Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past several months, you’re undoubtedly familiar with Google+ and have hopefully opened an account on the newest social media platform. Even after trying out its interface, do you still find yourself asking what exactly it is or what you should be doing with it? Do you think that Google+ is one too many platforms to spend time on? Without a doubt it is the best social platform to launch in 2011, and it could just be what your business needs in 2012.
This week’s announcement from Google unveiling their new Search Plus, which prominently features Google+ conversations in search results, has been called “Google’s most radical transformation ever” and has even been analyzed by SEO experts as overly favoring Google+ conversations in search engine results. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click on those links and then repeat after me:
The writing is on the wall. The time is now for Google+.
The funny thing is that G+ still has only approximately 25% the number of users that Twitter has. In other words, if you haven’t embraced Google Plus yet, it’s not too late!
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I wanted to get some historical perspective before creating a post formally introducing Google+ to my readers, but now that I see a certain amount of maturity in the functionality and the user base its growing – not to mention this week’s announcement – the time is now for your business to adopt and leverage the platform.
A Google+ Overview
Google+, or “G+”, is Google’s biggest push to be part of the social space. Ten million users managed to create accounts during its beta testing phase last July – a number which is now 60 million. Yes, it’s another addition to the numerous social networks on the web, but there’s one crucial thing that separates it from the rest: it’s powered by the one of the largest internet technology companies in the planet. That means your G+ account is hooked onto of your Google tools, and yes, that means that posts, conversations, and topics that you’ve delegated for public consumption are searchable – and are rapidly being prioritized by Google.
It’s not a Facebook replica. In fact, it’s far from it. G+ focuses on “Circles”, a function that lets you drag-and-drop your contacts into literal circles that enable you to classify them into customizable groups. This makes it easier to share information to a certain audience, and gives you a more secure online social experience.
With Circles, you can use “Hangouts” which facilitates group chats and video conferences for a maximum of ten persons. A new Hangout function called “Hangout On-Air” has recently been launched. It gives those on G+ the ability to create recordable instant webcasts. What’s great about Hangouts is that it supports devices with Android 2.3 and above, with a provision for iOS coming soon.
G+ integrates “Messenger” (formerly known as “Huddle”) into its interface, which enables Android, Apple and other SMS devices to use instant messaging and photo sharing within Circles.
Some other interesting G+ features are:
- “Sparks”: identifies topics of probable interest that a user may share
- “Instant Upload”: stores your photos and videos in a private album
- “Games”: social games that are accessible in another G+ tab in order to avoid their updates from mixing with your posts
- “Search in Google+”: enables you to search for content within G+
- “Data Liberation”: enables you to back-up and download your posts, circles, and other important information on G+
- “+1”: works similar to Facebook’s “Like” button
- “Ripples”: a visual analytics tool for G+, Ripples shows your statistics for a public post, including number of +1?s, shares, average chain length, and top contributors
Since it seems to take the best of Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and mixes them into a competitive and user-friendly interface, G+ definitely spells online fun on a personal level. That being said, the overwhelming majority of the conversations that I have witnessed have been serious and professional. What’s more, business-minded individuals need not be worried about missing out on this new platform though, as Google has recently launched Google+ Pages.
How and Why You Should Create a Google+ Page
Even though it’s a young platform, G+ has decided to cater to businesses only a few months after its launch. Google+ Pages is a feature that is similar to its Facebook counterpart, and definitely holds a lot of promise with regard to user-friendliness. In fact, this may actually be what G+ can leverage on; creating a G+ page is so easy, you’ll need only a few minutes. The only thing you’ll need is a Google account and a G+ profile before you can create your Page.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:
- Visit Google+ For Business. Click on the “Create Your Google+ Page” link, and you’ll then be asked to place your business under one of the following categories:
- Local Business or Place
- Product or Brand
- Company, Institution or Organization
- Arts, Entertainment or Sports
- You’ll need to put in information that is relevant to your category, such as your name and your website. You can even choose who can access your page based on your content. Once you’ve filled up the form and read the Pages terms, G+ will then create your page.
- After your page has been created, G+ will ask you to upload your business’ profile photo. (You can opt to do this later, but it would be better for your audiences to have an image or a logo that they can immediately associate with your business.)
That’s it! You may now start posting, creating Circles, and even adding a G+ Badge on your website.
There have been many critics who say that creating a Google+ Page isn’t something that businesses should bother with, citing page administration issues, lack of facilities for promotions, and the inability to integrate with other platforms. Though these are indeed pressing issues that Google must immediately address, it’s good to remember that G+ is a growing platform and you can expect that there will be many improvements to it in the coming months. One big advantage in having a G+ Page is that your business will undoubtedly have better chances of coming out as an organic search result with higher ranking than most, due to Google+’s integration with Google Search as we are seeing beging to manifest itself with Search Plus.
Another G+ feature that is currently being tested is Direct Connect. Here’s how it works: whenever a user adds a plus sign (“+”) before a brand name on Google Search, the platform brings up the brand’s G+ Page. Once it’s publicly launched, Direct Connect will definitely be a great help with SEO, as the G+ link appears right under the search box, which is basically above other search engine results.
Google+ Pages are very easy to navigate, share and add into personal circles, as long as you’re logged on to your Google account. The interface is simple enough that you can see everything at one go, and adding or removing a page from a circle doesn’t require you to dig deep into the system.
A Few of the Many that have Taken the Google+ Plunge
Once Google+ becomes more stable and packs more functions, it will indeed be a very formidable social platform. Many famous companies, brands and personalities seem to already know this, so in case you need a bit of inspiration, here are a few good Google+ pages you can look at:
- Anderson 360 – The silver-haired reporter from CNN is on G+. What’s great about this page is that the interaction between Anderson Cooper and his followers is very natural. Giving out clues to his RidicuList segment is also a nice touch, as it keeps everybody on their toes.
- Angry Birds – Interested in game updates, fan submissions, comic strips and plushies for sale of those ferocious feathered creatures? Visit them on G+ for your dose of ca-caws!
- Burberry – The British luxury fashion house uses G+ to tease its followers with beautiful photos of their products. Check out the .gifs of snow falling on their photo bar.
- Pepsi – The beverage company uses G+ to boost its “Where there’s music, there’s Pepsi” campaign.
Remember that G+ is a unique platform, so offer your audiences something that is equally unique. Don’t just copy and paste the same posts from Facebook or Twitter. Instead, create content that will sync with what you have on your other social platforms for a well-rounded online presence.
To sum things up, G+ is a place where you want your business to be, and despite some initial negative feedback, it would still be pretty good to be on it before everybody else adopts it (or grabs your brand name). After all, Google is behind this social fledgling, so be patient – things are definitely bound to get more exciting – and give reason for your business to spend more time on G+ – very soon!
Have you created a page for your business? What have your initial impressions been?