Social Media Spotlight: Google+

Social Media Spotlight is designed to introduce you to the benefits of social media for your business, with specific examples tailored to the graphic arts industry. This month we’re exploring Google+.

Why join for business?

If you’re new to Google+ you may be thinking, “Oh no, not another social media site!” This is a valid first reaction, but the Google+ platform has some distinct benefits over other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, solely because it’s the brainchild of search engine giant, Google. Google+ was launched in June 2011 (it’s a toddler in a sea of child and pre-teen social media superstars), however, six short months after it launched, the Google+ platform had managed to attract 90 million users. Just 18 months later (as of January 2013), Google+ had 525 million users! Although Google+ is relatively young, it’s gaining popularity quickly, and savvy businesses understand the need to get onboard or get left behind.

Similar to the way you can create a business “page” on Facebook, you can create a business “page” on Google+. Your page contains contact information, photos and content that you have shared with your fans. Additionally, local businesses have the added bonus of utilizing the Google Maps feature inside of Google+ to help customers easily locate their businesses.

The foundation of Google+ is made up of “Circles”. Circles are user-created groups that reflect the different people in a user’s life with whom they want to share different content. For example, users can create a friends circle, a family circle and a professional circle. They can add other Google+ users to one or more circles and share content with a specific circle. This is a significant difference from Facebook, whereby you share content universally, and only in the Facebook settings can you change who has access to view different parts of your content. Therefore, the Google+ platform provides a more tailored content-sharing user experience. Lastly, a Google+ user can add a company page to their circle to interact with the brand.

Another benefit to using Google+ (and arguably the most important reason to invest time in this social media platform) is the positive impact on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts. Google+’s version of Facebook’s “Share” button and Twitter’s “Tweet” button is the “+1” button. This button is an endorsement of interesting content. The +1 button can be added to a company’s website (alongside their other social media icons), their other social media sites, as well as on their Google+ page. This helps build social evidence for your brand and builds trust because the +1 system is an authentic way to determine if information on the web is helpful or not. Because of the inherent link between Google search and Google+, the more +1’s your content receives, the higher it can rank in the regular Google search engine. (This is one of the factors in the complex algorithm of Google ranking.) Also, Hubspot’s inbound-marketing specialists found that businesses that incorporate Google’s +1 button on their website get 3.5x the number of Google+ visits versus companies that don’t include the +1 button on their website. For these reasons, your company can’t afford not to have a Google+ page and add the +1 button to your website.

The combination of circles and opportunities to improve SEO are terrific reasons to create a Google+ page today. But, as with any social media platform, you can’t just build it and expect that “they will come”. Instead, you must continuously engage users, and this is best done in a variety of ways, as discussed below.

Getting Started Using Google+:

Head to www.google.com/+/business/ to create your Google+ page using the intuitive interface.

Create your Google+ account from a mutually shared Google account (versus an individual’s account). This will enable more streamlined administration of your business’ Google+ page, whereby the entire marketing department can access the account.

Add a tagline and profile photo (logo) to your page for added customization.

Share some content and promote your page to the world!

Tips for Engaging Prospects & Customers

Aside from the standard status updates and ability to upload and share content, Google+ has a few added features that can be truly game-changing for engaging prospects and customers. Two of these features are Events and Hangouts.

When Event pages are created, a digital invitation is sent to guests and syncs key information with their Google Calendars. Other event details are displayed on the page and it acts as a hub for before, during and after an event. As the event is taking place, users can start discussions, comment and upload photos in real time (Google calls this “Party Mode”). After the event has taken place, all of the event photos and commentary can be found in one central place (instead of individuals uploading photos to their own profiles, which is what happens on Facebook). This feature has fantastic applications for company events in the graphic arts industry, such as trade shows, product launches, seminars, conferences and open houses.

Hangouts are Google+ video chats. They help businesses broadcast to their customers in a way that has never before been available. Hangouts are live broadcasts that are recorded and instantly saved to your Google+ page, as well as to your YouTube account. Companies within the graphic arts industry -can take advantage of the Hangouts functionality by demonstrating new equipment and capabilities, showing creative and interesting printed products and/or creating “how -to” videos for customers (ex: how to set up files for print, demystifying the printing process, etc.). Real-time, value-added video content can bring together people from all over the world to share in the discussion about your business.

Overall, the best way to engage prospects and customers on Google+ is the same as on any social networking platform – interact with your fans and share interesting content regularly.

How to Measure Your Effectiveness

As with all social media marketing, you have to customize your metrics based on what is important to your business. At a minimum, you will want to monitor the click through rate from your Google+ page to lead-generating content on your website (whereby leads provide you with basic information in exchange for a valuable resource). It is important to understand how much traffic (how many of those leads) are being directed from your Google+ page to your website where they can learn more about your product or service.

Another key component in the success of your Google+ page is to link all of your social media sites, YouTube, blogs and website together to create a cross-promotional web marketing campaign. None of your social media channels should stand alone; instead they should work seamlessly together to turn leads into prospects, and prospects into customers.

A Company Who’s Got It Right

Here is what Whitlam Label Company is doing right on Google+ (bit.ly/WzFV2M):

Consistently posting new content (updates about their company, relevant news items)

Maximizing the amount of information in their profile including a tagline, introduction, contact information, link to their website’s homepage, as well as links to individual pages on their website

Sharing “scrapbook photos” of their products

Glossary

+1: a social sharing button that allows a user to endorse a piece of content or a brand, thereby assisting that content or brand to rank higher in Google’s search results.

Circles: the name given to the groups of people with whom the content you share varies (ex: friends circle, family circle, professional circle).

Hangouts: Google+ video chat.

Links to Further Resources

Google+ – www.google.com/+

Google+ for Business – www.google/com/+/business

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Diana Varma is an Instructor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University and the Owner of ON-SITE First Aid & CPR Training Group, a health & safety company that provides training to the Graphic Arts Industry.