What is Google+?
It’s Google’s new social network that looks like it’s going to rival Facebook.
Is Google+ just Google’s version of Facebook?
The simple answer is yes but Google+ has several advantages, in my opinion, for normal users. Here’s a couple of my personal favourites:
When you are friends with someone, Google+ is set up in such a way that makes it easy to add that person to one, or many circles. My circles include; Friends, Family, Following, Customers, Co-Workers and most of these are set up automatically. It’s therefore far easier to choose to share updates with the right circle of people.
These are a bit like Video Skype crossed with Facebook. A Hangout is a group video chat with up to 9 of your mates. You can all speak at the same time BUT if you have a point to make, waving your arms about and shouting will make you the most prominent in the chat. If you do this too much, other members of the group can hit mute so you can’t railroad the conversation.
Will people use it?
In short, probably yes.
Most of us probably already use Google to search, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Docs, Picasa and / or many of the other ‘free’ services the company already offers and since these will almost certainly become part of Google+, then it’s difficult to see how it can fail as a platform.
I have a business page on Facebook. Should I bother with Google+?
It depends. If your customers are all geeks then get onto Google+. If your customers are not early adopters of new technology then stick with Facebook, at least for the foreseeable future. You've got to fish where they're swimming, right?
Should I bother with Facebook?
If you don’t already have a Facebook page for your business and are determined to jump into social media, then go ahead and use Facebook. That’s where your customers are at the tail end of 2011. UNLESS your customers are geeks and propeller heads…. In this case ignore Facebook and get on over to Google+ today.
What pages could I use for inspiration / stealing ideas?
At this early stage, all I can tell you are my particular favourites - if you have any to add to this list, please let me know in the comments.
Red Bull - Uses some nice animation, shares interesting stuff
Burberry - Great animation, looks sleek and sells very gently.
Mercedes - Utilises their scrapbook nicely (those photos across the top of the page)*
The Muppets - I love their photos across the top!
Noisy Little Monkey - A personal favourite. Add it to your circles today!
*You just need to save your photos at 125 x 125 px to do the same :)
How should I get started?
Assuming you have a copy of your logo on a white background then it’s easy to set up a page that looks quite nice. If you deal only with customers locally, then you can set up a local business page otherwise just set up a business page. To set up your page, go to Google+ here.
Once you have a page you need to regularly share tools / blog posts / images / videos / office banter that will be interesting or useful for your customer. Ideally every day, but at a minimum twice per week. This doesn’t have to be stuff you’ve created – it could be useful resources your team have discovered online… Sharing useful / entertaining stuff is what it’s all about.
I’d also consider sharing photos of your people, prizes, and activities. Show the human face of this business.
Hangouts are great for distance training too! Even more so when the ‘Share your screen’ option we’ve been testing goes on general release.
Updating your page with something interesting / unique every day can be time consuming, but it’s really important if you want your organisation to be perceived as useful.
It’s relatively easy for your web designer to add the Google+ badge to your homepage too (check out ours here). If they can’t or won’t do it for you, let us know. We can make it happen. While you're thinking about visibility of your new page, why not share it (gently and elegantly) with those people who like your brand on Facebook and follow you / your team on Twitter?
What should I be careful of?
You know you get emails that tell you could do better on Google if you bought a load of links back to your website (which is bullshit, by the way). Well we’ve already had spam emails selling ‘+1s’ for our Google+ page. There is an outside chance that buying ‘likes’ on Facebook, Followers or ReTweets on Twitter and +1s on Google+ will give your website a short term boost. However, this kind of spammy activity is easily picked up by Google, Facebook, Twitter and Bing (there's a really blog post about it by a Bing engineer which I'll post when I can find it again!) and you will almost certainly be penalised. Avoid anything that feels like you’re doing it for the sole benefit of your organisation and it’s visibility online (that’s visibility on Search Engine Results Pages or Social Media)… Create and share content that is useful to your customers – then real people will share it and you’ll probably rank better on search engines, but you’ll also be getting lots of personal recommendations via social media.
Anything else I should know?
Increasingly Google & Bing are personalising their results pages even more… stuff that is shared (+1’d, tweeted or liked) by influential people in your industry will probably show more prominently in the results. Likewise stuff my friends have shared will be more likely to show up in my results.
The more social shares your content has, the more likely it is to rank in front of your customers when they search. There's some examples in my post here and in this more technical post here. So get your social on, NOW!
We've just seen more evidence of Google+ integrating directly with the other results you see on Google. Check out Google+ comes to Google Places on SEO Roundtable
Google's intro to Google+ pages for business:
Social Media Examiner's guide is useful if you want to check what you need to know before you get started:How to set up a Google+ page