Google+

Why Google+?

Google+ is a new social media network operated by Google, and with 340 million users worldwide, it is now the world's second largest social network. Similar to other social media networks, Google+ is a platform that enables you to share content and interact with followers. However it differs from the other networks in several ways.

1. Promote your business and connect with other businesses Firstly, Google+ features business pages. It allows companies to customise their pages, posts, and connect with other businesses and users. As a result, Google+ is a useful network for B2B interactions.

2. Improve your search results Secondly, Google+ capitalizes on the ‘social search’ trend. With social search, search engines include the searcher's social graph in the results. Searchers see results shaped by the interests of their social network friends, as well as regular non-personalised results. For example, a company looking to outsource HR might discover your Google+ business page, because somebody in its social network recommended your business. In future, searchers will be able to enter + combined with your company name in Google, and be directed to your company's Google+ page.

Google, as a search engine, favours Google+ pages in search results. This means that being active on Google+ also becomes a tool to improve your ranking on Google. Sharing content on its social network can increase the chance of ranking more highly in Google search results.

Google+ also enables you to set up Google Authorship for content you create. This sets up a validated link between your profile and your content. Your Google+ profile image will appear in search results for your content, which gives it prominence in Google search.

3. Segment and target your audience Finally, Google+ provides the option of segmenting your audience. As a user you are able to create different groups of contacts, called circles, with different levels of access to your content. This makes it easier to target the right people with the right message. Build circles for your customers, prospects and employees, and decide what type of content you would like to share with each. If, for example, you want to invite long-term customers only to an event, set up a promotion that only they will have access to.

Protecting your online profile

With the emergence of social search, having a big online presence and sharing valuable content has become increasingly important for B2B companies. However, there is the potential risk of others misusing your content or company name. Protecting your online profile is therefore important. A step you can take is to build links between all of your content and the social media networks in which you are active. Build links between your website, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile and blog, and vice versa. Do the same for your Google+ business page by embedding the +1 icon on your website. The use of the +1 button will be explored extensively in the features section.

Creating your business page

When creating a Google+ business page, it is recommended that you use a generic email address to set up our account. The current administrative constraints on Google+ mean that only one email address can be used for each account. Ensure to set up an account that is accessible by multiple users in your business, so that they can maintain the page.

It is also recommended that you customise your page by including a logo and description of your business. Once your Google+ business page has been set up, start sharing content. Even though you may not have any connections yet, it's wise to prevent new connections from landing on an empty page.

The use of Google+ can be further enhanced with the use of other social media tactics, which can be managed simultaneously with a social media monitoring tool.

Google+ features and uses in B2B marketing

Utilised effectively, Google+ can be a fantastic tool for positioning, creating interest and generating leads. Before taking any action toward these objectives, it is important to set a real and measurable goal - for example, increased traffic or increased conversion rate - to test the effectiveness of the channel. This will also clarify how much effort should be allocated toward maintaining a presence on Google+.

Posts

According to Guy Kawasaki, Google+ is the place for 'passions'. It's where like-minded people can share and engage around content relating to their interests. As a result, content on Google+ is generally expected to be high-quality and well-considered. Google+'s 100,000 character limit on posts encourages this expectation.

The content you publish on Google+ needs to capture the attention of your followers. Interesting blog posts, videos, white papers and webinars can be used to keep content refreshing and compel people to click through to your website. It is important to include links back to your website throughout your Google+ page to make the connection between the two mediums as seamless as possible.

People are easily deterred from users who bombard them with irrelevant updates. Developing a posting schedule that outlines how you will stagger your posts is a good idea. It is widely recognised that the best time to post content on Google+ is between 10am and 1pm.

Another feature of Google+ is the ability to mention others using the + sign. By making content more intimate, you are able to resonate with users on a more personal level. Adding personal signatures and using your own voice (keeping in mind it must match the identity of your company), are additional means of adding a personal touch to your Google+ page.

As with other social media sites, posts on Google+ can be commented on, shared or +1'ed (the equivalent to 'liked' - more below).

Sharing

Sharing content on Google+ means more than merely providing links. Small businesses should recognise that people are not generally interested in your business. Rather, your audience wants to learn more about you and your interests. People want to learn about other people, including those behind the brand of the company they're interacting with. With this in mind, try to share information that will not only inform but also entertain your audience. Your Google+ image will largely be formed by what you share, so take care to only share what is consistent with your desired image. Remember that what you share will serve the dual purpose of benefitting your audience, and contributing to your brand.

Build Trust

Social networking for small businesses should focus on building trust. This can be done by interacting with your followers on Google+ in three ways.

Firstly, comment on the content that you share to shape your followers' experience of your page. They should feel as if you are curating content with them in mind, and not merely scattering information. Secondly, engage your audience by responding to other people's comments. This enhances your authorial presence on Google+ and establishes your reputation as an insightful and expert source. Customer service is also relevant here because this is an opportunity to respond rapidly to customer queries and complaints. Thirdly, utilise the +1 feature to indicate awareness of other people's posts and comments. More on this feature below.

Images and Video

Add links to images, image descriptions, and videos that you post on your Google+ page. The use of unique visuals can be employed to surprise and captivate viewers, persuading them to click through to your website. This may include curating user-created multimedia content that is relevant to your company.

Circles

Google Circles is a segmentation feature that allows you to both subscribe to and share different information with different groups of followers (e.g. family, friends, colleagues, professional networks). When you add someone to one of your Circles, you are 'following' them to receive their posts. People must add you to one of their Circles to see your posts. By recognising the differing needs and wants of your followers, you are able to nurture people accordingly using this function.

Define your target audience for each Google Circle on factors including location, topic and wealth. Set up your criteria for defining Circles and follow it. Only include in your Circle those members of your audience who enrich the networking experience, and add value to the online experience. Consider creating a 'campfire', which is a shared goal or interest that invites people to gather. Be consistent in your online presence in between different Circles, and with your offline presence.

Communities

Introduced in December 2012, Google+ Communities work in a similar way to online groups or forums. It allows you to connect to and interact with users around a chosen topic, by giving 'fans' a place to talk about and share their experiences. A small business can tailor its Google+ community to locality and function. For example, a B2B marketing company could host a forum on turning leads into sales.

Google Authorship

Google Authorship verifies your content by establishing a two-way link between it and your Google+ profile. From a search perspective, there are a number of benefits to doing this. Firstly, it can help give you prominence in search results by adding your image next to your 'authored' content. Secondly, Google Authorship has influence over Author Rank, which Google uses as a factor in determining rankings. Instructions on how to set up Authorship are available here.

A detailed and informative article on Author Rank is also available on Copyblogger.

Adwords Campaigns with Social Extensions

It has been proven that integrating social extensions into Adwords campaigns leads to 5%-10% higher click-through-rates, as well as increasing engagement. This is because of Social Proof – the concept that people will conform to the actions of others under the assumption that those actions are reflective of the correct behaviour. Google+’s +1 tool is indicative of this, as it allows people to make more informed decisions based on the recommendations of other users. By simply clicking +1, users are intentionally following and supporting the particular company in a highly visible manner. Adding the +1 social extension to an Adwords campaign allows the ad viewer to make a decision based on the number of people who would also choose this company.

Embedding the +1 Button in your Website

The +1 feature builds a link between your website and Google+ business page. By embedding the +1 button on your website, readers can share your content with other connections in their network. It’s a simple way to expand the distribution of your content. Readers clicking on your +1 icon show their appreciation for your content, and are redirected to your Google+ business page.

The general rule when embedding the +1 button into your website is to have one per page. A good location for the button is generally above the fold, near the title of the page, and close to other links for sharing or recommending content.

Google+ Events and Hangouts

Google+ Events offer an effective medium through which users can connect before, during, and after events. Simply create an event page before the actual event, making sure to include the title, location, time, date, and other necessary information. Then share this page with the appropriate Circles. Event attendees are able to share photos, and organisers can project a live slideshow of photos taken during the event. Another feature of Google+ Events is that it will take care of reminder emails.

Inviting followers to Hangout with Google+ (i.e. video call/conference) provides a platform where people can not only engage with your products, but also meet the people behind the brand. It can also be used to hold meetings, collaborate online, host Q&A sessions, and receive feedback from clients.

Hangouts can also be used as webinars. 'Hangouts on Air' allow you to live broadcast to an unlimited audience, and Google will automatically record it as a Youtube video.

Other resources

  • A free copy of Guy Kawasaki's book, What the Plus, is available to download here.
  • An infographic containing 40 Google+ tips for small businesses.