Google+ is a new entry into the social networking space based on a combination of several Google products and new features the company is rolling out on a constant basis. Google+ is still in its early phase, having rolled out just a few weeks ago. The initial rollout has been limited to invitation only and those invitations have now been shutdown, but we’ve gained access to both give you an early look, and to also help you design a strategy around Google+. New features are being added each week to Google+, so this strategy guide is based on the existing features with a recommendation for your business to proceed when you gain access to Google+.
Google+ is different than Facebook and currently limited in some features as compared to Facebook. For example, the Google+ API is not currently open to external developers, so you won’t find the same level of extendability in Google+ as you have on Facebook Pages. The extendable social graph is available to add “+1” to your website, so you can extend sharing to your website.
Google+ Strategy for Your Business
The most interesting thing about Google+ is that we may be looking at the future of search. At first, Google+ seems like a stripped down version of Facebook, but once you start really digging deep into what Google+ can do, it starts to make sense as a strategy for social networking which meets the needs of users and provides a mechanism to deliver the most interesting content directly to them. Let’s start by exploring Google+ and discuss areas you will be able to tap into for your business.
The most frequent complaints about existing social network is that they either make you provide everything to too many people (Twitter) or tightly control your friends so much (Facebook) that you don’t have a happy medium. Google+ Circles helps you resolve this by creating specific groups of people to help you choose what to share. Google+ Circles includes four built-in Circles: Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and Following. You can also create your own Circles to categorize people in. For example, you can create a Work Circle, a Running Circle, and a Church Circle. When you add someone to your network, Google+ forces you to select a Circle, so you have a built-in mechanism for filtering people you know. Later, you can send content to a specific Circle.
Takeaway for Your Google+ Business Strategy: Right now, Google+ does not offer a separate page for businesses, instead, a business can create a profile just like any other user. Circles provides an opportunity for people to add your business profile page to a Circle which they don’t have to share content with, but instead, can follow your updates.
Hangouts are areas you can start a group video chat between people in your Google+ network. This provides an opportunity to video with up to 10 people. This will place Google+ as a big competitor to Skype. I frequently use video chat capability in Skype to connect with business associates and I know we will likely move to Google+ when it’s opened to more people.
Takeaway for Your Google+ Business Strategy: You can hold limited video sessions with key customers, fans, or within your organization. There is a 10 user limit, but we’re not sure how long this limitation will be in place. This tool may also be expanded to offer you a built-in ability to hold a live video event using Google+’s built-in video chatting capabilities. For a quick live event, use Google+ Hangouts to connect with key people.
Sparks are feeds of interests based on what you tell Google+ you’re interested in. Sparks provide fresh, viral, and trending content in a feed similar your stream. Currently, they’re available as a separate stream of content, but we believe Google will integrate your Stream (think Facebook Wall).
Takeaway for Your Google+ Business Strategy: Sparks is not something you opt-in to and there isn’t a way to force your way into a particular topic area within Sparks. Instead, you need to create fresh viral content to succeed in Sparks. This makes search engine optimization and social media optimization techniques extremely important. We recommend you create high quality, unique, shareable content to succeed with Sparks.
5 Steps to a Google+ Strategy
We believe taking advantage of Google+ will be crucial to your social media success. Google+ has an opportunity to change social media and search – delivering content to a specific user when he needs it. As a wide open platform. Google+ provides a number of great opportunities. We’re providing these 5 steps to build a great Google+ strategy:
1. Sign-up for a profile when provided an opportunity
Right now, access to Google+ is limited as they work on scaling. If you have connections with people who have Google+ invites, tap into those to gain access to a Google+ invitation. This will demonstrate your social media expertise and experience as one of the early users of Google+. It will also provide you an early entry into the platform to gain early mover advantage.
2. Create a profile page for your business
Once you’ve been invited to signup an account, create a profile for your business. Google+ allows you to customize your profile with links and information, take advantage of each of these fields and enter as much information as possible.
Google+ offers a great way for you to view your profile as someone else. In the right-hand side of your profile there is a link to View profile as…. When you select this option, you can view your profile as a specific person or as someone with public access. This allows you to make sure your privacy settings are set correctly to make your posts public, if desired.
3. Create a structure for your Circles
As a business, you should focus on how you organize your Circles. These might include Circles for Customers, Partners, Stakeholders, Employees, and so forth. Creating a structure up front will help you organize people and make sure your social media analysts understand where to categorize people.
4. Connect with people you know on Google+
Search for people you know on Google+ and add them to the appropriate Circle. They will likely follow you back and you will be creating a great network of people within Google+.
5. Update across multiple social platforms
Currently, there is no cross-platform posting tool which works with Google+, but once the Google+ API is opened up for developers, we expect one. Right now, cross-post from multiple social platforms. We recommend creating some unique content on Google+ to encourage people to follow your feed there.
+1 Bonus strategy recommendation
In honor of Google’s +1 designation, we recommend you +1 the URLs on your site. If you search for your site, you will see a little +1 icon next to the search results (if you’re logged into your Google account).
Clicking the +1 shares the content as a favorite to Google+ and also adds it to the social graph as something worth sharing. This is one factor which contributes to sites entering the Sparks stream as we described earlier.
Overall, we have a favorable impression of Google+ and believe creating a business strategy now for Google+ is crucial for every business.