If you’re asking ‘What is Google+?’ here’s a quick primer — Google+ is the latest social networking foray from Google. This network was launched earlier this summer with a stampede for scarce invitations and industry wonks waxing philosophically on whether Google+ was a Facebook or Twitter “killer” or simply a “shiny new thing” destined for obscurity. Given Google’s powerful online dominance, it’s no surprise that in a few short month’s this new network has already surpassed 60 million users.
Much of the early buzz surrounding Google+ has focused on how businesses could potentially leverage this new network’s targeting and collaborative tools — Circles and Hangouts, respectively — to connect with customers. Last month, Google addressed this by launching Google+ Business Pages.
But how do you know if a Google+ Business Page is right for your brand?
Why Google+ Matters
On the surface all of this could seem like “just another social network.” However, Google has built a very different network based not only on user control (one of Facebook users’ biggest gripes) but closeness — as in seeing the updates you want to see and targeting your communications accordingly. This streamlined ease of use and control has been popular among early adopters and has enormous business potential.
Have you ever felt spammy because your brand’s Facebook Page updates get blasted to all of your fans regardless of their relationship with you? Google+ allows your business to tailor social updates to special segments built around their ‘Circles.’ Circling is Google’s entry into the social lexicon of ‘fans’, ‘likes’, and ‘followers.’ These customized groups allow you to easily segment conversations by audience. You can even choose whether you want your followers to see which Circles you have them in.
Remember that brainstorming session where you wished you could quickly poll a few trusted customers? Google+’s video chat feature, Hangouts, allows you to do just that. Simply start a Hangout with a circle of your choosing or specific customers and you can access on-demand market research.
The First Steps
To get started, you’ll need a Google+ Profile (a user account). If you don’t already have this you’ll need to first sign up for a free Google account (a Google account is handy for so many things like Gmail, Google Places, AdWords, and Analytics). Once you have all of this set up (it’s just as easy if not easier than Facebook) you simply click on Create a Google+ Page. If needed, you can create multiple business pages from a single profile account. From here Page set-up is very similar to the process of building a Facebook Page — selecting a category, adding information, URL, and so on.
What You’ll Need
- Logo — 200 x 200 pixels.
- 10-word description — This will sit under your Page’s name.
- 5 photos that best represent your brand. Like Facebook Pages, these tile along the top of your page (without these your Page will look decidedly naked).
- List of relevant websites you want to link to (you can list up to 20).
- Plan — Like all things social, you need an engagement plan. Creating an outpost on a new social network is worthless if it’s unclear who will manage it and how they’ll use it.
Take some time to complete your info. It’s nice for followers but it’s also searchable content. Many have already observed that Google+ Pages are getting prioritized in Google’s search results. The rich editor, which allows you to style text and add hyperlinks, shouldn’t be ignored either. The other great editing feature in Google+ is the ability to edit posts rather than just deleting them if you have a typo or mistake. You can even “lock” certain posts to prevent further sharing if you have a message you want to keep a tight lid on. Again, this kind of editing and user control is foreign to Facebook.
Finally, you’ll want to add a few posts before publishing your Page (this tip goes for Facebook, too). Nobody likes a vanilla page — not to mention the fact that no one can comment without a post from you! Also, as YouTube is a Google-owned property, it’s extremely easy to add video content as well.
Things to Remember
- Like Facebook, Profiles are for people and Pages are for business. Neither network likes it when you deviate from this.
- Promotion. Don’t forget to add a Google+ button to your website or blog to drive your community to your Google+ Page.
- Circle rules. Your brand page can only circle someone if they circle you first. However, you control if they can see what circle you’ve put them in.
- What if no one … Embarrassed that you will only have a couple followers when you start? You can hide your follower count in the early days so no one sees it’s just you and your mom.
- Measure up. Like Facebook Insights, Google+ offers (what else) Analytics.
- No pretty URLs. Though you get a unique Google+ URL for your page, unlike Facebook, you cannot create a custom username (plus.google.com/mybrand) yet.
- Share the fun. Like Facebook, after you create your Page you can add up to 50 managers to help you keep the Page updated. You can even transfer ‘ownership’ to another manager.
So there you have it. Everything you need to get started on the web’s next big thing. Plus — pun intended — even if your customers aren’t on Google+ quite yet, it won’t be long before they are. Think of this as getting your storefront set up early. Shouldn’t you be prepared for your guests before they arrive?
For more info, download my FREE eBook, Google+ 101.
Power users will want to check out Chris Brogan’s new book, Google+ for Business (I’ll post a book review here soon).