It’s hard to believe than Google+ is now a year old. Last year, when the platform launched, nobody knew what to expect –a social network that would overtake Facebook and Twitter? A shift that would move social media to the forefront of SEO? The next frontier in web traffic acquisition?
The reality turned out to be very different from what people imagined. User pickup for G+ has been so underwhelming that analysts have called the platform a ghost town. Google has fought against this claim by highlighting the platform’s 75 million daily active users, but the social viability of G+ is still questionable.
Given the platform’s limited social adoption, should businesses ignore G+ altogether? Absolutely not. For small businesses especially, G+ is still valuable for maximizing customer engagement and improving SEO. Here are 6 real ways that G+ can boost your online presence.
1. The new platform makes it easier to build a following
Even though your company’s existing customers may not be on Google+, there is no harm in asking them to join. Rather than thinking of G+ as a platform for new business acquisition, think of it as a retention tool. It’s still a new social media marketing tool, so if you give people a compelling reason, they might be curious enough to join. As an example, you could use G+ to distribute exclusive content, tips, or coupons.
While you may end up with a smaller user following than Facebook or Twitter, your community on G+ may turn out to be more personalized and engaged. Give it a test, and play it by ear. If you find that your newly built community goes inactive, you can always stop.
2. Enterprise tools facilitate internal collaboration
If you’re absolutely sure that G+ isn’t right for your public facing image, you should still consider the platform for your company’s internal workflow. Last October, Google began allowing apps users to access G+. Right now, the company is working on releasing tools like sharing features, video meetings that are integrated with Gmail, calendar, and Google docs. While some of these features are still pending, you can still use what the platform currently has to offer – with the understanding that enhanced collaboration tools will be available soon.
3. The events feature can help bring people to your store
Even if people don’t use G+, they’re definitely using their Google calendars. Using G+, you can create events, send invitations, set locations, and manage RSVPs. Attendees can easily share photos in real-time or after the event takes place. The feature integrates events with users’ Google Calendars.
G+ can help you overcome the all-too-common problem of people forgetting about your in-store event. If your customers use Google Calendar, they’ll easily remember that the event is happening, making it easier for your business to attract a crowd.
4. You can connect with people face to face
Hangouts allow you to create video-based connections with audiences. You can talk to people 1-on-1 or broadcast a lecture to a group. You can even record sessions, share documents, and share your screen.
For small business owners, Hangouts have a range of applications. You might want to host how-to sessions with some of your most popular products. You might also want to talk with customers to collect feedback and address common concerns. Customers aside, you might also want to set-up internal meetings between partners or consultants who you’ve hired to help build your business.
Beyond hosting demonstrations, meetings, and lectures, another way that you can use G+ Hangouts is for customer service. If a customer has a question about how to use a product, why not show rather than tell? In addition to setting up phone or in-person training sessions, you can offer the option to host one on G+.
5. Straightforward audience segmentation
If you do recruit a G+ following, you’ll notice that the platform allows you to segment your audience into circles. This organization tool is something that only you and your G+ administrators will be able to see, but it’s useful for sending customized messaging via status updates to your diverse customer base. Especially if your business offers diverse products, this feature is extremely useful for carefully targeting which promotional materials you send to whom.
You can also maintain an internal log of the types of people and demographic characteristics that are part of our customer base. Keep in mind, however, that in order to use this feature effectively, you’ll need a healthy and diverse group of subscribers and a way to segment them in a meaningful way.
6. You’ll see clear SEO benefits that help bring people to your business
Even if you don’t want to use the social features on G+, you will want to pay attention to the platform for its SEO benefits. For one, if you have an actively maintained Google+ profile, you’ll probably see a stronger business presence on Google search engine results pages. You can also tie your website to your business page by putting +1 buttons on relevant places on your website.
If you have a local storefront, you may want to create a Google+ Local page. This platform allows business owners to aggregate Zagat reviews, maps, and a circles filter that will allow you to see reviews and recommendations within your community of followers.
As a small business owner, your time is valuable, so don’t spread yourself too thin. If you think that G+ will be a strong fit with your business’s needs, give the platform a try. If you think that G+ isn’t a fit, you’re better off investing your resources in another social community – there’s absolutely no pressure to jump into something that isn’t for you. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Do you think that you’ll want to try G+ for your small business?