As a social media strategist and coach, clients and acquaintances often ask if I think Google Plus is a good network to use for business. Many people are still unsure about Plus since they have only a limited experience with the network and rarely spend time there, so they want to know what we think.
The truth is that any business can leverage the power of any of the popular social networks. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, and the ability to help you build an audience and friends along the way. So if anyone can use any major social network to build their business online, why choose Google Plus in particular?
Before I answer that, I would actually like to go the other direction and look at the most common reasons that I hear from potential clients that they are not on Google Plus.
Reasons NOT to Use Google Plus
There are more users on Facebook.
Facebook does have the overall advantage in number of users. And in casual conversation with people, it seems like Facebook is favored overall. However, depending on your business model, you may not be able to leverage the numbers of Facebook. If your products or services are locally based, you may want to consider the Google Local aspect of Google+. An active Google Local page can help your customers to rate your products and services, and a good local strategy mixed with strong ratings can help your business be found more easily on Google for local searches, such as “Orlando Life Insurance.”
I already have a small following on other social networks.
This raises the age-old question: “Is the grass really greener on the other side?”
To put it bluntly, the grass is greener where you tend and water it. Removing all natural factors from this scenario, if you do not water your lawn, it will not grow. In fact, it will die.
So if you apply this to the usage of your social networks, it is all about where you spend your time and how much you invest into the success of your efforts. If you have a small following on Twitter but you are not consistently active and seeing a lot of engagement there, starting over on another social network is more of a lateral movement than a setback.
If you do have a large following on Twitter and a lot of social engagement there, I highly recommend that you use those relationships to encourage your friends and followers to join you on Google Plus.
I don’t have time for another social network.
If you do not make time, you will never have time. Whenever you start a new activity, it will always be difficult if you do not make time for it.
For example, just recently, I decided that I was going to start taking 2 mile walks every day. I have attempted to do things like this before and failed because I had not set up a habit that allowed me to continue to enjoy long walks. Now I have been much more consistent with getting away from the computer for a while to enjoy the outside without a screen in front of my face, though that has been difficult having Google Glass.
My friends are not here.
When you go out for drinks with your friends, do you try and sell them your products or services? Limiting your web audience to your friends and family may not be a very good strategy. Instead, you should look into finding markets where your potential customers exist and learn how you can reach them. The places where your friends hang out online should not dictate your marketing decisions.
I don’t understand it.
This may actually be the most understandable of the reasons people shy away from Google Plus. There are lots of features on Plus and it is structured a little differently from some of the other platforms.
Let me ask this, though: does the fact that you understand Facebook mean that you are going to be able to use it better? Does it mean that the benefits are going to outweigh those on other social networks?
Some of the best things in life exist outside our own comfort zones, so if this is your objection I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and give Google Plus an honest attempt.
Reasons to Use Google Plus
Anyone can come up with reasons not to do something, so since we’ve now acknowledged these concerns, I would like to tell you what you are missing by not building a Google Plus marketing campaign for your business.
This almost outweighs every reason not to use Google Plus on its own. You will find Google Plus does have a lot of people on it, but it is still a budding network. Well over 500 million people have a Google Plus profile, and the social network is up to roughly 300 million (USA TODAY) active monthly users. This means there is still a lot of growth to happen on Plus, and if you happen to be part of the first groups in your industry to tap into that market you now have a rare opportunity to grow with a major social network.
Even if you are not the first in your industry, being on Google+ gives you a great opportunity to easily connect with those who have already arrived. Building these relationships can be vital to your success on Google Plus. When professionals from other industries validate what you are saying, it goes a long way to establish authority among your audience and your colleagues.
Google Plus is packed with amazing features that businesses can use to grab the attention of their audiences and engage potential customers:
- Auto awesome – I have heard other marketers (mostly G+ naysayers) call the auto awesome feature a cheesy effect. To some it may be cheesy, but if you learn how to use the feature well, it can help draw more attention to your post. If reaching more people and driving more engagement is cheesy, then yes, auto awesome is about as cheesy as they come.
- Animated Gifs – Like the auto awesome feature, a moving picture on your post will draw attention to your message. Unlike an auto awesome, gifs give you more control over the animation of the image and allow you to create seamlessly looping animations that mesmerize your followers.
- Text Formatting – With long-form content, formatting is always a good idea, and the good folks at Google Plus made sure they included the ability to format your content. See the chart below for your Google+ post formatting options:
- Large Format Images – On some social networks there are standard sizes that your shared images will display. I’ve gone to post an image on Facebook and had the text on the image cut off because the picture was the wrong size. On Google Plus, there is no wrong size. I have not had any of the text on my images cut off from the image being too large. In fact, on Google Plus, sharing large images stands out in the newsfeed and can generate more engagement and sharing.
- Interactive Posts – Interactive posts give you another way to link a specific item on your website without having to put the link into the post text itself. Let’s say you share a post from your website that has a download on it. Most people are going to click through and find the download link as fast as they can. They will download the resource then be on their way. Even though you may want more people to actually land on your website, you can use interactive posts to help your audience. In an interactive post you can include both the link to the download and the blog post in the same post image. (see example below). Just make sure that you properly brand your download so people know where they got the amazing resource!
Hangouts and Hangouts on Air
Today, we want to be able to communicate easily with each other, and having one unified platform where that can happen in video, audio, and text format is invaluable. That’s where Google+ Hangouts come in to help.
- Private Messaging System (Instant Messaging) – The PM system on Google Plus used to be pretty weak. It was closely tied into the regular notification system and it became difficult to keep up with private messages that you had received a week before. Then Google integrated Gchat with Google+ and turned it into the Hangouts program, which serves as a chat and private message system. The great thing about this integration is that you don’t have to be on Google Plus to use it! You can chat with people while you are on your Gmail, and even directly from your phone.
- Hangout meetings – Hangouts as a PM system works pretty well, but did you know you can also use Hangouts to make free video calls, with up to 10 people? I have worked with companies that have started utilizing this technology to conduct meetings with their business colleagues and clients from across the world. Video hangouts have helped me conduct consultations from my home, including the use of the screen sharing capability to guide a client through a process that would have been difficult to do on a traditional phone call.
- HOA Shows – Hangouts on Air are a new breed of internet talk show. They are similar to a Hangout call with one exception: Hangouts on Air are broadcast so an unlimited number of people can view the hangout live, while still allowing only 10 people to participate in the video call. This allows the audience to interact with the host and show guests in real time! I have participated in a number of HOA shows now, and most of them encourage audience participation and answer audience questions directly on the air. After the show is over, Google Plus automatically uploads the video to the host’s YouTube channel, where it can then be easily found via Google or YouTube search. If you set up a show of your own or participate regularly on other shows, it can do wonders for your branding and lead generation online.
Posts and profiles can be found in Google Search
Some people think this is creepy and do not want to be found on Google search, and I can understand that. But here is the reality: if you conduct any kind of activity on the Internet, people can find it using different search techniques.
With this in mind, wouldn’t it be better if you could control the information that people found when they tried to look you up on Google? If you use the internet for business, which I imagine that you do if you kept reading this post, wouldn’t you want your social networking profiles to be found for specific keywords that are related to your brand? This can be achieved on Google+ through the topics and keywords in your profile, but also through any Public posts that you share. Public posts are indexed by Google Search and can be found just like any blog post.
For example: You wrote a blog post about why people should use Google Plus as a marketing platform, and shared it on Facebook and Twitter. Neither of these social platforms allow Google to index their posts, so once people stop responding to your post, it’s dead in the water. Now you are relying on the SEO of your website and blog post to draw more traffic. Had you shared the post on Google Plus and added a paragraph or two extra on the topic, you would then have TWO posts that may be found for these particular keywords.
Communities are another powerful marketing tool that allow you to connect with thousands of people that do not have you in their circles. When you share to a community that has 50,000 people in it, 50,000 people get the possibility of seeing your post.
There are some factors that play into whether they see your post or not: if they’re signed in, if they are active in the community, whether they allow community posts in their home stream, etc. However, in a community with higher numbers, even if only a quarter of the community members saw your post, you could still expect some engagement and possibly link clicks depending the popularity of the post.
Communities are also great places to meet like-minded people, and build real and lasting relationships. I personally recommend keeping the amount of communities you are involved in to a minimum so you can gain the most value out of your communities of choice.
Author Rank has been a pretty controversial topic amongst digital marketers. Some time ago, Google filed a patent that outlines a system that rates each individual blog post and social media post against a single author. Google Plus allows you to submit your information for authorship as a way to identify yourself and your written work across the web. Some marketers believe that it is already partially being tested, others believe that it is still being set up and that there are no signs of authors actually having a rank yet. One thing this does contribute is your picture right next to your blog or Google Plus post:
Whether or not Author Rank is actually enabled, it is still a great idea to sign up so that you can start building your authorship across the web before it becomes a reality. (And if it is already coming in to play, you need to get on it as quick as possible so you don’t fall behind!)
Is Google Plus Right For You?
If you are still not sold on Google Plus as a marketing platform, it’s possible that it may just not be a right fit for you. Not every platform is for everyone, and you have to find an online home that you are going to be willing to use for the long term.
That being said, if you haven’t given Google Plus a fair try and you want to make your website a centerpiece of your business, you may want to give it a second thought. And if you are a digital marketer like myself, and still feel that Plus is not the place for you, try not to discount it when it comes to your clients. It may help them even more than it helps you.
From everything I have seen in my time on the platform, the arguments for using Google+ far outweigh most of the common arguments against it. For my minimal time investment, I have seen huge returns and opportunities for visibility that would have required far greater investments of time and money on other platforms. This is why I choose Google Plus.