There is nothing special about me. I am a guy in my late 50s. I am going bald and have been for some time. I’ve grown a goatee to give the illusion that I have a chin and I work for a company that specializes in business compliance issues and legal documents. There really is nothing special about me.
And yet, when I log into my Google+ account, I feel like a pretty popular guy stepping out onto a virtual stage in front of 7,937 followers (exact count as of writing this). Granted, that’s a small number compared to some Google+ rock stars, but for a guy of my small stature who posts mostly business-related content, I’m doing pretty well.
When I was tasked with the duty of building a Google+ page eighteen months ago, I didn’t understand the reason my company needed a personal presence on Google+, let alone how to navigate the large array of seemingly random posts and cat pictures that appeared on my computer screen once I logged in. However, I soon discovered I was in a place much different than Facebook or Twitter. Instead spending five minutes a day dumping links onto a page, as I’d originally imagined, I found myself instead learning a lot about what entrepreneurs were going through, finding great resources I never knew existed, and making friends. And soon, during my initial days on Google+, I discovered three reasons why every business that has a website should maintain a presence on this social platform:
- Post style
There’s not a maximum post length on Google+. This allows for you to make long, informative posts, include links and pictures, and format them in a way that best fits what you’re posting.
- Industry-focused networking
It is easy to find people in your industry and with similar interests via communities and circles (circles are big in G+). Google+ fosters a place where discussions, learning, and questions are encouraged, which an ideal setting for entrepreneurs with big ideas.
- Google owns Google+
Something you post on Google+ may very well become the first result of a Google search someday soon. Google is a business, and they’re not going to let their product fail. They’re going to offer incentives, of sorts, and that could translate into your posts on Google+ being crawled quickly and ranking in Google search results. For more specifics, you can take a look at this informative blog post.
Despite its benefits, Google+ has a learning curve. It took me a while to get a lot of the Google+ industry language down, so I’ve created a key of the most important aspects to Google+. Let’s start with the basics:
- On Google+ it is prudent to make use of hashtags within your posts, but make sure to follow the general hashtag rule: don’t overuse them! Make hashtags relevant. Overuse can make your post irrelevant.
- Google+’s equivalent to Facebook’s “likes” are “plusses.” To make a verb of it, you plus or +1 something.
- When responding to someone in a comment or a post, add their name within the post to better alert them (it is the equivalent of Twitter and Facebook’s @ symbol). This is done by adding a plus symbol in front of their name, which in turn creates a link back to their profile.
- Format your post. Make it visually interesting and draw the eye where it needs to go. Let the viewer know what is important within the post by making use of *bolding*, _italicizing_, and –strikethrough-.
- You choose your audience. At the bottom of your post before you click “share,” you can pinpoint exactly which circles or community you want to view this post. This helps keep your posts relevant and ensures that they’ll reach an audience who is interested.
- Cultivate your circles. This is one of the most beneficial aspects to Google+: You can organize those you follow into groups specific to their interest or niche. For example I have a circle for entrepreneurs, tax consultants, lawyers, business-minded individuals, bloggers, and marketing experts.
- Hangout in Hangouts and Hangouts on Air. These are one-on-one, group, or video chats that allow for multiple people to engage in discussion. Talk about an information dump and a great way to get ideas flowing.
- Verify your page. Your page is verified when there is the little checkmark symbol to the side of the page name.
Boosting your business’ presence on Google+
Now that you’ve got the Google+ basics down, below you’ll find five simple ways to for your business to gain the attention of others. Take a look:
1. Real engagement
Google’s epic quest for quality information and content extends into Google+, and it’s easy to spot the spammers and shameless self-promoters here—you can’t come to the potluck and not bring any food. The best way to thrive on Google+, as an individual or business, is to engage with people—engage in conversation, community discussions, Hangouts, and ask questions! For as much as Google+ is a social media platform, there appears to be strong connection between Google’s search engine and Google+. What you post gets crawled by Google almost instantly, creating an opportunity for your content and links to surface in search results (SERPs). And how others interact with your posts (if you get a lot of plusses or shares), it’s likely that Google will take notice. (If you’d like some specifics about the connections between search results and Google+, add Mark Traphagen to one of your circles). Use real engagement to make friends. Gratitude and legitimate interest goes far on Google+.
2. Give your business a face
It’s difficult for a business page to interact on a personal level with individuals. And this is why most small businesses struggle with engagement and attracting a large following. It’s easier for a real person with a real face to connect with individuals and convey helpful information pertaining to your business’ area of expertise. No one wants to hear a pitch, but most people do like to learn. Have someone on behalf of your business present your content in a way that is helpful and not just trying to sell something.
Get involved in areas of your business’ expertise and field—find communities filled with people who share can help you learn and provide opportunities for you to help others, proving your own expertise. These communities are generally kept up by a few moderators and a set of community guidelines. These are great places to learn, engage in discussion, and make worthwhile contacts.
There are also communities dedicated to asking and answering questions about the social network, and these are great places to learn more about the effective use of Google+. If you notice there is a lack of quality communities regarding your area of expertise—create your own! Don’t flood it—or any community—with links that are very clearly self-promotion. It’s not attractive and won’t keep people coming back.
4. Build a reputation based on quality
It is absurd to think that you’ll gain hundreds of followers and +1’s overnight, especially with a professional profile. This is where the amount of effort you put into meaningful engagement will begin to manifest into loyal followers, friends, and networking.
Get involved with communities and Hangouts on Air, and dedicate yourself to quality and simply being real. I know I personally shy away from adding a person or business to my circles if all I see on their page is post after post of the same link for their blog or website with no variation or additional context.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t promote yourself or your business; just make it worthwhile for the viewer. Don’t just post a link to your product, blog or website—make a post that includes pertinent information, asks questions, or otherwise engages your followers. People aren’t here to be advertised at. We get enough of that on a daily basis.
5. Hone your approach
You can’t fake it here. Google+ is not Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. You can’t post and then throw up your hands, walk away, and wait for the +1’s to flood in, nor should you expect overnight success. At the end of the day, Google+ is built on authentic engagement with others in your niche, field, and areas of interest, and that is what will propel you forward.