10 Google+ Tips for Businesses

The more I use Google+, and the more I see it being used by businesses, the more opportunities I see with the platform.  I’ve posted before about how I believe it is more than just a social network in the way Facebook is, and I stand by that.

Google is a search company.  They tell us again and again that providing the best possible results for their users is their core objective, and the fact is, that results are better when they’re most relevant, and they’re most relevant for users when they are tailored to them personally, and when they reflect the interests of their peer group.

Even businesses who have a broad appeal can still profile customers into demographic groups based on the products they need, or the advertising messages that they best respond to, and this is the area where Google+ adds the most value.

10 Google+ Tips

1: Have a Reason for the Page

You need a social media strategy.  Ask yourself why you’re going to use Google+.  How is it going to contribute to your communication strategy?  What kind of engagement are you expecting from it?  How are you going to measure success?

2: Set up a Google+ Page

If you haven’t done it yet, do it now.  You can’t invite people to play if you don’t have somewhere to do it.  There are loads of guides around the internet about how to set up your page, but it’s pretty simple just to follow the walk through as you actually do it.

And while you’re at it, make sure that you add Google Direct Connect to your site to verify that your G+ page is official.

Make sure that your page is attractive.  Personalise the image bars with pictures that tell the story of your business using the products that people most identify with.

3: Add +1 Buttons to your Website

If you’re going to make  a serious attempt to leverage G+, make sure you let your customers know you’re on it.  Add +1 buttons to your page template where they’re going to get noticed and clicked on.

4: Tell your customers about it

There’s often a tendency towards building something and expecting that it will become popular immediately.  It won’t.  You only get out what you put in.  The reason why companies like Coca-Cola have millions of Facebook Fans is because they tell people they have a page.  They advertise the page within their marketing material.

Include a link to your G+ page alongside your Facebook and Twitter accounts on your next email newsletter.

Encourage staff to +1 you and add your page to their circles, give customers an incentive to share.

5: Give people a reason to visit

Google aren’t unknown for giving their own properties a boost in the search results.  There’s probably nothing sinister in that – websites like YouTube are pretty powerful platforms in terms of PageRank, and will naturally acquire links.  G+ is the same.  Think about promoting things like exclusive voucher codes via G+ (do this for Facebook too – create a tab for [YOURBRAND] Voucher Codes, and you’ll often out rank the major voucher code affiliates).  If you create content that is exclusive to a platform, people will have a reason for using it.

6: Proactively Follow the right people

Google suggest some people for you to add to your circles when you first set up the page.  That’s kind of them, but do you really want to follow people like Britney Spears.

Look at your best customers on your other platforms.  Who comments most frequently, and who comments in the most positive way.  The great thing about G+ is that Google are keen for it to be filled with genuine people.  Invest time and effort in tracking down your best friends on Facebook and adding them to your G+ circles.  This might take time, but it’s time well spent.  If you can add 100 people who are going to participate in your conversation and it takes a week to do it, you will benefit more than simply spending half a hour clicking randomly on different profiles.

7: Use Circles Intelligently

The thing that really differentiates G+ from Facebook is the ability to target specific groups of people with specific messages.  Create circles for the different types of customer you have so that you can provide them with the most appropriate content.  You’ll have general news that goes out to everyone, but you might want to give your best customers early news about a new product.  Put them in a circle that gets advance warning of special offers.  Put difficult customers in a circle that is bothered less frequently and only gets the best deals.

8: Use Hangouts

Why wouldn’t you want to talk to your customers?  Schedule time each week for a customer chat.  Use Hangouts to allow people to feedback about what you’re doing, or ask questions.  Be open and honest with your customers and respond to their thoughts.  Treat it like a radio phone in where people get the opportunity to engage with the people who represent your brand.

9: Encourage Participation

Ask questions, and contribute to the discussion.  When people post about you, respond, when people ask you questions, answer.  If all you ever do is talk at the crowd, they will listen but they won’t hear.  Ultimately, as a business, you’re going to be using G+ and other platforms to encourage more people to buy your stuff, but it’s not a place for the hard sell.  Social platforms are all about a conversational sell.  They give you an opportunity to give people the balanced information they need to make a decision, and ask questions about what choices they want to make.

If you’re active on G+, people will feel more comfortable in asking questions of you and be confident that they’ll get a response.

10: Keep it Real

If you’re not “down with the kids”, don’t try to be.  Stay true to your brand on whatever social network you are on, and you won’t alienate people.  You need to be more open than you might on a corporate news letter, but you also need to maintain professionalism.  Don’t swear on Hangouts, don’t pretend to be something you’re not, and don’t post stupid