There are so many new ways to get information about businesses and branding out onto the internet, and new social media sites being introduced all the time. It seems every time you look at a blog post, video or online article, there's a new symbol that has appeared to let you share the content with others. So it's no surprise that some get overlooked more than others.
But in among all the tweeting, pinning and facebooking, there is one symbol that has been around for awhile – the rather unassuming ‘+1' icon, belonging to Google Plus (+).
Google + is relatively new – it was launched at the end of 2011 – but already, it has a total of more than 500 million users worldwide. While many are familiar with the +1 icon, the Google+ business page, which was introduced at the same time, has gone mainly unnoticed. But the influence of Google+ is growing fast, and businesses should be joining the growing Google+ trend. Here, we give you an overview of Google+ and the benefits it has to businesses.
Set Up A Google+ Account
The first things you need in order to benefit from Google+ are:
- A Gmail email account
- A Google+ account.
Fortunately, Google make it so easy to do both at the same time, simply by visiting http://plus.google.com
TIP : Take the time to read through the brief overview information and watch the really quick videos (each under 2 minutes). It will give you a basic understanding of what Google+ is and how it works.
Once you have signed in, you're ready to start….
Before you go anywhere, join anything, make a connection to anyone or hang out anywhere, it's time to fill out your profile. When navigating around inside Google+, it's good to know how to activate the menus.
TIP: Normally, you click on a button or icon to bring up the menu options, but Google+ uses a hover option. If you hover over things you will find menus and options appear for you.
If you are a little stumped on where to find your profile page, take your cursor up to the top left corner and hover over the ‘Home' icon. In the menu that appears below the Home button you will see your profile icon. (You can also access it from the dropdown menu which is to the right of your top left profile picture).
When filling out this information, remember this is going to be seen by your potential new customers, so keep your profile entries more professional than personal.
Google+ profiles include 2 images – a small profile picture that act like an avatar (a small graphic picture that appears next to your posts and activity in Google+), and a cover photo which people see when they visit your profile page. Both of these images are important to your business profile, but for different reasons.
Profile Picture – Wherever you appear on Google+, (so in any Circle listing, a group, a post entry, etc), your profile image appears next to your name. It is a little piece of branding that appears everytime you do in Google+.
Your profile images should ideally be uploaded at 250 x 250 pixels, and whether you use your profile image or a logo, it should be something that looks good and is recognisable when seen as a small image. BUT … your Google+ profile picture offers you an amazing opportunity to stand out in the search results. In among the Google search results, you will see that every now and again, one of the results has not only the title of the article and the webpage link, but a small avatar picture next to it too.
Doesn't that entry stand out in the search results? This is their Google+ profile image, and although it doesn't appear automatically, you too can easily get your profile image to be displayed in Google search results for all your blog and website entries. How? It is a feature called ‘Google Authorship' and you activate the feature from inside your Google+ profile by using the ‘Links' section. You can use the link fields to add in and connect to all your websites, blogs and other profiles. To help verify your authorship, you can use a WP (WordPress) plug-in. (If you do a quick search in your site's plug-in directory, you can find a suitable one).
It is well worth putting forth a little time and effort to extend your brand power and increase your visibility in Google search results in this way. It's free, it's very visual and it puts you miles ahead of your competitors.
Cover Picture – The cover picture is the 2nd image in your profile and is a MASSIVE 942 x 180 pixels. Not only that, but unlike other social media sites, there are no restrictions as to what information can go on it. So your business can take advantage of this massive billboard and add in calls to action, your website details, promote special offers, offer unique discounts… the possibilities are endless, and no-one is going to reprimand or ban you for doing so.
Once you have your profile sorted, it's time to look around Google+. Here is a brief look at some Google+ features:
Running through the centre of your page is the newsfeed of posts and you can choose whether to get a general stream of all the posts, or you can see posts from friends, family or other circles that you are connected to on Google+. You can also leave comments and replies on posts from in the newsfeed.
At home or at work, in our normal lives, we all have circles of friends, family or acquaintances we interact with. On Google+, you build circles of people you want to communicate to. It's not just friends or family, you can build various circles of work colleagues, people you admire or follow or have a common interest with, people you find funny…the possibilities are endless.
Where Circles differs from other social media is you don't need a formal invitation to connect with someone, so adding someone into a Circle is so easy. When you come across someone you want to add, hover over their name and it brings you up a list of all the Circles you have created. All you need to do is tick the Circle or Circles you want to put them in and you're done, and YES, you can add people to more than one Circle.
Once you're Circles are set up, you need to start building up your connections. You don't need to send the same post to everyone. You can tailor which Circles gets that post, so you can send it to as many or as few people as you like, which is great if you want to build up Circles of customers to send out targeted offers to every now and again, or a newsletter.
Since no-one needs to ask or be accepted to join a Circle, Google+ has a really handy ‘Added You' button. This function shows people who have put you in one of their Circles. It makes good business sense to connect back to them and put them in one of your Circles. Just hover over their name and your list of Circles will appear for you to choose from.
This isn't difficult at all – you simply type what you want to say into the ‘Share what's new' box. You can pretty much add anything else too – links, pictures or videos. Once ready to send, you can choose who to send it to. Below the post you've typed there is a ‘+ Add Name…' field. You can choose to make it public, send the post to a specific circle or put in individual names in. But Google+ has a great feature, useful for businesses, in that it fully integrates with Gmail so you can send the post via email to your contact lists.
Businesses can add a business page to their account. This gives greater flexibility with the cover picture as businesses can choose to either have the one large cover or they can choose to have 5 smaller images at the top of the page. Not only does this option give businesses the choice to highlight 5 offers or aspects of their business, but it becomes so much easier to keep the display current and fresh simply by changing one or more of the smaller pictures, rather than having to produce an entire new large cover image everytime.
A Google+ business page also offers more scope with statistics. Businesses can use the ‘Discover' section to be able to see who is sharing their content, as well as ‘+1'ing their posts or content. Inside the Discover sector, businesses can also spot topics that are beginning to trend, and so stay current.
A community is a group, or forum, which has been created around a certain topic or activity, such as creative writing, fishing, internet marketing, etc.
Some communities are public, so anyone can join and become a member without having to ask, but some communities are closed. Closed communities are private communities. They only allow certain individuals in, in which case you need to ask to be allowed to join.
Inside communities, you can control what posts you receive. Posting in a community is different. Posts are divided into categories for different types of posts, so you can choose which lines of chatting you listen to. You can also choose to ‘mute' receiving replied and updates from specific posts by hovering over and clicking the little ‘v' at the top right corner of the post. This removes it from your Home page and prevent you seeing any more replies.
As a business opportunity, communities are great for doing market or product research inside a closed community. You can invite people who fit in to the target groups of your business to help you gather information and insight while creating a persona of your ideal customer.
Facebook has the ‘Like'. Pinterest has the ‘Pin It'. Well Google+ has the ‘+1', and now that you know about it, you'll see it all over the internet – in online articles and blog posts, next to pictures and videos and on websites and online shops.
+1 is your way of showing your Google+ Circles what things you like, find interesting or fun, or maybe you have found something you think others will find most useful or informative and you want to share it. There's no need to fret about remembering which things you've liked or where you saw that really interesting feature. You profile has a +1 tab, which logs all your +1's, so you can see them anytime.
Often overlooked, but crucial to branding your business, is the way your Google+ web page address appears within the browser. It is what your potential customer will type in or click on and can reinforce your brand's identity with them.
A Vanity URL is a URL which is customised to reflect your company name. For example, https://plus.google.com/+davidbeckham is the vanity Google+ URL of footballer David Beckham.
The default URL assigned to everyone by Google+ is a long dull, unmemorable string of numbers that will impress no-one, and is instantly forgettable. Google+ does have a number of Vanity URLs, but is currently only assigning them to people who have either a high celebrity status, high business profile or a very large amount of followers. As a business, you can request to be given a vanity URL of your own, but unless you fall into one of the three categories mentioned before, it is highly unlikely that you would be successful.
Google+ has promised that more vanity URLs will become available in the future, but until then, there is a way of making your page web address more appealing and memorable. Sites such as http://gplus.to, http://plus.ly and http://gplusnick.com offer an alternative. They can set up a vanity URL to replace your current Google+ one.
So, on http://gplus.to,
That looks much better and is much more unforgettable that trying to type 21 numbers in without making a mistake.
In summary, here are the main benefits for Businesses on Google+
Visual Branding – You can brand your profile with all sorts of marketing strategies, and you can make your Google+ profile appear in Google's search results everytime it brings up your website or blog entry
It is so very easy to separate people out into Circles and then target communication to them
Google+ Business pages offer more flexibility, have very few restrictions on branding and allow greater access to statistics
The huge Cover image is a great Billboard for promotions, special offers, Calls to Action, website and Social media contact details
Google+ offers full integration with Gmail, YouTube and Picasa
You can link to your website and blog easily
You can use Communities to help market and product research for your business.
Google+ is one of the best social media sites to display photographs on. The images are bigger and are shown off better inside the Google+ photo albums, which is great for displaying pictures of your products.
As you can see Google+ doesn’t just make sense for your business. It is an absolute must have and an essential social network for your company.
You have to jump in, and you know that. The only decision now is what you’re going to do with it.
Whether that’s creating a video series, highlighting your community, or using it for communication, you need to have a Google+ strategy immediately. If you don’t Google+ has the potential to disrupt every single online marketing plan that relies on SEO and social media to get traffic, generate leads, and make more sales.
We realise that you are too busy keeping on top of the day to day running of your business. There are not enough hours in the day to get everything done as well as trying to master online marketing tools like this which we admit can sound daunting.
So why not allow us to help? Our priority is to help businesses just like yours to succeed online.
We have the expertise and the experience so you can have full confidence that your business is in the right hands and is being well looked after. Our team is ready when you are.