Google Plus your business

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When the phrase ‘Google Plus’ first started popping up, I was angry. “Doesn’t it have enough power?” I thought. “Google can’t pretend to do everything.” I thought its social network was going to be so lame.

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Well that ‘lame’ thing soon proved me wrong. My anger watered down to mild irritation, which in turn dissolved into wavering skepticism. And then before I knew it, I was enthusiastically learning about G+, and becoming more and more active on the platform.

So what’s my verdict now?

G+ is great. Well… not as great as it could be – but it’s slowly getting there.

A few reasons why you should get on G+, quickly:

  • It’s one of the fastest-growing social networks.
  • It has hundreds of millions of active users and 1 billion enabled accounts.
  • It belongs to the #1 search engine. SEO benefits, anyone?
  • Google+ has been integrated into (taken over) many sites, most notably YouTube.
  • It’s a sort of a mashup of other social media networks, in terms of features and design. You get the best of all worlds.
  • Since it hasn’t truly taken off yet, it’s best to establish your business presence – and   authority – on it as soon as possible.

If you want to get a page for your business, you have the option between a local business page and a brand one. For the most part, the difference matters if you have a physical storefront and if you want to place yourself on Google Maps.

So how should you use G+?

I’m not going to tell you to fill out a complete profile (which you should always do for any platform you’re on); or to post useful and engaging content (which is a given, of course); or to build a following (you’ll get there, eventually).

Those basic tips, though important, are automatically assumed for any of your online profiles. And if you haven’t already, check out this fantastic guide that takes you through each step of setting up your business on G+.

HavePresence has a few other more specific, and less obvious tips:

FOR YOUR G+ BUSINESS PAGE

1. Customized URL:

At some point, G+ will offer your business page a custom URL. This will be unique and tailored to your business name. That’s terrific – now you won’t have to look at the unwieldy set of numbers in the browser address bar.

Unfortunately it’s not easy to edit or customize. So, if you are not completely happy with the option they offer, don’t accept it! Just wait for them to provide a new one. And they will do that; I wasn’t satisfied with what they assigned to me, so I didn’t use it… and less than a couple of weeks later, I checked back, and the option had changed to a new one that was perfect!

At the moment, you can only change the capitalization of URLs, so it’s best to hold on until Google decides to let us fully customize our own (which might take a while).

2. Verifications:

On many G+ page profiles (such asthose of The New York Times and Nike, for example), you might spot a little tick []next to the business name and website. This means that the business page is verified.

  • To get your little ticks, the first thing you can do is link your page to your website.
  • You can also verify your business email address when G+ sends you the confirmation email. This gives you a tick next to your email in the ‘about’ section’.
  • As for the tick next to your page name, that’s a little more difficult to get. There’s a lot of confusion over how Google decides to verify your name/page. Some say it’s the number of followers, or the G+ badge on your website, or the fact that you have to manually request the verification.

However, at end of 2013, Google+ announced that they stopped the name                                      verification request process. Looks like you can only do that for a local business                        page now. I suggest a little patience. Keep working on your page, posts, and                                  following/engagement, because Google Plus keeps changing its rules, and this last                  one is sure to disappear soon(ish).

FOR YOUR INDIVIDUAL POSTS

1. Post formatting:

Google+ posts resemble mini-blog posts. So you should design your short posts in a similar way. Unlike other major social networks, the text of G+ posts can be made more visually appealing for their audiences. You can do the following with the text:

  • Bold:                           *enclose the word or phrase in asterisks*
  • Italicize:                      _put them between underscores_
  • Strikethrough:        -use hyphens on either end-

This text formatting is not just about looking good; it’s about readability and alerting your audience to the most important points of your post.

2. Hashtags & tagging:

Tagging
The main point of posting is to get people thinking about and engaging with your content. Tagging relevant individuals or other businesses/companies in your post is a great way to let them know that you’re offering something of value specifically to them.

To tag someone in a post, all you have to do is type in the ‘+’ sign followed by their G+ name. A small pop-up of G+ pages should appear as you type, and you can select the profile/page that you want to tag. Sometimes there’s a glitch or too many options come up. To get past this:

Find the person’s profile or the company’s business page in the search bar, and click on it.
From the URL, copy either their custom name (like ‘+JaneDoe’) or their numerical ID (https://plus.google.com/u/0/116388797695442350877/posts).
Paste the name or number into your post (if it’s the number, you have to put a ‘+’ sign just before it).
And when you share the post, the correctly tagged person/business will appear in your text.

Hashtags
I thought this was a Twitter thing. But then Facebook took it on, and so did Google Plus. They can be annoying, but they’re absolutely essential if you want your post to be read, and especially if you don’t have a large following.

Very few people have me in their circles. However, individuals and businesses – not robots or spammers, but real people who are involved in the field that I post about – find my content through hashtag search.

SO: use hashtags (at least 2/3), keep them relevant, and place them right at the end of the post to avoid clutter. Below, by Dustin W. Stout, is ‘The Anatomy of a Perfect Google+ post’.

The perfect Google+ post.

The perfect Google+ post.

THE G+ COMMUNITY 

‘Communities’ is one of the best things about this social network. I’d say they’re kind of the equivalent of ‘pages’ on Facebook, except they’re much more interactive, and usually smarter.

1. Creating your own:

If you have a particular topic or field that you’re passionate about, or one you consider yourself an expert in, then I suggest starting your own community.

Why? Well right now, apart from communities about marketing, business, online content, etc., other subjects haven’t really been touched on by communities. So, for example, if you sell stuff like antique clocks, Persian carpets, or sea glass jewelry, you could quite easily start up a community on one of these, because there’s hardly anything out there for them.

But don’t forget that you’ll have to manage and moderate this community, build a large membership base, and post frequently. If that sounds like too much, or if you need ideas on what to do, join an existing and useful community, and spend some time there before you create your own.

2. Community etiquette: 

Watch out! Some community moderators are really touchy about how you engage and what you post in their community (often with good reason). Here’s how to behave in a G+ community:

  • Only join communities that you are genuinely interested in or ones that discuss     professions/fields that you are involved in.
  • When you’re new to a community, the first thing you need to do is review the community guidelines (if they have them), because some have rules that are quite strict.
  • Before posting for the first time, check out others’ posts and engage with those before      promoting (if allowed) or sharing others’ content. It’s just good manners.

When you post in a community, here’s a few things to make sure of before you hit the ‘share’ button:

  • You’ve categorized your post correctly. Many communities have different categories to organize their various subjects. File yours under the correct heading.
  • If you are sharing someone else’s content, please credit them in your post (say ‘thanks to —‘ or ‘H/T (hat/tip) to’); include their name (tag them, if you can) and a link to the original content.
  • Don’t link litter (posting a link without any explanation or text). Always include a summary of the article and your own thoughts on it. See Dustin’s post above.
  • Your post should be genuinely useful or interesting, and RELEVANT to the community you’re posting in. Like I said, community moderators can get impatient with you and remove your post or even ban you from the community. It’s happened to me before.

G+ PLUGINS

Have you seen those G+ buttons and badges on websites? Well they’re quite valuable and important for sharing, marketing, and building your audience. Here’s the breakdown of a few:

1. Google+ badge and follow button:

Badge
This is a pretty badge you can put on your homepage. There are different versions, depending on if you’re using one for your personal profile, for your business page, or for a community that you’ve created.

The badge usually shows a small preview of your name, profile and cover photo, your follower number, and a small ‘follow’ button so that visitors can directly add you to their circles, instead of going through Google+ first. It also has a ‘+1’ button for business pages.

Follow
The follow button is essentially the same as your badge; it allows you to follow directly and displays the following number. However, it’s not as visually appealing, so we recommend using the badge instead. Then again, if you want something more subtle on your main website page, this is the one to use.

2. Google+ share & +1 buttons:

Share
This button can be used for every single one of your website pages, but especially for individual blog posts. Sharing is very important because it gets your content out there. It’s the same as an FB share button.

+1
Same as the share button, a +1 button should be placed on all pages; it’s the equivalent of a ‘like’. It’s a way for visitors to recommend or endorse your content, which drives traffic to your site.

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I believe that Google Plus will take off (eventually). And you’ll want to get on it before that happens. Remember, this is Google we’re talking about. It practically rules the online world. So, no time to lose – get started on Google+ for your business.

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