By Inka Wibowo

When it comes to Google+, the B2B marketing community seems to be divided into three distinct camps. There are those who live and breathe it, hailing it as the next big thing in social media. There are those who understand that it may one day be a key part of their marketing mix, but for now can’t justify doing any more than setting up their profile and posting every once in a while. And then there are the cynics, who view it as Google’s adventurous yet ill-fated attempt to compete with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and who haven’t given it much thought at all.

For those who think it’s ‘just another social network’, here’s an interesting fact: Google+ is now the world’s second largest social network, with 340 million active users worldwide. It took just 24 days for Google+ to reach 20 million users (by comparison, Facebook and Twitter took over 1,000 days). So, for anyone questioning its mass appeal, it’s clearly there. True, the uptake in many parts of the world has been slow, but skeptics shouldn’t underestimate Google+ as a legitimate social media tool in its own right.

Still, for B2B marketers who have yet to embrace Google+ (and there are plenty out there), the question remains: is Google+ relevant to B2B marketing? And is it worth our time?

The answer to both these questions is: yes. If you’re interested in positioning your business as a leader in its space, and attracting visitors to your site, Google+ is absolutely relevant to your business, and absolutely deserves your attention. Here’s why.

Google+ helps to create interest with new and existing buyers

Guy Kawasaki sees Google+ as a place for ‘passions’ – for people to read, engage with and share content around things they’re interested in, with others who have the same interests. According to Guy, users flock to Google+ because of its reputation as a place for high-quality content and intelligent conversation.

Google+’s Circles and recently-introduced Communities make finding like-minded individuals to have meaningful conversations with easy. By ‘circling’ people who are likely to have an interest in your content (e.g. existing customers, potential customers or others in your industry), you have an opportunity to engage them with your content and build interest, creating opportunities for further dialogue in the future.

There’s another upside to putting out good content. People share the content they like, so if you put the effort into creating share-worthy content, it will have the potential to create interest with others too.

Of course, the key here is quality – meaning that content must be relevant, engaging and useful. Audiences will lose interest and switch off if your content is too promotional or lacking in substance, so make sure your content provides real value to them, and can aid them in the challenges they’re facing in their business.

Google+ helps you position with potential buyers

The whole premise of social media is that it is, of course, social – dialogues are multi-directional, and any number of people can take part. If you plan to use Google+ (or any social media tool for that matter), you need to be prepared to listen as well as be heard. Keeping track of what others are saying, participating in their conversations and responding when they comment on your posts is essential – nobody wants to speak to someone who’s only interested in a one-way conversation! Engage with others’ content, and in the process, establish your credibility as an authority of the subject. In doing so, you’ll position yourself as THE person to speak to on the matter – and, in marketing, that’s a powerful place to be.

To find relevant discussions to participate in, search on relevant hashtags, join industry Communities, and connect with thought leaders in your field.

Google+ gets you seen in search results

One of the most exciting things about Google+ is its potential to influence Google search results in some very powerful ways. One example is its Search, Plus Your World feature (aka social search). When performing a Google search, users of Google+ can turn on social search to view results of relevant businesses or content that have been posted, shared or recommended by people in their Google+ network. This adds a layer of credibility and trust to search results, and businesses can take advantage of it by adding Google+ buttons to their site to encourage visitors to share and recommend their content.

Google+ also enables businesses to set up Google Authorship, which verifies content by linking it to the author’s Google+ profile. Content that has been verified via Google Authorship displays with a photo of the author in Google search results, helping to make it more visible and prominent to searchers.

It’s important to note that, while Google Authorship and ‘recommended’ content don’t have a direct impact on search rankings (at least not yet), Google does use these ‘social signals’ as indicators (along with thousands of others) when determining rankings. Most search experts agree that social signals are becoming more and more important to Google, so B2B marketers looking to achieve higher rankings need to incorporate this into their SEO strategy.

There are plenty of advantages to using Google+ in your marketing mix, so if you haven’t considered Google+ as part of your content and search marketing efforts, now is the time to start exploring it. Learn how to get started by reading our Google+ wiki.

With thanks to Olivia Bradley, research assistant.