Relationships used to be the way business was done. A handshake and a person’s reputation were all that was needed to seal a deal.
Social media has brought about the return of these values. A recent post by Jason Falls even declared that we can learn about social business from America’s small towns. In small towns everybody knows everybody’s business, everyone looks out for one another, trust is essential, and the way to grow is by helping others. The most effective social media marketing embraces these values. And just like in a small town, a reputation for trustworthiness and helpfulness online can build lifetime customer loyalty.
Getting Personal on Google+
While the personal trust principles mentioned above are applicable to any social media network, they can be especially powerful on Google+. Why? Let’s break it down using Jason Fall’s small town principles:
- Everybody know everybody’s business. Google+ makes building and maintaining relationships easy. Using its powerful search you can find others talking about the topics your business interests cover. Its notifications let you know when people are talking to or about you. And circles allow you to find the right conversations at the right time. Kind of like being able to drop in to the corner bar one moment, the Chamber of Commerce meeting the next, and then hop right on over to the town square.
- Everyone looks out for one another. Once people get into mutual circles on Google+, the community bonds get tight quickly. Have a question or need help with a project? You’re sure to find someone willing to help. And if you show yourself to be a helpful resource, people will recommend you, share your posts, and include you in shared circles that gain you new followers.
- Trust is essential. A lot of network building goes on in Google+, due to the ease of recommending someone (just type + and a person’s name, and their name becomes a link to their profile, and people can add them to their circles with one click). So being trustworthy is crucial. People who recommend you are putting their own reputation on the line. Consistently recommending trustworthy people to your followers builds your bank account of trust as well.
- Helping others is the way to grow your own following. Nothing gets people recommended to others or placed in a shared circle on Google+ faster than a reputation for helpfulness. The ease of sharing on Google+, and the huge reach that such sharing can have, makes such a reputation “viral.”
It’s true that all of the above can be (and should be!) done via a Google+ brand page. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’ve done all the basics to make your brand page accessible and welcoming to visitors. But you can hyper-extend the power of your small town business approach with an influential personal profile.
Why Should You Have a Business-Oriented Google+ Personal Profile?
If you’ve been following our recommendations here on Windmill Networking, you’ve created a Google+ brand page and you’re actively using it. You’ve even gone a step further and optimized your brand page for Google and Google+ search so you’ll be found. So why do you need to make use of a personal profile as well? A Google+ personal profile gives you the following “edges” in your marketing efforts:
- Personal profiles can circle anyone. Brand pages can’t (until a person has first circled them). Following others by adding them to your circles is one of the quickest ways to gain a following for yourself.
- Personal profiles are welcomed more easily than brands. Nobody invites a “brand” into their living room; people want to know people. And if a person is friendly and engaging and helpful, and it turns out that person is connected to a brand, people are more likely to transfer their warm and fuzzy feelings to that brand.
- Personal profiles can spend more time being “personal.” While brand pages certainly should try to be “human” (posting and sharing more than just sales pitches), personal profiles have less pressure on them to “get the message out.” So when “the message” is shared, it seems more natural and is accepted more easily.
How to Use a Personal Profile to Build Your Brand Page
Before I get into the practical tips, one caveat. While I’m hoping to help you build a following for your Google+ brand page, that shouldn’t be your number one concern. To paraphrase the brilliant Internet marketing trainer Corey Creed: “Brand pages don’t have wallets, people do.” (He says this about search engines, but I think it applies equally well to social media business pages.) As long as you’re building credibility for your company, don’t sweat too much where it’s happening, whether on your site, your brand page, or your personal profile.
With that in mind, here are my top tips for using your personal profile to build your company’s branding and Google+ brand page.
1. Make your brand affiliation clear on your profile’s “About” tab.
Do more than just have your brand in the employment section. The Introduction section of your About tab is a natural place to talk about your business and what it does. It also acts as a search keyword in Google+’s internal search, so as your profile gains influence, it becomes one more way for your brand to be found online. But more importantly, as people come to know and like you on Google+, they will come to associate your company (favorably) with you.
2. Post about your brand’s topics, but not always about your brand.
Your objective here is to establish yourself as a credible authority in the areas your brand touches on. Remember that more people are going to end up being interested in your business because of you than from any hard selling you do. So if your brand is a travel broker, in your personal postings talk about travel, give travel tips, share web content and other Google+ posts that are about travel (but not necessarily your company). Help people who are talking about taking a trip.
3. Share links to your brand, but do it naturally.
In his great book about Google+ (What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us), Guy Kawasaki says that he keeps his self-promotion posts to under 5%. I wouldn’t want to make any percentage an absolute rule, but I would definitely advise keeping your business-promoting posts few compared to your other posts. There’s always a fine line between naturally sharing what you’re about and spamming.
But I think you can post more brand links than Kawasaki’s 5% if you’re sharing them more organically. For example, share a link to a helpful blog post on your company’s blog as part of a post about a larger topic. Our hypothetical travel broker might write a Google+ post about a great trip to Tahiti she just got back from, and in it drop a link to her agency’s post about “best exotic travel locations” as part of the discussion. Also don’t be shy about sharing a link to your company’s resources in a comment thread if the resource would be truly helpful to someone in the discussion.
4. Create and share a shared circle that includes your brand page. Find some great people and pages on Google+ who aren’t competitors but who share things related to your brand’s topics. Put them in a circle and from time to time share that circle in a post, explaining why it’s a valuable follow. Your followers can add the circle to their circles with one easy click. Now here’s the “trick”: include your brand page in the shared circle. Only do it if your brand page truly relates to the topic of your shared circle. (To share a circle in a post, on your circles tab click the circle, then click the shared circle icon that appears where the circle was.)
Have you explored the power of using your personal branding to build your brand’s presence in social media, and on Google+ in particular? If so, what has worked for you? How well do you think you do in maintaining the balance between being a real person and promotion?