Last November, Google took a necessary step forward and rolled out Google+ Pages, finally giving businesses the tools they need to take advantage of the nascent social network. Fans of the service have much to be excited about. Others say, “So . . . it’s like Facebook, right?”
Understandably, Google+ has drawn numerous comparisons to Facebook throughout its short existence. What’s more, Facebook has been catering to businesses for some time. So businesses are only dipping their toes into Google+, as Simply Measured CEO Adam Schoenfeld put it.
Nevertheless, there are currently 60 million Google+ users out there, waiting to be reached. And luckily, there’s much that sets the new social network apart, as the platform has plenty to offer business owners itching to interact with their clients and colleagues in fresh ways.
Here are five ways Google’s new social network can bring in customers and dollars.
After creating a Google+ profile of your own, you’ll need the Create A Page tool to build a page. From there, you’ll choose from these categories: Arts, Company, Entertainment, Institution or Organization, Local Business or Place, Product or Brand, Sports and Other. Self-explanatory, yes, but local businesses in particular get a few perks, with the ability to add their business’ address, hours of operation and phone number to make connecting to their customers a bit easier.
After taking the steps to get your Google+ Page ready to go, you’ll find that your profile is very much a blank slate. The next step is to fill it with character to attract people and keep them coming.
Take a look at Burberry’s stellar Google+ page. Consider your tagline—in the clothing manufacturer’s case, “A 155 year-old global brand with distinctly British attitude”—and make it memorable to your visitors. The right tag can even help you appeal to a different audience, such as an edgy, younger crowd.
You can also make your company’s profile image an interactive experience by turning it into a clickable flipbook, as Red Bull has done. All you have to do is populate your Profile Photo album with pictures showing off your logo and the important people who help create your brand. If you treat the entire space like a canvas, there’s so much you can do to make your Google+ exciting. Then fill in your About page, promoting the essential details about your company, including your website.
A page doesn’t have much purpose if no one knows it exists. Start the conversation by following people who are involved with your brand, work with it or care about it. Then follow brands and organizations that inspire and excite you. After that, all you have to do is get people talking about why you inspire them or make them happy.
Underneath your profile image you’ll notice how many people have +1’d your Page. The +1 is much like Facebook’s “Likes,” only here they’re baked right into Google Search. That may add to how you rank in search, and as searches for brands such as T-Mobile and Toyota reveal, the content of your Google+ posts gets premium search placement, which allows you to better promote specific messages, such as sweepstakes or a sale, for a short time.
However, the SEO only works here if you’re engaging your returning base. Google+ works by building brand loyalty. You want your customers coming back. To that end, Google provides such tools as Ripples and its Analytics suite, which allows you to keep track of the people coming to your page and sharing your content.
One of the more significant design paradigms that Google+ employs is the Circle. More than simply having friends, you organize them into specific groups before you start sharing with them. It’s an interesting idea, as it forces you to think about how you want to share with certain groups of people right from the beginning.
While you’re going about the business of garnering a following, always think about how you want to interact with your Circles. What would you share with your fans and customers? And how would that be different from what you would/should share with your suppliers? And, yet again, how is that different from addressing those who may not yet be customers, and are merely part of the World Wide Web? Create your Circles accordingly, and you’ll have created a place for rich exchanges.
To get the most out of Google+, you need to be social in a meaningful way. Accomplishing that means doing more than the occasional status update.
Of course, you can start by responding to comments and sharing with your Circles. That’s your bread and butter. Even more powerful, though, are the Chat and Hangout features. Chat is exactly what it sounds like; it allows you to chat with individuals or whole Circles in real-time. Hangouts up the ante by giving you the power to create a video chat with your customers directly. Taking advantage of these features will allow them to see your brand as more than just a logo, but as a group of people worth getting to know.
Dell has been on the cutting edge of finding new uses for Hangouts. The company is reportedly considering Google+ as a new way to offer customer support, but it’s also using the network as a tool to help develop a fan base for its brands.
For example, in December 2011, Dell hosted a Hangout for Alienware fans to get a first look at the new Alienware Aurora Desktop hosted by Ross Anthony, global creative campaign manager at Dell. The company also streamed the Hangout to YouTube for viewing by an even larger audience.
Hangouts could also be ideal for those who want a one-on-one consultation on a flower arrangement for a wedding. Or a doggy daycare may want to offer prospective clients a personal interview while husband and wife are both at separate jobs. Imagine getting a consultation from your hair stylist while your friends also chime in. It’s possible.