Social media has become an invaluable tool for both large brands to interact with their fans and for small businesses to grow and cement their profiles and relationships online. There are a number of choices of social networks for small businesses to consider for a social campaign which will be managed either in-house or through external social media agencies, such as the more established platforms of Facebook and Twitter and now the newcomer in the form of Google+, which is the platform we will look at here.
Google+ is one of the fastest growing social networks in history, recently reaching the 90 million-user mark. The network is expected to reach 100 million users in around only eight months in comparison with the four years that it took for Facebook to reach the same number. The growth and user base are not the only factors that makes Google+ attractive for small businesses, the recent introduction of “Search, plus Your World” means that posts, images, conversations and keywords posted on Google+ will now be included and indexed within global Google search results. The addition of social search from Google means that a small business using the Google+ platform now has the opportunity to vastly increase its visibility in SERPS without requiring extensive knowledge of SEO or paying for expensive online advertising.
Brand pages on Google+ are growing around four times faster than those on Twitter and offer businesses an area from which to interact with fans and customers in a number of unique ways that the competing social networks do not offer. Along with a clean and attractive interface with which brands can make an instant impact through use of imagery and branding, Google+ also offers the ability to segment users according to any criteria you wish. By using the ‘Circles’ functionality within G+ businesses can organise their fans and customers into groups in order to distribute tailored content to certain individuals, for example; a restaurant or café may decide to create circles for recipe tips, deals and promotions or produce suppliers and then ask users which circles they would like to be added too. Once users have been added to the appropriate circles tailored content can be posted to each individual circle to create a more personalised environment for fans that only receive the information they want rather than every piece of content you post. This type of functionality can create a more interactive and engaged user base without the risk of spamming users with unrelated content.
Along with the ability to segment users and offer tailored content to fans, Google+ also offers the interesting feature of ‘Hangouts’. Hangouts allow businesses to interact with fans via a video chat interface, up to ten people can currently be involved in a Hangout at one time meaning that focus groups, Q&A sessions, workshops or behind the scenes tours can be offered to customers. Hangouts allow all users included to screen-share, collectively watch YouTube videos, edit documents or simply chat in a relaxed and intuitive environment. Brands such as Dell, Coca-Cola and Samsung have all carried out Hangouts with their fans ranging from behind the scenes tours of their facilities to customer support sessions – all of which offer customers who are included in the Hangout an incredibly personal and face-to-face interaction with the brand.
Alongside the unique and interesting functions that Google+ offers the real emphasis lies with sharing and distributing interesting content, imagery and videos. With a relatively minor investment of time a small business can optimise its Google+ profile to make it more visible in Google search results by simply filling out all aspects of the “About” section appropriately, including all relevant information along with links to the businesses website in the “Introduction” section and recommended links to any other social profiles the business has. Including hyperlinked keywords in posts and appropriately naming any images uploaded to Google+ are all ways in which content posted to G+ can be optimised to be included in search results. While there are a number of factors that heavily influence which content is indexed in social search results such as reach, the number of followers and frequency of posting, the network offers an invaluable platform from which to increase your businesses visibility not only within the Google+ environment but also through Google search results.
Google+ is an evolving platform that is growing at an ever-increasing rate. The benefits for any small business adopting the social network greatly outweigh the negatives and it could offer your business that unique standpoint from which to make your presence felt online.
About the Guest Post Author
Colin Miller is an Account Executive at online PR agency Punch Communications, working extensively with the Google+ platform for a number of clients.