February 2016: A Guided Tour of Google+

We were talking to a lawyer friend of ours whose firm we’re working with on Google+.

“So I’ve seen that like 8,000 people have looked at my profile. Does that make any sense?!? Is this really a thing?!?”

This summarizes everyone’s attitude on Google+: seems like a ghost town but clearly when you open the door of the abandoned buildings, you find saloons and general stores full of people and items you weren’t expecting.

Google+ is a hidden gem among social networks. We know what you may be thinking…

  1. Google+ isn’t as popular as Facebook
  2. Not as many people are really using Google+
  3. Wasn’t Google going to pull the plug on it last year?

Yes, there were rumors about Google+ being yanked last year (and it was believable, since Google historically has no problem with taking things away). It’s been redesigned with features being added and removed over the years, like any other social network, but it’s still here.

Google+, for better or worse, isn’t going anywhere. In some ways, it’s morphing into a super social network that offers similar features as the objectively more popular networks, but with the added benefit of being attached to Google.

If you think no one is on Google+, think again: as of last December, Google+ had 418 million active users. It may not be the social go-to, but businesses can certainly gain some additional exposure by being active on Google+. Businesses can also get reviews on Google+, view analytics on their websites (a free tool that we highly recommend), add photos, live stream video, and more. Here’s our Breaking Even Guided Tour of Google+:

Business Page. Listing your business on Google+ has (at least) a few benefits. Like Facebook, Google+ has personal profiles and you can use your personal profile to create a business page.

When people search for your business in Google (going to Google.com, looking on Safari on their iPhone when Google is set as the default search engine, etc.), your Google+ page is probably going to show up in a Google search with the location, hours, description, and a photo (see below). When you have your website and Google+ page linked, the theory is that your website will then perform better in Google searches.

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So look at that number 132 followers and 37,638 views. Followers are people actively watching whatever we post to Google+ and views are people who have seen this listing.

The tricky part is claiming your business. On the bright side, the arduous process means that Google really cares about presenting only accurate, up-to-date info (i.e. it’s almost impossible for someone else to claim your business on Google). On the not-so-bright side, the process can take a week or so to complete, and you have to keep an eye on the mail or an ear on your phone the whole time. Working with a Google+ partner can help expedite the process. (Note: We aren’t a partner but have connections who are and an expedited verification process we can do for clients.)

Collections. This is a new feature introduced last spring. Instead of posting a regular update, you can group a series of updates with a similar topic all together in a collection. In other words, it’s a lot like Pinterest, where you gather content in a group (it can be your own content or something from around the internet) and share it with others. If you’re a clothing company, you can organize a collection around a season, a particular clothing article (shirts, dresses, swimwear), a certain look (professional, casual, night), or all of the above. Collections are your chance to get creative with Google+.

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These collections function like a board on Pinterest.

Below is an example from The Vegetarian Baker. Collections (displayed as “Interests”) appear right at the top. This particular example only has 2 collections, but you can add as many as you’d like.

collectionveggiebaker

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As you’ve probably noticed, the stream in a Collection looks almost exactly like any other feed in Google+, save for the left-sidebar.

This article from Tech Republic has a detailed step-by-step guide for creating collections that your followers care about. It’s geared toward avid pinners, but even if you’ve never seen Pinterest before you’ll get something out of it.

Communities. Communities are the Google+ version of Facebook or LinkedIn groups. You can join based on interests (both personal and professional). Anything you post in a community is visible to everyone in that community, whether you are in each other’s circles or not.

googlecommunitiesexample

As a business, you can use communities a few different ways. One way is to create a community based on an interest or conversation within your brand. The goal is to have most of the content in your community be user-generated.

Unlike an update or a collection, a community simply offers a place for people to discuss a topic and facilitate from time to time, rather than being a voice in the conversation.

If you’re tentative about starting your own community, it’s recommended that you participate in community discussions. Brian Honigman of iAcquire recommends that as a business you”Search for communities that relate to your industry and your business offerings, but most importantly, where your customer base is active on Google+.”

Events and Hangouts. In 2014, we decided to try a new format for our Tech Thursday videos, and landed on Hangouts on Air. A hangout in Google+ is a way to live-stream video from your Google+ page to an audience (you can limit access to people with an invitation, anyone in your circles, or open it to the public).thing3 After you’re done recording, the video will live on through your Google+ page. If you have a YouTube account that you’ve integrated, the finished video will automatically publish there as well. During live recording, viewers can submit questions, which is a great feature for a tutorial.

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An event on Google+ can be a “real-life” event (i.e. a concert or a grand opening) or an online event (like a seminar or hangout on air). This article explains some common types of events (invite only gathering, large event open to the public, virtual meeting, or a broadcast), and how you can execute each using Google+ events.

We did Tech Thursday as a weekly live 30 minute show for almost a year. If you missed the fun, you can watch all (or ok, some) of our back episodes here.

Doing Better In Google Searches. The potential for connecting to customers (current and potential) and other businesses on Google+ is probably greater than you initially thought. And that’s without the added layer of increased visibility in Google searches. Moz and other search engine analysts have found a high correlation with search engine rank and Google+ sharing. (I get that correlation doesn’t equal causation but the whole article does go into it.)

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We hope that if you haven’t already claimed your business listing on Google+ (and started posting there) that you’ll consider giving it a chance- the results might just surprise you!

You may be thinking to yourself, “Hey, this whole Googe+ thing sounds great and all, but I don’t know where to start.” Get in touch with us to learn more about Google+ and our latest offering for businesses and nonprofits.

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Our first in-person workshop in 2+ years is happening September 24!

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