In the last few weeks, Google Plus, the company’s latest launch into the social media space, has generated a lot of buzz, and it may be the fastest-growing social network ever, with recent reports claiming the project may already have 10 million users. Currently in beta, Google Plus has been the company’s most successful venture in the social space, after many different social projects it has launched to mixed results. So, what is Google Plus, and why does it matter for local businesses? Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know:
What is Google+?
Google Plus is a social network, with similarities to Twitter and Facebook, but some interesting differences as well. The site is based around the idea of offering users some control over who they share information with through a feature called “Circles.”Essentially, a circle is a group of people you define and curate, designed specifically for sharing information. The site also features “Huddles,” which are group chats, “Hangouts,” which are group video chats, and “Sparks,” which are streams of content from around the Web based on topics you’re interested in.
Instead of having a wall like on Facebook, the primary user experience is through viewing feeds of information, similar to Twitter or the Facebook news feed. But what’s unique about Google Plus is that you can view one feed of everyone you’ve added to a circle under the “home” view, select to view unique streams of information based on the circles you’ve created, or view a feed called “incoming” for people who have added you to a circle that you haven’t added to one of your own. Your posts aren’t limited to a short character length, and you can edit a post once you’ve shared it. Like a Facebook wall, you can comment on people’s posts and interact with other people, and if they’ve posted publicly, you can comment on someone’s post even if they didn’t share it directly with you.
Google Plus integrates the +1 feature that the company launched last month, which has similarity to a Facebook “like,” except that it doesn’t actually share the content on your Google Plus profile. For example, you can +1 a comment or a post on Google+, just like you can +1 a website or blog post that has added the +1 button.
Who’s on Google+?
The project is currently in beta, and you currently need to receive an invite to get a profile. If you want to join in, try asking someone you know who has an account to send you an invite or ask your Twitter or Facebook connections.
Officially, Google Plus is currently just for personal profiles, meaning that businesses can’t set up their own profile yet. But, Google is launching a business page pilot soon, and they will work with a few hundred big brands and local businesses in the project, and will officially launch business pages later in the year. If you’re interested in being considered for the pilot, you can fill out a request form, though Google has already received thousands of applications and said they will close the form submissions at some point. Google also noted it will be shutting down business profiles that are not part of the pilot, so if you want to get involved in Google+, it’s best to just set up a personal profile so you can experience the site for yourself.
What Can Businesses do on Google+?
Just because businesses in general can’t have an official Google Plus Page yet doesn’t mean you can’t use Google Plus for your business! Here are a few ways you as a business owner can use your own Google Plus profile for your business and learn the rules of engagement on this new social site so you’ll be ready to use the business pages when they officially launch.
Connecting – Because of the Circles function, Google Plus is a great place to connect with different groups of people online, including people in your industry and community. Creating circles that help you share and connect with different types of groups is a great way to use Google Plus to boost your visibility and grow your personal brand as a local business owner. You can also use the Huddle and Hangouts features as a digital networking platform, by sharing messages or creating video chats with associates, mentors, or peers.
Linking – As a business owner, building your own personal profile and linking to your business’s website, review pages, and social sites across the web is a great way to get your business presence started in Google Plus and to create more inbound links to your sites. Make sure to list your business name in your own personal Google+ profile under the “About” section. You can share about your company in a variety of places on your Google Plus profiles, such as the introduction, bragging rights ( for example, XYZ Spa Named Relaxation Spot of the Year), occupation, and employment sections. If your profile is public, people will be able to discover links to the different elements of your business’s web presence through your personal Google Plus profile.
Sharing – Google+ is a great place to share content. So, sharing blog post links, specials and deals, and other information about your business, community, or industry can help you interact with other like-minded business owners and help you learn and promote your expertise.
The Future of Google+ and Local Business
As the user base expands and official business pages launch, Google+ is set to be an important tool for local online marketing. Google recently ended its contract with Twitter to source its real-time search, and it’s likely Google+ will become the company’s source for real-time search data. There is potential for the social network to impact search discovery and SEO, especially since public posts on Google+ are available to search engines. Google Plus may also be an important tool for reputation management, especially if they integrate Google Places Pages with Google Plus Business Pages, as many
expect will happen.
The bottom line is that Google is an important player in the digital space, and as Google Plus continues to evolve, now is a great time to get involved as a local business owner. Have you joined Google Plus yet? What are your initial thoughts? What features or tools do you hope they’ll add as they begin to work with businesses on the site? Leave your thoughts in a comment!