Although Google+ is now one and a half years old, many fans and friends still ask what it is, why they’ve been added to someone’s Circles (okay, particularly mine) and whether they need it when Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are already overwhelming them. Good question — in fact it’s one that has many social media professionals wondering the same thing.
So what IS Google+?
Yes, Google+ is another social media network where you can share status updates, discussions, post photos, and talk live using video conferences called Hangouts. You can comment on other people’s content, share it or endorse it with a +1, basically a repackaged idea from Facebook’s Thumbs Up.
What’s so great about it?
Truth be told, if you’re not a big user of Facebook and don’t understand Twitter, then Google+ will probably have little appeal. But, if have a gmail account, consume content, have a blog or website or small business, you may want to sit up and take notice.
If you have a gmail account…
• Google+ is useful in categorizing your contacts into groups called Circles. It’s easy to drag and drop your contacts into organized chunks you can later share information with on a whim. Think, Work Circles, you son’s First Grade Class, Babysitters, Teammates and so on. People will see that they have been added to your circles (if they accept), but with never see the name of the circle you’ve created. (e.g. City of Rye, Potential Customers, Former Colleagues etc…)
When you have a gmail account, and you get an email, it’s easy to build up your Circles by clicking the “Add to Circles” button at the top right of the email, like the Circle I’ve created above called City of Rye.
On the otherhand, when someone adds YOU to a Circle for the first time, you’ll receive an email looking like this, which is usually when people get weary and ask, “What the heck is Google+?” Simply put, it means someone wants to reach out to you, so go ahead and accept if you know them. ( hint, hint )
• Many websites and blogs, including this one, have a Google+ share button at the botton making it easy to share information you like with others in your Google+ Circles. You can share articles, posts and pictures with as narrow or broad of a segment as you wish, including the general public.
• You can create an event and share it with people in your circles, or make it a public invite. Just go to the event section on the left side bar, name your event, time and location then choose the Circles with whom you’ll share it. Below, I created an event per the email above from the mayor rescheduling Halloween for the following day.
• If you’re wondering what’s on people’s minds, you can see what is “trending” ala Twitter-style now on Google+. For example, I like to follow photography and today happens to be #MoodyMonday, which means I can get inspired by other photographers’ work along this theme, or I can contribute by posting some of my own moody photos by adding the words #MoodyMonday and they’ll be found in this stream. Tagging photos with the # sign along with a category name helps photos get found in Google search. Go ahead, try searching for what you’re most interested in.
If you have a blog, website or business…
Here’s where the viral sharing benefits of Google+ really come into play. If you want to promote something, be sure to give it a +1 and share it with all of your Circles, so that others will then share it with their Circles. This is one tool many social media mavens use to drive traffic to a website of blog. And there are some real benefits to sharing through the Google+ network.
• Websites using Google’s +1 button get 3.5 times more traffic from Google+ than websites that don’t have the button installed.
• Your Google rankings will increase each time someone gives your website, articles or individual posts a +1. That means better placement for you or your business in Google search results. Basically, +1’s help your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and help get your information more easily found on Google.
•Businesses can create their own Google+ business page to feed content through to build an audience and drive traffic to their website. Local pages have special fields to help people find a company’s physical address.
• Google+ Direct Connect lets companies have a shortcut to getting found in Google Search. Just add a “+” in front of the company’s name in the browser window to go directly to a company’s Google+ page and skip over the traditional search engine results page. Quite handy for both users and companies.
What to share on Google+…
Google+ is similar to other social media networks when it comes to marketing, but it does have its own strengths and weaknesses. To get the most from your Google+ Business Page in terms or traffic and leads for your business, follow these best practices:
• Don’t create a Google business page through your personal gmail account. Set up another Google address so everyone in the company can access it without affecting anyone’s personal settings.
• Share lots of photos as these are shared or passed along most often.
• Be sure to segment your Circles and customize the information you’re sharing accordingly.
That’s my take on Google+ and I hope you find it helpful. If you have more questions on Google+ watch this video.
Do you have a Google+ account? How do you find it most useful? Or, if not, what do you fear about Google+? We’d love to hear from you!