Google Plus (or Google+) may look like just another social media platform—but as with anything Google, there’s a lot more than meets the eye. G+ (as we’ll refer to it throughout this post) is only one application of many Google services, such as YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, Hangouts, AdWords, G Suite, and others. It’s the social-media section, or layer, that allows users to interact with other users, and not in the “just like Facebook” way.
So . . . what is it? How do you use it? And why should you use it?
G+ was first introduced to the world in 2011 to select beta users and then made available to all users in 2012. Compared to Facebook’s twelve years, G+ is a child—not an infant, but still new enough that many businesses may not be aware of its usefulness and the impact it can have on attracting new customers and boosting sales. The idea behind it is to connect users who have the same passions and who care about the same topics—so not necessarily connecting you with people you already know, like on Facebook, but connecting like-minded individuals with common interests, in a similar way that Facebook Groups join people together under a shared-interest umbrella. G+ does this by allowing you to join communities, follow and create your own collections, and place people in circles. Your stream (newsfeed) is then filled with content you’re interested in from your communities, collections, and circles.
Collections are subjects, topics, or ideas you care about that you can follow. You can even create your own collection for others to follow. For example, if you’re interested in backcountry hiking, you can create a collection of posts focusing on everything related to that subject. A collection is managed by one profile, and only the creator can post to it. You can’t share a post to someone else’s collection, hence the reason you should create your own!
Communities are groups you can join based on similar interests or passions. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you can join a backcountry hiking or snowshoeing-enthusiasts community if that’s where your interests take you. In a community, there can be more than one profile managing the community, and members can post to it. Some communities require the manager to approve you before you can join. It’s actually a bit like Facebook’s private groups, if you’re familiar with those.
Circles are groups you create to differentiate your interests. For example, you can create a family circle and a friend circle, as well as a separate fellow-hikers circle. When you share to your circle, you’re sharing niche content with people who are interested in that very specific information.
That’s G+ in a nutshell. So . . . how do you use it for your business? Although at first it may seem a bit complicated, once you get it set up, it’s pretty much smooth sailing. To use G+ for business, you’ll first need to create a business page, and you do that through Google My Business. Through that dashboard, you’ll be able to post to your business-page G+ profile. Brand pages are even allowed to join communities, and that’s probably one of the best places to find new customers.
The power behind Google My Business (or GMB) is, well, Google. GMB manages how your business appears in searches and on maps, which helps potential customers find you. It also connects your G+, You Tube, and other Google apps in a unified voice. GMB is the platform that enables you to interact with your customers—potential and current—through G+. You can also review your metrics so you get an idea of the impact your posts are having and how your online presence is growing.
Ever heard of Google’s AdWords? Well, with GMB, you can track your AdWords campaigns to see who you’re reaching and, consequently, more effectively grow your followers and business. Finally, you’ll be verifying your company as an open, legitimate place of business, and according to Google, “Businesses that verify their information with Google My Business are twice as likely to be considered reputable by consumers.” So, really, the question is “Why not?”
Granted, GMB can get a bit confusing because, as stated earlier, Google is huge, and GMB and G+ are only two of the many services Google offers, which can make it hard to keep things straight. But don’t worry, that’s why we’re posting this article. Just follow these easy steps to set up your GMB, and you’ll be rolling in no time.
Ready? Here’s how:
- If you don’t already have one, set up a personal Google account.
- Go to Google My Business.
- Select the type of business: storefront, service area, or brand
- Storefront is for businesses who provide services and products from a brick-and-mortar store.
- Service area is for business who provide services in their customers’ location, such as plumbers, landscapers, and even pizza-delivery services. You can select an area radius so customers know your proximity to them.
- Brand is for businesses who don’t have a specific location. Companies who use this option can be a product, a sports team, an artist, etc. Your store hours, location, and other contact information won’t be visible on your page.
- Locate your business. With this step, you’ll be taken to a map where you’ll indicate the location of your business. You can either search for it in the box provided or add it by putting in the address.
- Verify your business. Here you can select how you want to do this—by postcard, phone, or instantly. Don’t delay on this—Google gives you only thirty days to verify your business before your GMB is removed.
- Customize your profile! As with any company page or social-media profile, make yours stand out and show your company’s image and voice.
- Use eye-catching profile and cover photos.
- Include your business hours (only if you’re using a storefront or service-area page).
- Add your website and other social-media links so customers can easily find you.
- This page also allows you to add other photos to showcase your business. You can add “at-work” photos, team-member photos, and other photos that represent who you are as a business.
Now that you’ve got all of that set up, you can start posting to your G+ page, sharing content, and engaging with colleagues and customers. Don’t forget that you can also join communities related to your business and follow topics you care about and that your business is associated with. Your G+ page will be created automatically if the account you used to set up GMB didn’t already have one. A word of warning: make sure you decide on one designated Google account to set up GMB. If you have multiple Google accounts and pages, you can transfer ownership of pages to your business account and even add page managers. (Check out this article which talks about how to clean up your accounts and connect pages.) Additionally, if you need more assistance, Google has an informative guide you can use as you’re setting it all up.
Want to learn more about Google’s solutions for business? Do you have questions regarding the information we’ve presented or insights about what Google+ can do for business? Please let us know by commenting. We’d love your feedback!