At last it is here. The business page option for Google Plus was rolled out in November of last year. The early adapters are still figuring it out, but the consensus is that Google + is an innovative and useful social marketing tool for Freelancers, business owners and our customers. Google + combines and enhances the business-friendly social networking features of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and presents it all in one platform.
You’ll be able to share links, location data, photos, videos and have interactive two-way conversations on the Plus platform. Ian Schafer, founder of the Manhattan digital marketing agency Deep Focus, says “Integrating with Google + is essential right now, because of its impact on Google search results. Experimentation will give businesses (especially small ones) a leg up on their competition.”
But all is not rosy. First of all, you need a Gmail address to set up and access the service. On top of that, there is as yet no cross-platform integration with other Google services. Plus doesn’t mesh with Analytics, Blogger or YouTube. The company vows that full integration is on the horizon, but an arrival date has not been promised.
As with all social media, you must sign up (with Gmail) and create a profile. Like LinkedIn, describing your services is the name of the game. The “About” tab is especially important, for this is how visitors to your page will elect to invite you to connect with them (or not). Present an informative, compelling profile and tell the story of you and your products and services. You may provide a link to your website.
Like Facebook, photos figure prominently in you Plus profile. Before you sign up, create five photos of yourself in action as you provide different aspects of your services, sit on a panel, speak or teach, take a meeting or whatever. Those photos will be uploaded to the Photo Strip, which is displayed beneath your business name and tag line on your home page.
Next you can populate the “Circles”, “Sparks” and “Hangout” sections. Circles are grouping categories for your connections. Hangout lets you set up various group events and invite contacts from your Circles and also the public to interact in useful and engaging ways. Sparks is a streaming feature that lets you choose to receive info that keeps you updated on business issues of interest to you.
Invite clients and professional contacts to join Circles that you will designate. You get to curate what information is shared with contacts based on the Circle you place them in and that decision will be determined by their relationship to you and your business. You may designate Circles for clients, peers and colleagues, members of your business advisory board, friends, press updates, or whatever categories seem appropriate.
Through interactions with those in your Circles, you may refine your understanding of what contacts would like to know about your business, how your services can be packaged and marketed and/or what clients value most about your services and how you can become even more valuable.
Like the LinkedIn Answers forum, questions can be posted and Google+ members can offer answers. It’s a great way to expand your connections and build relationships by sharing your expertise. Visit http://findpeopleonplus.com to find professionals in your target markets and find out what’s on their mind, how you can help and who you want to invite into a Circle.
Hangout is a very intriguing feature of Plus. It one-ups Facebook and the Skype connection. Real-time interactive communication is possible on Hangout and with a larger audience. Reportedly, the Dalai Lama recently hosted a Hangout with Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu with an audience of millions.
With Hangout, those of us who teach now have a way to present our courses and workshops in a free online classroom that will host up to 10 students in a group class. Private consulting sessions are also possible with clients who live anywhere there is internet access.
So check out Google+ and consider the benefits for your business. 49 million hits were made on Plus in December 2011 and analysts predict that Plus will have 400 million users by year-end 2012. Google is the word’s biggest search engine and inbound links are increasingly important in search engine marketing. A well-thought out and crafted Google+ page has the potential to draw in prospects with the money and motive to join your client roster, the best Circle of all.
Thanks for reading,