Google+ turned three a few months ago. Once deemed a pale copy of Facebook, the platform has grown by leaps and bounds and is now part of the major seven which include Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
While many B2C companies have jumped on the bandwagon, the same cannot be said of the B2B segment. One of the reasons is the widespread view that Google+ is ‘walking dead’. So, why should brands invest their time and efforts into another social network?
Google+ offers an array of great features that deserve your attention. Read further for a list of best practices that will help you successfully build your presence on the platform.
- Why B2B brands and marketers need to be on Google+
As a Google product, Google+’s public updates (and accounts) are indexed in its search engine. Further, they are delivered in results pages based on the accounts people follow.
Here is a part of my first page of results for “B2B resources for marketers”. I am logged into my Google+ account.
The highlighted results are Google+ posts from accounts I follow. As you can see, they look very similar to regular web pages. If I decide to log off my account, they would disappear. And if I start following different accounts, Google will show me different suggestions.
Google+ adds an interactive layer to Search. No two users will see the same results.
That important fact is one of the greatest perks of using Google+ to promote your B2B business. Your public activity will be rewarded with potential extra visibility!
Now, what are the other benefits of using the platform?
- Google+: Main features
- Profiles and Pages
Like Facebook, Google+ offers two types of accounts: profiles and pages.
Profiles are for individuals and used across all Google services. Pages represent entities like businesses, organizations, and celebrities. You can only create them if you have a profile.
Page management is done through the Google My Business dashboard, which allows businesses to update and share business information on Google.
There are also two types of Google+ pages: Local business pages and brand, organization, or artist pages. Make sure you choose the right category when you create yours. You can find more information here.
On Google+, the only way to follow accounts is to add them to Circles. With this powerful feature, you can group accounts according to a specific topic, interest, or your relation with them.
Examples of circles for B2B brands could include clients, employees, industry journalists, bloggers, influencers, trade show organizers, and competitors.
Each Circle comes with a dedicated stream, which you can access from the top of your Home stream.
Note that the people and pages in your circles will be visible to others on your profile or page, unless you decide otherwise. However, the name of your circles will remain private.
When sharing content on Google+, you can choose its visibility: public, circles (including extended circles), and/or specific users / pages, or communities.
To mention a specific account, type “+” and their name in the update box.
Interested in learning what people think about a particular topic? Try Polls, Google+’s newest feature. Each poll can include photos and up to five answers.
Like the name indicates, this feature allows you to organize events. Each event has a dedicated page that organizers and attendees can use to share comments and upload photos.
Hangouts are a video conferencing feature for Google+ members. There are two types:
- Video chats – Private videos sessions for up to 10 people at once.
- Hangouts on Air – Public scheduled broadcast. The sessions are automatically recorded by Google+ and saved to your YouTube channel if it’s linked to your Google+ Page.
Google+ Communities serve the same purpose as Facebook Groups. They can be:
– Public – You can choose to let anyone join or approve new members manually.
– Private – You can hide them from search or allow people to join.
Administrators have the ability to add as many discussion categories as they want, organize internal Hangouts, and share content from any +1 button across the web.
Google+ hashtags play the same role as Twitter hashtags – but with a twist. They are automatically added to the top of your posts. And based on your content, Google+ may also add more.
Clicking on the hashtags will reveal related posts of interest.
With Ripples, you can see who has been re-sharing your content or other pages’ and with whom. It is available at the top right corner of public posts that have been publicly re-shared at least once.
Click the “View Ripples” tab to access the feature. You will see:
– Who the first sharer and all re-sharers are, and their comments. The bigger the circles, the more influence the users have.
– How a post/URL was shared over time.
– Stats on how a post or URL was shared.
Google+ Search is a powerful feature. Results are delivered from Google+ posts (public posts and posts shared with you), people and pages, communities, photos, Hangouts, events, and more.
Below the filters, you can also sort your results according to relevance (“Best of”) or timeliness (“Most recent”).
Interested in seeing trending content? Visit the Explore tab. You might see important news topics (like #Ferguson) or posts that are “softer”, such as a recipe that went viral.
Last but not least, check out the photo editor. It’s full of fantastic features.
- Some best practices for B2B brands:
- Optimize your Google+ Page About section
– Upload a profile and cover photo (https://support.google.com/plus/answer/1057172?hl=en) – A tool like Canva (https://www.canva.com/) will make banner creation a breeze.
– Include your contact information (business name, phone number, and hours of operation)
– Use a keyword-rich tagline – Tell others exactly what you do and why they should follow you
– Fill the Introduction with relevant information on your products, services, and offers. How do you help your target audience? Include anchor text (http://moz.com/learn/seo/anchor-text) to entice others to click and find more about you.
– Add relevant links (blog, website, social media profiles…).
If your company has a YouTube account, make sure you link it to your business page. Your videos will then appear in the Videos section of your profile.
- Leverage Circles
B2B brands and marketers should use circles to segment their audience when posting updates.
Say your company has a major announcement to make. Is the news relevant to your entire circles?
– Yes – Share it publicly.
– No – Which circle(s) should you target: journalists, stakeholders, employees…?
Also, do you know that circles can be shared publicly? It is a great way to find out what competitors, clients, employees, event organizers, or journalists follow. Enter “shared a circle with you” (https://plus.google.com/s/shared%20a%20circle%20with%20you) and a specific keyword (e.g., B2B, marketing, branding) in the Search box at the top of your page and watch what happens…
Last but not least, don’t forget to subscribe to your favourite circle(s). The option is located at the top right of your circle’s stream. Every time a user or page in that circle posts something new, you will be notified by phone or email (depending on what you chose in your page settings).
- Be active
On Google+, activity is rewarded with visibility.
– Create events for big announcements or product launches, for example. When people RSVP, they will get reminders as the events approach.
– Organize Hangouts on Air to connect with your audience. Host Q&A sessions for the media or stakeholders, and behind-the-scenes tours for customers.
– Bring value. Let others know about your products and services. Relay useful content and important developments in your industry. Feature your best employees and favorite customers…
– Use the Pareto Principle (or 80-20 rule) to offer a balanced mixture between educational and self-promotional posts.
– Google+ is a very visual platform. Images and photos are given special treatment. Utilize the editor to make your images pop in the stream.
– Join Communities and actively contribute there. You can also create your own Communities. One could be used to stay in touch with your employees or influencers (private). Another one could be for customers or journalists.
– Do not just drop links and leave. Take the time to craft introductions and provide some context. Give people a good reason to click and read. And return.
- Monitor conversations and interact with your audience
A great way to build loyalty is to keep an eye on conversations around your content and company. On Google+, there are two main ways to do that:
– By using Ripples to see how your posts spread and to identify advocates.
– By leveraging Search. Enter your domain name or the name of your company in the search bar. Then, save the results page in your browser. The next time you want to see who is talking about you, all you have to do is click the bookmarked link. Search results are updated automatically.
Direct mentions of your page’s name will be available from the Mentions tab in the top menu in your Stream. Spotting a share or mention is not enough. You must go a step further. Start engaging:
– Leave a comment under the post
– Look at the member’s profile and circle them if you want
– Return the favor: Interact with their updates and share some of their content if it is relevant to your brand and audience
Another way to draw attention to your page is to mention other Google+ members. However, use the feature sparingly. People hate spammers, so they will not hesitate to mute or block you if you overdo it.
You should tag a profile or a page when you want to:
– Contact them privately
– Recommend something that will be useful to them
– Let them know you are relay their posts
– Acknowledge their suggestions and recommendations. It’s called a ‘Hat tip’ (format: H/T +[name])
- Format your posts
Unlike Facebook, Google+ allows you to customize your updates to look like blog posts. You can make your text bold, italic, strikethrough, or use a mixture. For example:
– Italic: _text_
– Bold: *text*
– Strikethrough: -text-
– Numbered List: *1.* text
– Mix and match: _*text*_
Since your public updates are indexed in Google Search, formatting is very important. Make sure you bold your first line to turn it into a headline.
Finally, add a couple of relevant hashtags to increase exposure.
- Be consistent
Many brands jump on the Google+ bandwagon with big expectations and no plan. They often end up disappointed by the lack of results and abandon ship.
The secret to being successful on Google+? Consistency and interactions.
- Establish a posting calendar – and stick to it. Aim for a minimum of one daily update as a starter. And do not always share at the same time. Try different times during the week to see what works best for your brand.
- Take a look at competition in your industry. What do they post (infographics, videos, pictures, links…)? What type of content gets the most engagement? How quickly do they respond to comments? How self-promotional are they?
- Check out your ‘Google My Business’ dashboard. You will find all sorts of insights on user interaction, including content views, engagement, and audience. This data will be useful to understand your Google+ audience better.
- To schedule posts, use HootSuite or Buffer. Google+ does not offer any feature in that category.
Remember: Google+ is different from Facebook or Twitter – and so is its audience. Post useful content, leave comments, tag the right people or businesses, and focus on building relationships. The rest will happen naturally.
Next week watch for the second part of this Google+ primer. We’ll talk about some innovative B2B companies to follow and what you can learn from them.
Flickr photo via user ePublicist
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