Image by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Flickr
According to the latest figures (April 2012), Google Plus now has over 170 million users. Compared to Facebook’s 800 million, Google Plus has a long way to go to play catch up.
However, considering that Google Plus only had 10 million users in July 2011, their rate of growth is very impressive. Viewed as a potential marketing channel for your website, Google Plus for Business should not be ignored and if you do not currently have a Google Plus business page, now is the time to seriously consider the devlopment of a Google Plus Social Media Marketing Strategy for your business.
In my opinion Google Plus for Business is a stronger marketing tool than Facebook, if only because your Google Plus posts are far more likely to show up in the main Google search results compared to your Facebook posts.
According to Brad and Debra Schepp from The Online Seller, “it’s no surprise that, by being on Google+, your online business will enjoy better Google rankings. Yes, Google apparently favors sites that link to its social networking site”. Shoplet.com, an online office supply retailer, started using Google+ for promotion and marketing soon after it launched. The move paid off, the company’s found.
Google’s search engine favors websites that are linked to Google+ pages, says Erik M. Fox of Shoplet’s marketing and business development group. That better exposure on Google alone seems to justify the time it takes to create a business profile.
If you are not on Google+ already, just sign up through Google’s home page by clicking on the +You hyperlink. Once you are signed up, click on the Pages link at the bottom left corner of your new profile page, and click on the red Create new page button.
You’ll find that setting up a Google+ page is no big deal if you’ve created online profiles before. But you do want to do as complete a job as possible, according to Marc Arner, who runs ThinkBIGsites.com, which specializes in social media campaigns.
We make sure our clients Google+ page is filled to the max with information, pictures and videos relating to their business, Arner tells us. Google wants to see a full page.
Business benefits of Google+
Being a Google+ member has other advantages as the site has some pretty cool features. One is Circles, which makes keeping all your contacts organized simple, and even kind of fun. Once you’ve imported your various lists of connections, you drag and drop them into Circles of your choice (e.g., vendors, new customers, etc.). That way, you can really zero in on your markets with targeted communications.
Another compelling feature is Hangouts, a feature that lets you easily set up and hold video hangouts or business meetings, anytime, anywhere, Google says.
Google hangouts are a great way to offer online customer service as well as question and answer opportunities for your customers says Curtis Howe, whose company, GHS (for Got Help Services) manages social media accounts and strategy for businesses. He recommends to his clients that they have a Google+ account, and the availability of hangouts is one reason why.
It helps keep things personal and shows you pay attention to your customers, he tells us….
One of the most valuable benefits offered by Google Plus is the ability to set up “Circles”. This allows you to set up individual categories for all your business contacts and followers. Understanding how to manage your “Stream” is also important, in order to be able to promote your online business successfully.
Setting Up Your Circles
One of the key features of Google Plus is its circles, and it is important to use those circles effectively. If you are setting up your site for business, one of the first things you will want to do is rename the circles from their default names. The existing circle names are aimed primarily at personal users, and as such they may not be appropriate for a small business.
Renaming a circle is easy just click the Circles button, then double-click each circle name and choose Rename. You can use any name you like for your circles just choose professional titles and you should be fine.
If you already maintain a mailing list of clients and contacts, you can use that list to invite people to join your Google Plus page and become part of your circles. Sending a link to your email list works well just make sure that everyone on the list has opted in to receiving messages from your company.
Once people are following your site, they can invite others to follow you as well. That is the power of social media and it is present in Google Plus just like it is with Facebook. As your circles grow and more people join, you can begin to reach out to those followers with special offers, discounts and other enticements designed to grow your business.
You can also use Google Plus to reach out to others, adding them to your circles and allowing them to add you back to theirs. This kind of organic growth can be quite valuable, whether your primary customer base is consumers or other businesses.
Understanding the Stream
One of the most powerful parts of Google Plus in terms of business use is the Stream. The Stream is the main messaging center for Google Plus, and it is where you can post pictures, videos, links and other information. You can use this section to post information about your business, as well as links to new products and special offers.
As you get used to using Google Plus, you will no doubt think of all kinds of things to add to the Stream. Each time your company adds a new product or offers a new service, you can head over to the Stream to tell everyone in your circles all about it. You can also use the stream to offer special deals to those who refer new customers to your store. That not only gets you new business it helps your Google Plus site become more visible as well….
If you are interested in learning more about how Google Plus for Business can help you to promote your local business, check out this helpful video.
How to set up your Google Plus local business page
There is no doubt that the Google Plus user base will continue to grow at a fast pace, Google are forecasting in excess of 250 million users, by the end of 2012. As Google continues to develop the integration of Google Plus posts into their main stream search results, the benefits of using this relatively new marketing channel to promote your online business should be an important part of your Search Engine Optimisation and social media marketing strategy, that should not be ignored.
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