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Google+: What Does it Mean for Your Business (And How to Get Started!)

So I’m sure you have heard the recent buzz about Google+ (whether you have had a chance to get started or not)… but what does it mean to your business?  Is it all hype and no substance, or might we be witnessing a major shift in the world of social media?

The truth is that it is too soon to say for sure.  And personally, even though I got my invite a few weeks ago and I see the SEO implications, even I am slow to "catch on." That being said, we do know that any time Google puts the full power of their brand behind something, it is a force to be reckoned with. Ok- so Google Buzz wasn’t all that great; however, with Google+ we now see the reason for both Google Buzz and Google’s +1 and while it is impossible to say how powerful Google+ will become, here is what we DO know:

1) Google has succeeded in generating a substantial "buzz" around Google+. If you spend much time on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you know what I mean.  Seemingly one out of every five conversations right now references Google+.  Their launch has been very well executed—by requiring an invitation in order to join, and by limiting the amount of available invites, Google has created an online frenzy.  It’s the internet version of a huge crowd camping outside Best Buy on Thanksgiving night in anticipation of massive sales the next morning.  Creating a buzz doesn’t guarantee success—but it does mean they are off to a good start.

2) Google+ can be used both personally and professionally. As you know, LinkedIn is a social network catering to professionals and business owners.  There is little room for casual interaction with friends and family.  Facebook, on the other hand, is primarily used for personal relationships.  Their business pages do allow professionals and business owners to connect with their audience and with other businesses, but not as effectively as LinkedIn.  Google+ appears to offer the best of both worlds—their "circles" feature allows users to easily sort contacts into different groups.  You could have a "friends" circle, a "clients" circle, a "family" circle—and more.  While it remains to be seen how this functionality will play out over time, Google+ at least offers the potential of being a great social network for both professional and personal use.

3) Google+ has the potential to revolutionize the online social universe. Why?  One word: integration.  Google+ has the potential to pull together the countless services offered by Google into one convenient social location.  YouTube, Google Places, Google Offers, Google Maps, Gmail… the list goes on and on.  While other social networks, Facebook in particular, have been very successful at integrating with a variety of services across the web, Google+ has a tremendous advantage simply by being part of the Google network of services.  It is not hard to imagine Google+ profiles given priority in search results, and it seems likely that Google will take every opportunity to link Google+ profiles with services like Google Places.  Again, it is too early to predict how it will play out, but it is clear that Google+ has the potential to become literally the center of the internet!

What does all of this mean for you and your business?  It means you need to get involved immediately!  Google recently announced that they will offer unique services for business owners, and have suggested that businesses wait to create their profiles. However, there is no question that business owners and professionals need to join the network, as individuals, as soon as possible.  Remember that only a couple of years ago we were debating the merits of Twitter for businesses and business owners.  And while many sat on the sideline, the early adapters got a head start and have benefitted tremendously.  So even though Google+ may not have the impact many experts expect it to, the upside makes investing the time to get started an easy decision.

Getting started on Google+

The first step is securing an invitation. As of now, Google+ has yet to open the doors to the general public.  You’ll need to find someone who already has access and ask them to invite you.  I’d be glad to invite you if you get in touch!

Once you have your invitation, log in and create your profile. Setting up your profile on Google+ is very similar to doing so on other social networks.  You’ll want to upload a photo of yourself (I recommend using the same picture that you use on other social networks—remember that consistency is the key to building a strong brand!).  Then, fill in the biographical information and personalize your profile.  Try not to leave any fields blank—the more complete your profile is, the more professional you look.

Now that your profile is complete, begin connecting with others. On your Google+ Home page, if you look to the right side of your screen, you’ll see a list titled "Suggestions."  These are individuals that Google+ thinks you may want to connect with—click on "Show all" and you’ll see a list of potential contacts.  Click on their pictures to connect with them.  If you have run out of suggestions, you can also search for individuals by typing their name into the ‘Find People’ box at the top of your Home screen.

Organize your contacts into circles. Immediately to the left of the ‘Find People’ search box is a button showing two circles—click it and you’ll be taken to the ‘Circles’ page.  Simply drag your contacts into the appropriate circles—and if necessary, create a new circle to better reflect your needs.

Once you’ve completed these steps, you’ll be off to great start on Google+.  It remains to be seen how the platform will evolve (especially with SEO and Google’s personal search results), but once you have created and optimized your profile, you will be in great shape to take advantage of the opportunities provided by this new social platform.  If you have any questions or would like further information, feel free to get in touch.  Otherwise I look forward to connecting with you on Google+!

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