Still a little confused about Google+ and how to use it alongside your other social media channels to maximum effect? We’ve written this post to help you understand the basics. Not only is Google+ a great way to strengthen your brand on the internet even further, it is great for SEO and has some really cool features that could sit nicely alongside your business’ current internet marketing strategy. We’ve certainly noticed a growth in popularity from the social media work we do for clients.
In this first blog post let’s discuss what exactly Google Plus is and how it works. As you will have guessed from the name, Google Plus (also known as G+ or Google+) is a social network brought to us by our friends at Google and was started just over three years ago in September 2011. The site is open to anyone older than 13, living anywhere around the world, and is widely considered an attempt to rival Facebook‘s current 1.23 billion monthly active users. It still has some way to go to reach those dizzy heights, but can still easily be considered as one of the top five social networks out there.
Google Plus integrates several aspects, including the profiles of Google+ members and businesses, Circles, Pages, Sparks and, one of the most useful, Hangouts. One of the most popular aspects to Google Plus is it’s limitless word count. Both Facebook and Twitter have limited the amount of space you can use for updates (Twitter having 140 characters as its limit), whereas users on Google+ can write anything from a few words, up to a lengthy article or academic essay, if they so wanted to!
Another interesting reason to use Google Plus is its Circles feature. Circles essentially organises your contacts into different categories (e.g. “work”, “family” and “friends from football”). This allows its users to have more control over their privacy, only sharing published content (as well as different aspects of their profile) with the “right” people – you can have as many different Circles as you like. Perhaps you want to post an update to all of those in your “family” circle, and want to be sure that none of your work colleagues will see it. Circles allows you to post updates to the public domain for everyone to see or, instead, limit the posts to particular groups of people (your social “circles”). In this respect, Circles ensures that Google+ also proudly boasts much better instant messaging facilities than its rivals at Facebook, or even Google Talk and Gmail Chat. The Circles feature creates something akin to a traditional “buddy list” found on older (though perhaps better!) IM services such as MSN Messenger…. if you can remember back that far! By using this list, you can start chatting (either by typing alone or through video) with several people at once, which we think is pretty cool. If you’re new to Google Plus, we’d recommend starting off with a small number of circles (perhaps 3 or 4) to begin with, before adding more. Otherwise it can start to get a little confusing!
Similar to the Facebook news feed, once you log in to your account, you’ll be taken to the “homepage” of your account. This is the place where you’ll see recent activity from those in your Circles and where you post your content as well.
Did you know? You can edit the posts in your Stream at any time, so don’t worry if you make a mistake or need to update a hyperlink at some point in the future!
Google Hangouts are a brilliant way for members of different Circles to stay in touch. This is one of the main aspects to Google+ that entrepreneurs should really try to make the most of: in particular because Hangouts permits users to videoconference with as many as 10 users, at the same time as being able to share links and watch Youtube videos with the other people on the videoconference. We know videoconferencing is definitely nothing new, but the way Google has made use of the facility for Google+ really stands out in our eyes!
Now let’s explain how to go about gaining maximum exposure for your G+ profile.
Your profile is essentially the way in which you present yourself on Google and Google Plus, as well as across other websites (we’ll cover what we mean by this shortly). From your account you can control all of the details that other people can see, which include your contact details, information about your Circles, links to other sites created by you and links to sites that are about you, as well as your personal bio and profile photo. All you have to do is share your name and your profile photo. The rest is up to you.
Are you already established on Google Plus? You can update your privacy settings on the relevant page here, where you’ll be able to configure the visibility of the individual sections that make up your G+ profile, keeping some parts public and others private to your circles (or your extended network through “extended circles”). You can also update the visibility of each section by clicking on the edit icon while in “edit mode”.
The privacy settings page is self-explanatory and easy-to-use. On this page you’ll also be able to edit what contact information users can see, as well as who is allowed to contact you through your profile.
You can also choose to have the profile indexed by search engines, or not. If you’re using Google+ specifically to give your business a boost to its online presence, you should be sure to check that the profile is public and is being indexed.
Under the About tab, which you can access from your main profile page, you’ll be able to add/update your personal or business bio. You should try to include as much information on this page as possible (within reason), as this is one of the main things that G+ users will notice when looking out for you. This also applies to the tagline that you can set – this is trawled and displayed by search engines (Google included), so think about this wisely!
People and Posts
By default, those in your Circles (and users that have added you to their Circles) are shown on your profile and displayed publicly. You can, however, configure this section so that only certain users (if any) will see this information.
The Posts tab shows all of the posts that you have shared. Likewise, when you visit another user’s Posts tab, you’ll see the posts that the owner of that profile has chosen to share publicly or with you.
Other hints and tips that we can think of (we’ll try to add to this!):
- If you delete your Google+ account, it won’t delete your Google account (for use with Gmail, Docs, etc).
- If you change your name in any of your Google accounts or in your G+ profile, it will update all of the others to match.
- You can see what your profile looks like from the perspective of a specific other user (provided they are in your Circles), simply visit the “view profile” section of your account and enter the name of that person. This is a good way to check exactly how your profile appears to potential customers!
- You can add a personal badge which links your website/blog to your G+ profile. Adding this to your site should boost traffic from your website to your G+ profile and so hopefully increase the number of users that add you to their circles.
- You can delete (or edit) any comment or post you have made on another profile, as well as delete any comments other users have made on content that you have published. Try to only delete comments if they are inappropriate or are simply spam links – remember, the key to a great social media strategy is to be open, honest and authentic. If you start deleting any comments which disagree with your posts (or from angry customers that you haven’t responded to elsewhere), this will degrade the effectiveness of your Google Plus profile.
Next we’d like to talk about targeted sharing. The Circles feature we previously discussed in this blog series is a simple, yet compelling way to easily categorise your contacts in a different way than simply labelling them as “followers” or “friends”. You can label these Circles exactly as you like – “colleagues”, “industry leaders”, “other small business owners in Birmingham” – and can also have any number of Circles, enabling you to easily expand your network and lists of relevant contacts. In this respect, Circles can help you share certain information with certain G+ users and save you time by filtering posts in your Stream according to the Circles you have selected. They are a great way to organise both content and network contacts.
There are a few different types:
Public Circles shows anyone that has included you as part of a Circle in order to see your content.
Anyone in one of your Circles and can see the content you publish.
Think “friends of friends”, similar to LinkedIn’s 2nd degree connections. Those in a Circle of someone in one of your Circles.
Google Plus allows you to add in individual email addresses for those that don’t have a G+ account.
A few more tips on using Circles
Unlike with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, the ability to create these individual circles for each group of your contacts makes it much easier to create content tailored for specific audiences, increasing relevance and targetted engagement. As you can imagine, this is an invaluable weapon in the social media marketing arsenal. We have a few more tips for ways to improve your G+ Circles:
- Ensure that your profile is properly optimised if you are keen to be added to relevant Circles. If your profile doesn’t engage the reader, or simply doesn’t explain who you are, it will be difficult for other G+ users to understand what type of content to share with you and what type of content you are likely to share with them.
- A great way to get started with Circles is to simple find likeminded people and/or businesses (with common interests) to follow and then add to one of your Circles, though remember that adding them doesn’t mean they will automatically add you to their Circles in return! If your G+ strategy involves aiming to be added to as many relevant Circles as possible, you need to make sure the content displayed on your profile, and the posts that you publish, is relevant and engaging. Try adding helpful and interesting comments to their content.
- You can find other users to follow and/or add to your Circles in a number of ways, the easiest of which is to simply use the search facility on G+ to search by person or topic, or search on Google for a G+ directory of some kind – gglps.com is just one example.
Google Plus Pages
Pages differ slightly from a usual G+ account and are designed to give a public identity and presence for products, brands and other organisations. They are very similar to profile pages, but there are a few differences to bear in mind:
- People must add or follow a page, before it can add that person to one of its Circles.
- Pages can have more than one administrator.
- Pages automatically display the “+1” button, making it much easier for other G+ users to follow them.
- Pages can’t communicate with “extended circles”.
- Pages can’t play games!
In order to create or manage a G+ page, you must first have created your own personal profile. At this point you can create a new page by clicking on the “Home” tab and then navigating to Pages, followed by “get my page”.
At the moment, a G+ page can represent a “shop front”, “service area” or “brand” – the setup page will explain these categories in more detail for you.
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