To look at Google Plus today is to look at the Twitter of yesteryear – and that is where our journey begins to understand the value of G+ – and how you can start to leverage it for your business or yourself.
I remember joining Twitter in late 2008 and entering a community of acronyms that I didn’t understand and an atmosphere that, to be honest with you, seemed a little intimidating at the time. I didn’t see its immediate value and ended up unplugging from the platform for a few months. In fact, most professionals that I met at the time (and to some extent, some even today…) simply saw Twitter as being a place where people talked about what they had for breakfast. There were those evangelizing Twitter, but obviously it was before the massive transformation that created the Twitter we know and love today. What has helped sustain Twitter, amongst other things, is a passionate community of users that have supported it through thick and thin.
G+ is in a very similar situation, and shares an equally active and passionate community. When a study hinted that Google Plus had weak engagement back in May of 2012, despite the fact that Google Plus had recently crossed the 100 million user mark, the media already started calling G+ a Ghost Town. Mention this “Ghost Town” reference to any single G+ user and you will see a passionate backlash from many active users. Despite the clear SEO advantages that Google Plus provides, business are also slow to adapt to creating business pages. Google Plus has now announced that they have 400 million users, with a potential active user base of 100 million users. Yet most businesses and professionals that I meet have stayed away from Google Plus much like many stayed away from Twitter in its early days.
As I blogged about sometime ago, now is still the time for Google Plus for your business. Just as Twitter crossed the chasm to become a popular media outlet and realtime search engine, I already see G+ as the place where relationships are created and developed, serious conversations can be had, and convenient video dialogue can be had for businesses and people. Different from the fleeting 140 character limited posts on Twitter, the crazy atmosphere on Facebook, or even the stifling atmosphere you might find on LinkedIn, Google Plus lets you delve deeper into conversation than any of the other platforms, and if you are a Gmail user you can respond to comments (or circle your contacts and engage with their latest post) seamlessly from inside your email client.
As you will find with the advice from all of the experts below, I would also recommend you begin on G+ just as you begin on Twitter: Do a search for your company, product name(s), industry, and competitor keywords and start from there. That’s usually enough to get even my most skeptical clients interested in having a more robust Twitter presence, and I am confident that it will similarly help you see that there are a lot of conversations happening on Google Plus that are potentially important to your business without your even knowing it!
To begin to understand the broader potential of G+, I first reached out to Guy Kawasaki, probably Google Plus’ biggest evangelizer. He has also written the best book on the platform, What the Plus!: Google+ for the Rest of Us, which was recently released in paperback format. This post is not meant to be a book review, but needless to say in What the Plus! Guy explains how to get started, create an “enchanting” profile, optimize for social searches, share posts and photos, conduct hangouts, and gain followers. His mission in his book is the same as the mission of this blog post: He wants to show you how to attract more followers, engage “enchanting” people, and promote your brand.
So I begin this article to help you understand how to better leverage Google Plus with Guy Kawasaki’s personal recommendations on both how to view Google Plus for your business or yourself as well as how to get started:
If you approach Google+ as another Facebook, you’ll be disappointed because your high-school classmates and family aren’t on Google+ yet. And maybe it’s a good thing to have a different set of friends based on your current and future interests, not your past. The potential for businesses and professionals is great because Google+ is a clean slate—it’s not linked to pictures of you at parties in high school and college. Also, don’t ever forget that this is from Google after all. Your activities on Google+ influence search results which is crucial for businesses and professionals. I’d rather be a search engine trying to get social [than] a social site trying to get search.
The first thing [you] should do is a keyword search for [your] passions—adoption, self-publishing, hockey, knitting, photography, horseback riding, whatever. [You] will find people, circles, and pages that share [your] passion. Then [you] should circle these entities and comment on their posts. [You'll] see a whole new world open up filled with interesting and caring people. ~ +GuyKawasaki
…Google+ has tremendous potential for business and professionals because a) the links to Google search are very powerful and b) there are tons of useful networking opportunities there. Though still smaller than some other social networks, G+ is growing rapidly, and its attracting the best and the brightest, people who truly want to engage in more depth than they find elsewhere. To me, G+ is like the early days of blogs; you can seek out and find influential people in your interest areas and through commenting and sharing great content, build a valuable network. It’s worked that way for me like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
Approach G+ like you would a cocktail party full of interesting strangers. Use its search to find out where the conversations are happening and who you should be following. Start contributing useful comments to those discussions. Help influential people answer their followers’ questions. If you also have a stream full of fresh, useful content of your own, you’ll start to attract followers. The single biggest thing that’s built up my following on G+ is having a reputation for helping others with my areas of expertise. Next, if you’re a good content creator, hook up all the web sites where you post your content to your G+ profile using Google Authorship and begin to generate more ranking power for your content. ~ +MarkTraphagen
Mark has recommended a great guide to Google Plus for business and personal use that you should check out – in addition to the several Google Plus blog posts he has contributed to this blog.
With the help of Mark, I was able to reach out to some of the emerging celebrities of Google Plus to enlist their help in helping you see value and leverage Google Plus. The willingness of most who I contacted to respond, and in much greater detail than I had expected, speaks to the friendly, helpful, yet deep nature of the Google Plus user demographic.
A perfect person to speak to on this subject of G+ is Amanda Blain, a self-confessed Geek Girl, who also happens to have more than two million followers (or be in that many circles) on Google Plus.
…G+ is simply an extension of your Google account. It puts all the amazing products we all use everyday (search, you tube, maps, gmail, etc) into one, with a nice social backbone element. Quite simply.. Google “slightly better and all together” Plus. The way Google displays search results is changing. What your friends recommend is becoming more important to ranking in Google Search now. Hangouts are the real game changer though. Live streaming direct to you tube with up to 10 other people? For Free? You need to check out hangouts and the powerful ways you can connect with your audience through video. I’ve personally met over 300 people in real life that I met in Google Hangouts all over North America. It’s an amazing experience and new way to connect with your audience.
I’ve written lots of posts about the Magic of Google Plus in my rise to almost 2 million followers there. The main reasons I see people not doing well on Gplus … revolve around :
1) They Don’t have a completed public profile – No one is circling what looks like dead accounts.
2) They Post once every 2 weeks (what would your Twitter look like if you tweeted once every 2 weeks?) You don’t need to stop using the other sites you use, but you DO need to spend some time on GPlus, regularly.
3) Broadcast only – Never talk to anyone else on the site and expect people to be clicking their stories and commenting on their stuff when there is a HUGE stream of information going by. Google Plus is relationship building. Social media in the true, give and take form. The rules are different here, take a few moments to learnt them.
4) Only circle ‘real life friends’ and are not open to the idea of interacting with people based on similar interests. You do NOT need to know people in real life to talk about Iphones or Cooking, but you can have a great conversation. Perhaps even better than with local ‘real life friends’. Circles make it easy to separate “Your staff” from “Pizza Fans in the East Side of The City”. That’s the beauty of it all. Circle and interact and share specific trageted pieces of information with everyone relevant to you or your business. ~ +AmandaBlain
Amanda also has written a great post on seeing the magic of Google Plus that is highly recommended.
Google Plus (and social media) knows no borders, and to prove it, G+ helper & volunteer / entrepreneur / community manager Jaana Nyström has amassed more than 400,000 followers in Finland. She offers you her own welcome to the “Circleverse”:
If Google Plus feels like a Ghost Town, you’re using it wrong. Simple as that. Remember starting on Twitter or Facebook? Nothing happens if you just log in and wait for the world to connect to you. You must take the first step: Create a proper Profile page.
The next step is to engage, engage, engage. Add people to your circles and start interacting. “My friends are not here…” So what? Make new ones, based on mutual interests. Use the G+ search to find out about your passions and also people who share those same interests. Start commenting, sharing posts, giving +1’s on posts and comments: It’ll happen. But it all depends on you, how fast.
Use your profile page to boost your business Page, share posts from both outside G+. I like using the BufferApp for scheduling and sharing to other networks.
I’m a very good example of a totally unknown user (a Finn to boot) without previous following on social networks. I really started from scratch in June 2011: At the moment I write this, my follower count is around 350 000. How? By being myself and engaging, helping out and being generous. Creating original posts, sharing my G+ knowledge, getting noticed in a natural way.
For an entrepreneur, what could be better than getting a high spot on Google search? Well, being active, connecting your other profiles and websites and most importantly using your keywords on G+ posts & profile helps, more than you can imagine.
…There is no must on G+ but a huge amount of possibilities… Welcome to the Circleverse! ~ +JaanaNystrom
Jaana has created a plethora of Google Plus resources for you on her G+ blog.
Linda Lawrey is another Google Plus rockstar, having more than 1 million followers. A G+ Advocate and Field Tester/Early Adopter, Linda offers us some excellent advice in a 7-step program on how we can get more out of Google Plus:
…Google Plus isn’t a broadcast medium. It’s a living, breathing social experience but you are responsible for breathing life into your own experience. How do you do that? Easy. And this applies for both PERSONAL accounts and Business pages.
1. Circle LOTS of people and pages. Create circles for READING and not posting to, and read those circles. Your stream needs to move and move with a variety of content that interests you, and you want a variety of people and people who post a variety of content. People aren’t “just” a political activist”, “foodie”, or “cat video” enthusiast. Each person is as complex in their interests online as they are in their offline life. They can be serious one moment and funny the next. They can be a techie or a grandmother (or both). And they are all interesting!
2. Participate with those you circle and the posts in your stream AND theirs. People want to circle Engagers back and this is the best way to gain those circlers. Look down at recent posts on someone’s profile. There’s always great content there you may have missed in your circle streams.
3. Be “seen” even when you have little to say at any given moment or regarding a topic. Plus those posts. Plus and reshare posts for those that do have something to say. Plus and reshare posts in the “Explore” section. Be SEEN to be noticed so people will know you are here!
4. It’s not all about “you”. PROMOTE other people and their posts by resharing what interests you. That’s the best way to receive something for your stream, and give back to the person that provided it. Don’t just reshare popular posts and people. Help others be as successful as you are or want to be.
5. Try to always add your own remark when you reshare a post, even if it’s just your own title or snippet from a link that’s been posted. You don’t want to look “automated” in your posts. You want people to know you are actually here via your postings. And people really are interested in what you have to say!
6. Avoid the drama. While you can observe what’s going on during an intense conversation, you don’t have to be sucked into it.
7. MODERATE your posts. People want a safe and comfortable environment for discussion, even when it gets intense. You are the host for your posts, and commenters are your guests. You have every right to provide an environment that nurtures discussion.
The potential for businesses on G+ is ENORMOUS! If you are new (or not) to G+ as a Business, observe other Business pages that are successful with engagement. Notice what they are doing RIGHT, and notice what successful PEOPLE are doing right, and there are many that do it right following the tips I listed above. Especially the part about it not being “all about you”. Want people interested in your business? Be interested in People. And that’s what G+ offers – The ability for a business to show they are interested in People. And people are their target audience!
Hangouts are an AWESOME way to engage and engagement is the best PR and promotion a Business will ever have. You are no longer just a link on the web for people to click on! With the ability to choose a panel for a hangout, yet broadcast it LIVE and take comments and questions from those watching, has to be THE BEST way to show people who you are as a person with your Business and not just an “entity” and link on a digital platform. I’m still in awe of the Hangout On Air Live platform! Any business that doesn’t utilize G+ for Business engagement with their audience, needs to rethink who makes up their social media team because they are missing a “must have” social media experience! And it’s never to late! You don’t have to be an early adopter of G+ to succeed. It’s amazing to see a person or business jump right in and do it up right!
…use and enjoy G+ as it was intended to be used – a successful, fun, and engaging social layer of many of Google’s products and services, or as a stand-alone social network. That’s what G+ is all about. Choice. Choose to make G+ the experience you are looking for in a social media and networking platform. ~ +LindaLawrey
Part of being active on Google Plus is the potential SEO benefits that you can reap. What advice does SEO expert AJ Kohn provide? I am glad that he also brought up the comparison with Twitter:
For business, the potential is to ensure your brand/site is prominently displayed when users search with personalization on. The connection between G+ and search is far greater than many imagine and is only growing stronger.
For the doubters, remember that G+ is a different platform. You wouldn’t approach Reddit like you would Facebook right? So stop trying to treat G+ like something else. It’s closest relative is Friendfeed if that helps you understand it.
So, do some searches for topics and keywords where you have an interest and circle a whole bunch of those results. Then start to engage in some conversation. It’s not a drive by or automated solution. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, I’m saying it’s going to be worth it. ~ +AJKohn
AJ has also created a definitive post on Google Plus SEO that you should look at for those wishing to leverage that aspect of being active on G+.
Is Google Plus just about the SEO? Of course not! Here is Fraser Cain, publisher of Universe Today, a site about space and astronomy, and someone who happens to have an asteroid named after him [158092 (Frasercain)]. He has also attracted almost 300,000 people to circle him.
…Google is constantly emphasizing that people should connect with friends and family, when what we’ve all discovered is that G+ is the place you go to engage with people who share your interests. You’ll have access to influencers and enthusiasts in your field. You’ll make… new friends.
With such easy access to influencers in your chosen field, it’s a massive opportunity to connect, network and engage. It has completely revolutionized my business in ways that still haven’t fully played out.
When you first join G+, your primary objective should be to find the shared circles that contain all the people already talking about the things that interest you. There are SEO and Social Media circles. I maintain a Super Science Circle with almost 500 people. With just a few clicks, you’ll have a stream that’s jumping with amazing people and content.
All you have to do is engage. ~ +FraserCain
For those of you passionate about science, or if you still think there’s little engagement on Google Plus, Fraser wanted to point you to this post of his.
Someone who represents what I think Google Plus is all about – helpful, intelligent, and engaging professionals – is Paul Gailey. Having never met him in person but building a relationship with him through Google Plus, Paul was instrumental in helping me navigate the Google Plus authorship issues that this blog had in the early days. As a Google Plus and SEO expert – and a genuinely helpful person – he offers us a unique perspective on the value of Google Plus and how our businesses can immediately start to tap into it:
Detractors may think otherwise but unlike other networks, Google Plus is largely devoid of automation, insincerity, fatuousness, intersecting monologues, or professional pretense. It’s not perfect but neither is uninhabited. True to the definition of a ghost or an apparition, it is remarkable and unexpected.
It’s potential for business lies in its benefits of productivity and proximity to four main groups: employees, suppliers, clients, and personalities.
If you doubt its business potency I advise starting in that order of groups. So once you done the basics such as profile creation, learnt the features, enabled Authorship – that enhances your content visibility in classic search results – use Plus with a subset of your employees in limited Circles as a tool to initially augment (dare I say substitute?) some email usage. You’ll discover it’s click quicker to share content, more satisfying to interact, and the ability to rapidly Hangout out or post video among yourselves will endear you to the so far advert free platform. Communication with suppliers can also be enhanced with G+ as you advance to more granular Circle management. Once your Clients interact via Hangouts their perception of your business is immediately elevated. The opportunity to engage with personalities on Plus is also unequalled, however you define them for you, be them prospects or people you wish to reach out to.
Keep your intel gathering antennae up at all times with saved keyword searches and leap in and out of comments on other people’s posts to build rapport. Measure impact with Analytics and note those graphs grow sharply upwards and to the right. ~ +PaulGailey
Windmill Networking is fortunate to have a number of experts in other social media fields, so I wanted to give them a chance to chime in to give you an even broader perspective. I thought I would first see what our Facebook expert (and co-author with Mari Smith of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day) as well as founder of social analytics tool PolyGraph) Chris Treadaway sees in Google Plus:
…Google, the search engine, is not a ghost town at all. Posts from your contacts in G+ show up above organic search results in many cases — and are thus valuable real estate. G+ is one part social network, one part social search. The latter is what differentiates it today from Facebook and is what makes G+ worth using, even if the social network doesn’t have competitive adoption metrics.
If you do any search engine optimization work, have a corporate web site, or blog to influence customers in your market, G+ can enhance that by being part of search results. But the less you do on G+, the more benefit I get — so by all means stay away! ~ +ChrisTreadaway
Windmill Networking’s SoMoLo (Social/Mobile/Local) contributor Joseph Ruiz, who has also written some great posts on integrating social media into your marketing mix, has a similar integrated approach in viewing Google Plus:
…I have found G+ to be an active platform. The groups play a key role in the experience, filtering and reviewing according to the audience segments (groups) provides an active and robust experience. G+ adds value to the other Google products like G+ Local. Soon Google will be releasing an integrated small business package with a robust set of applications to help businesses connect with their customers in order to take advantage of the new much more social marketing landscape.
The power of Google search combined with their growing list of offerings, like G+ Local are too big and powerful to ignore. Integrating the various products can provide advantages but doing so requires experimentation and experience. Start up the learning curve now or risk being left behind. ~ +JosephRuiz
I think people refer to G+ as a “GhostTown” because it doesn’t have the same degree of socialization that sites like Twitter and Facebook seem to have. For example, people seem to still share more personal (updates, photos, etc.) on Facebook; people on Twitter send through their Instagram photos and Foursquare check-ins; while G+ seems to be much more business and less personal, thereby limiting its audience, in a sense.
Nevertheless, Google+ is definitely a great business tool. First, the SEO benefits are huge. We all know Google is the highest-used search engine, so being able to explicitly use one of their products to increase content presence on the web can only be a good thing. Like any other platform, it also gives businesses or personal brands the ability to potentially reach a new audience – always a good thing, too.
Furthermore, the ability to host a G+ hangout is also an unprecedented way to intimately reach consumers. The trailer for Steven Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, will be making its debut via a G+ hangout with Spielberg himself an actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. For a film geek like myself, this is really awesome that big-name folks are taking the time to speak directly to fans. Other businesses would be wise to follow this lead.
For doubters or those that think G+ isn’t worth the time, I would say just start slowly. Set up a profile and follow accounts of friends and/or brands of interest. Once you start seeing what others are posting, and start posting yourself and seeing the discussion or the SEO benefits, I think the desire to proceed and grow your presence will come naturally. ~ +DebbieMiller
Debbie also has written a great post that you should refer to for Google Plus Business Page tips.
I am hoping that through this collection of diverse voices, some more active and strategic on Google Plus than others, you see some common threads of advice which help you see Google Plus as another social network where engaging conversations can take place and relationships of value can be built, whether you are a business or professional.
As Linda Lawrey said, Google Plus is about choice.
Will you choose to take a more serious look at Google Plus? We all hope you do – and welcome you.
What are you waiting for? Share with us YOUR perspective on Google Plus for all of us to learn from.
This is the second in a series of social meda roundtable posts featuring experts on a variety of issues that are vital for the successful business use of social media. If you would like to be considered for inclusion in future posts, please contact Neal.