, both with a personal profile and as a page. This is the easiest way to become familiar with how the platform works.

Here are a few things that I’ve learned:

  • Google+ allows text formatting. That means you can bold, italicize, underline, and strike-through text for emphasis.
  • Photos and videos become focal points of the post. Use this to your advantage.
  • Tagging individuals, not just circles, increases post engagement.
  • Follow industry experts to learn how they engage with their circles. Fake it until you make it!
  • Hashtags increase visibility. Use them!
  • Be generous with +1s.

4. Start segmenting your circles. Adding a profile to a circle means you want to share content with them and you are interested in the content that they are sharing. Once they are added to your circle, their posts (public or shared with you) will appear in your feed.

One of the biggest downsides of Google+ is that the user has to add you their circles as well in order to receive your content. Think of adding someone to your circles as giving them a quick tap on the shoulder to let them know you are there.

It can become overwhelming at first to create segmented circles. I recommend you keep the focus on content. You can send the same piece of content to multiple circles as needed.

5. Join some communities. These seem to be the most active aspect of the platform and therefore the fast track to getting connected with industry professionals (and potential customers). Google+ groups are niche-oriented, meaning there is a group for just about everything!  Do a keyword and/or topic search and see what communities exist for you to join. Once you join, introduce yourself and start commenting and sharing.

Signs of a healthy Google+ community:

  • Have a few hundred members (the more the better).
  • Content has been posted recently (within the last week).
  • There is engagement (comments or +1s) on most posts.
  • Members who post questions relevant to the community get at least one response.

What do you share?

There are two ways to share content: with your circles and the relevant communities you have joined. You cannot share the same post with both circles and communities (yet). Remember that Google+ is a visual platform and to include photos and video whenever you can.

Here are a few posting best practices that I’ve developed:

  • Use relevant hashtags in every post. Do not use more than three, please! Turn on auto-hashtags in settings.
  • Always post with a comment or question that encourages further discussion.
  • Remove the link box when sharing a link, especially if you are tracking clicks. This will force readers to click your link.
  • Remember to continue commenting on your posts. Respond to comments and answer questions. You can also thank readers for +1s and shares in the comments. Easily set up email alerts for posts in settings.
  • Whatever you post in a community also posts to your Google+ page feed. Do not repost the exact same thing in every community!
  • Longer text updates are perfectly acceptable. Consider including commentary about the content you are sharing.

You should now feel confident enough to create your own Google+ profile and/or business page. Once your profile is complete, please add SmartFile to your circles.

Have you seen your business benefit from using Google+? Please share in the comments below.

Image Credit: Pro Theme Design

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