It’s fair to say that Google Plus hasn’t experienced the same meteoric growth that Facebook and LinkedIn have. That doesn’t mean businesses should let this social site fall between the cracks. In fact, Google+ — launched in 2011 — is a perfect fit for small businesses eager to increase their exposure online.
Here’s how to use it and what you stand to gain from creating and maintaining a Google Plus profile.
Get to know Google Plus business profiles
Since undergoing a redesign a few years ago, Google’s social network has been focused on two features: Communities and Collections. Communities are intended to connect like-minded people, while Collections allow you to group posts by topic so it’s easy for users to find what they’re looking for.
Instead of “liking” something as you would on Facebook, Google Plus invites users to click a button marked +1. Also unique to Google Plus is the concept of Circles, which separate the people you follow into groups. A business’s Circles might include customers, partners, vendors, and your staff.
Setting up your profile
The first step in establishing your Google Plus business profile is to create a Google My Business account. This will make your business location, hours, and other key information visible to potential customers on Google Search and Maps. Your Google My Business dashboard will include a link to Google Plus, and pre-populate your profile with the same profile image that you uploaded to your Google My Business page.
After that, it’s time to start posting! Your content can be similar to what you share on your Facebook page, and should include both photos and text. You’ll have the option to share it with the Public or select Circles. You can also create your own Collection and post your content there, or use an existing Community.
Communities vs. Collections
Think of Collections as the equivalent of boards on Pinterest, where you can organize themed content and tips. Your customers can follow these to see your updates. Communities, which can be either public or private, are better used to share content related to your industry.
If your business is a spa, you might create a Spa Getaway Collection where you post about what your guests will experience when they book a service. The Communities you’re active in might include Yoga, Fitness, and Health & Wellness. Boutique hotel, Capri Laguna‘s Collections include a local events calendar and Things to Do at Laguna Beach, while its Communities are specific to Laguna Beach and Orange County, California.
The perks of a Google Plus business page
The most obvious benefit of using Google Plus is that it expands your reach and increases awareness of your business overall. According to Mashable, the social network is especially popular among photographers (one Landscape Photography Community has more than 1.1 million members), along with Bakers and niche groups like Board Game enthusiasts — a great fit for toy store owners.
Another big perk is that Google Plus users are believed to have an edge when it comes to boosting organic search results. As noted in an article published by Search Engine Journal, Google “rewards” fresh Google Plus content with better search rankings. “Businesses should update their Google Plus page at least every 72 hours. The more, the merrier,” the article’s author writes.
For businesses with multiple locations, creating a separate page for each individual store can further improve search engine (ranking) performance. Your Google Plus business page and local search listing work together to maximize your presence on Google. That may be the biggest plus of all.
Considering that you can repurpose content from sites like Facebook and LinkedIn for use on Google Plus, it’s an easy addition to your social marketing strategy. Google+ may not be a social media heavyweight, but it packs a powerful punch.