In the current age of social everything, the number of social networks available to use as business tools can be daunting. Questions like how many networks to use and which ones to choose seem to be everywhere. But it pays to take a look at how Google+ can be used as an effective tool for your business.
Although Google+ is a relatively new social network – it was introduced in summer 2011 and made available through Google Apps a few months later in November – it has a number of features that are rapidly putting it among the top social networks for businesses. Mainly, this is because Google+ provides businesses with unmatched promotional, communication, collaboration, and tracking tools. And with the recent Google+ redesign, sharing and navigating on the network are even easier than before.
The promotional tools on Google+ are superior because they enable both you and your customers to participate. As far as promoting from your end, there are a few simple steps you can take to make web users aware of your Google+ page. First, you can add a Google+ badge or icon to your business’ website. With the badge, visitors can add your Google+ page to their circles without leaving your website, and with the icon, people can go directly to your Google+ page. And finding your Google+ page is easy even for those who aren’t on your website thanks to Google Direct Connect. When it comes to customers promoting your business, the +1 button is key. When someone gives your business a +1, they are telling the world that they like your business and would recommend it to others. Think of the +1 as virtual word-of-mouth marketing. You can maximize the advantage that +1’s offer by linking all of the +1’s your business receives. This means that you should link the +1’s for your Google+ page with those for your website and for any advertisements you might have. Then, when your business pops up in a Google search, people will be able to see all of the +1’s you have received and the people from whom you have received them. Seeing these +1’s shows potential customers that others are happy with your work.
While these promotional capabilities set Google+ apart, it’s important to remember that communication is essential, and Google+ is great for this as well. The stream, circles, and hangouts are three key communication and collaboration tools to which businesses on Google+ should pay close attention. With the stream, your business can post content in a variety of formats (text or visual) to share new information with customers and let people know what you’re doing. You can share information with everyone or, thanks to circles, a specific group of people. Circles allow you to put people into specific groups, which is helpful to businesses because it makes sending targeted messages simple. For example, your business may want to make a circle for customers registered in a rewards program or who have previously purchased a certain product or service. However you choose to group people in circles, you can then use this organization to send information only to the people for whom it is relevant. Not only is this useful for your business when it comes to sending targeted messages, but it also makes your customers feel like the interaction is a little more personal. You can even take personal contact to the next level on Google+ with hangouts, which allow for multi-person video chat and screen-sharing. This type of communication also enables you to work and collaborate with others in real-time. While these three mainstay features of Google+ helped propel the social network to the top for businesses, new features incorporated in the recent redesign, like chat, will only add to the communication and collaboration capabilities available.
After your business has put in time and effort promoting its Google+ page and communicating with customers on the network, you’ll want to know how worthwhile your work was and what efforts were most successful. On Google+, that’s easy. Ripples, in particular, is a Google+ tool that can be used to determine the effectiveness of your social strategy. Ripples allows you to see the path the information you posted on Google+ has taken by showing you who shared what information and the people with whom they shared it. Seeing this data is especially helpful in two ways. First, ripples can help you determine what type of content is most effective because you can see what garnered the most attention. Second, ripples identifies who is really promoting your business to others because it shows who is sharing information. You can use this data to improve the content you post and the people with whom you share this content. In addition to ripples, you can take advantage of analytics to manage your +1’s and keep track of the activity on your Google+ page.
With promotional tools, communication and collaboration driven features, and tracking data to maximize your results, Google+ is certainly a worthwhile social network for businesses. This combination of capabilities allows the social network to stand out from the crowd and makes it easy to see why so many businesses are turning to Google+.
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