The year 2016. That’s the year some say Google Plus will storm the gates of Farmville, overthrow King Zuck and sack the City of Facebook as the largest social media platform in the world.
Google Plus has surpassed Twitter as the world’s second most popular social media network with approximately 359 million active users. That seems like it’s still a far cry from Facebook’s reported 1.1 billion, but considering Google Plus grew 33% over the past year, the platform’s ascent to the social throne is picking up speed.
Despite its rapid growth, Google Plus is still trying to find its niche in the social media world. From an end-user perspective, even Google struggles to define what Google Plus “is”. However, even with that major challenge, the marketing benefits that Google Plus offers your brand are already numerous. From SEO to direct and easy access to customer interaction, Google Plus is a great tool to integrate into your marketing strategy.
To make sure you’re maximizing the opportunities Google Plus offers your business, consider these tips:
Finish Your Google Plus Profile
This would seem like an obvious step in setting up your Google Plus page, but how many times have we all blown through a step-by-step setup wizard—with the idea of going back to include all of our company information later—and then failed to do so? Take the time to update your company Google Plus profile COMPLETELY.
Make sure you have all of your company contact information listed, your website linked and your other social media profiles like Facebook and Twitter added.
In your company description, keep in mind the search functionality of Google and include your top two or three keywords.
Google has also given you a HUGE amount of real estate for a cover photo. Seriously, you get to include a photo that is 2120 pixels wide by 1192 tall. You cram as much as possible into those small banner ads on your industry’s top media outlets, so why would you neglect this great free opportunity? Use every pixel available!
Search Meets Social
Facebook has long been (well, “long been” in the relative sense of social media lifespans) the top dog in social media and Twitter has earned it’s place in society, but for all of the great things each platform is capable of, each lacks great search functionality.
Naturally, with Google Plus, Google does what it does best: search. When Google Plus users type in a topic, they are treated to a wealth of easy-to-digest information, including posts, links, images, videos and more. For example, check out this real-time search for the term “CEDIA”: https://plus.google.com/s/cedia. You can see people and brands openly sharing content related to the professional organization and the upcoming CEDIA EXPO show in September.
Where Google Plus brings search and social together is the platform’s ability to allow you to easily see the profiles of the users providing that content, and even get a small preview of their profile without having to leave your search window. That sounds like a small detail, but it’s huge when you’re looking to build a following or connect with others.
Start a Community
One of the worst social media sins is being completely one-sided in your communication strategy. As much as we marketing people yell at you to interact with your audience, many (well, most) company social media accounts end up appearing too much like your company simply posting your content…on your page… to your followers.
Combining what people love about forums with the aspect of social, Google Plus Communities give you the opportunity to get out of that mindset and build an active community around your company or product. Why is this different? Because it allows you to become a part of a conversation—a conversation that people have opted into, I might add—rather than “giving a speech”. Once your page is up and running, get involved in a few communities to get an understanding of how they work, and then consider starting your own and invite your fans to join.
Add +1 Buttons to Your Website
I’ve mentioned the benefits that Google Plus search functionality offers your business, but there is an influential side to the platform that you need to take advantage of.
Google Plus’ “+1” functionality is a way users can show their appreciation for good content—think of the Facebook “Like” button. Where Google +1’s have the upper hand over other social media platforms is that since a +1 is seen as an endorsement of content, Google’s search engines will tend to move the organic placement of that content higher because it is viewed by its users as great content.
This concept extends beyond your Google Plus page. You should embed Google +1 buttons on every single page on your website, blog, pressroom, etc. (Feel free to give this blog post a +1 using the tools at the bottom of the page!) Getting +1 buttons can be as easy as installing code or adding a plug-in so moving forward, any site that allows you to put a +1 button should have one.
Hangout(s) With Your Fans
Google Plus has a great feature that will allow you to host live video chats with a large group of your fans. Instantly connecting your audience with real, live people humanizes your brand and leads to customers who feel more connected to your business. Next time you’re thinking of launching a new product or maybe you want to explain a new service your company is offering, schedule a Google Plus Hangout, invite as many customers as possible and be prepared to hold an actual real-time discussion—you’ll be amazed at the response.
Regardless of what Google Plus eventually evolves into, there is no denying the current opportunities the platform offers your business. Whether you’re trying to boost your SEO results or looking to build a larger community around your brand, dive into Google Plus to see how it can help your marketing plan.