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Google Plus has been making a lot of waves in the social media landscape recently after something of a shaky start.  I’ve recently begun to give Google Plus a second look and I’m pleasantly surprised at what I’m finding, especially for businesses and brands.  But the question remains for business— is Google Plus worth the effort of including in your social media strategy? Why Small Business Should Take Another Look at Google Plus

A Short History of Google Plus
The summer of 2011 has seen a lot of change in the digital marketing landscape and in the social media realm in particular. Google Plus launched on June 28, 2011 and it seemed to instantly breathe new life into social media.  The service included “circles” and “sparks” as well as this exciting new tool called “hangouts” and 25 million people created accounts in the first month. But the excitement quickly faded as users weren’t sure what to do on the network.    Companies/brands were left out of the initial roll-out, which frustrated may marketers.  Forbes.com quickly wrote an obituary for the network and Google Plus seemed to be heading the way of Google Buzz and Google Wave—toward the trash pile.  That is, until Google introduced company/brand pages in November.  And that’s when things started to get interesting once again.

Should Your Business Be on Google Plus?
First and foremost, I advocate that any business claim their spot on any and all available social media services.  I’m not saying that you have to be active on each of those platforms, but you want to avoid a situation where someone else comes in and squats on your name like what happened to Bank of America on Google Plus.  Better to get it and not use it than have someone “brandjack” your presence!

Going beyond simply claiming your presence is another matter all together.  So, in a world where time is limited and resources are tight, especially if you’re a small or medium-sized business where the social media team is likely one individual, you may face some skepticism as to whether or not Google Plus is worth the time.  I believe that it is and here are three benefits to be realized from establishing your company/brand page:

Google is (mostly) focused on search.  It is where they derive a significant portion of their revenues and the large majority of their services/products have implications for search.  Google Plus is no different.  A company/brand page on Google Plus is indexed by googlebot, the search engine’s crawler.  That means if you do a good job of describing your company, posting (and tagging) relevant photos/video and providing updates about your company, that content will make its way to the search engine results page (SERP) and has a chance to compete for traffic.  And one of your main goals in your digital marketing strategy should be to find as many people interested in your product/service/company as possible, which means you need every advantage available to you.

There’s also a really cool tie-in to the main search engine that Google began rolling out with the company/brand pages: Google Plus Direct Connect.  This allows a searcher to type “+” and then a brand name to directly connect with that brand’s Google Plus page.  To see this feature in action, hope over to Google and type in “+YouTube” and you’ll skip the result page and go straight to the Toyota brand page on Google Plus.  Currently, this feature is only available to a few limited partners, but Google has indicated they intend to make it available in the coming months to more brand/company pages.

Bottom line: by taking the time to setup (and regularly update) your company/brand page, you’re giving your company one more chance to compete for valuable links from the search engine.

More Space to Interact
Several of our clients have, in the past, expressed frustration with Twitter as a form of communication because it is so brief and doesn’t give a lot of space for context.  When talking with them, we typically focus on how Twitter is primarily for short burst of communication, not unlike instant messaging.  The core take away from this conversation is that you need to line up the tool for what it does best.  Twitter isn’t for deep, meaningful interactions and it never will be.

Facebook Fan Pages, on the other hand, provide a little more space for interaction between two parties.  And while it is great to have some additional space to talk, Facebook also imposes some limitations on how much they will show of a status update, choosing to hide the balance behind the “more” link.

Google Plus, however, seems to have a real strength in providing a user space to post a longer, more complete thought.  I’m not suggesting that companies should treat this like a blogging platform.  However, having a little more space does have advantages, like allowing you to carry on conversations with those interested in your products/services.

Bottom line: companies/brands don’t have to abbreviate their messages within Google Plus.  They can express more of a complete thought and engage with their audience in a longer-form manner.

One of the features that most excited early adopters of Google Plus was the hangout.  This feature allows you to do a video chat with others via Google Plus.  It is not unlike doing a video chat via Skype, except it takes place entirely within the social media platform.

While I’m still unsure about the long-term use of hangouts by companies/brands, particularly for time-starved small businesses, there is some potential that is worth exploring, especially if you are in a product service line of work.  Imagine an appliance repair business that conducts a hangout with a customer to allow the customer to show exactly what’s wrong with their appliance so the repair business can get a better understanding of the situation before they ever leave the repair shop.  That could save time and make the customer happy just a little bit faster.  At a minimum, it can distinguish your business from the competition by showing customers that you’re on the cutting edge of technology to communicate with them.

Bottom line: hangouts have potential to transform interactions with customers, but we may still be a ways off from widespread adoption.

Is Google Plus worth a second look by your business?  I believe so.  A small investment of time (no greater than 5%) can help advance your search efforts, allow you to express a more complete thought and transform the way you interact with your customer base.  Of course, it’s only going to work if you have taken the time to plan your social media strategy, because a haphazard approach isn’t going to cut it and that, more than anything, can undermine your marketing efforts in the world of social media.

About Dijital Farm
Dijital Farm is a digital/Internet marketing consultancy based in Raleigh, N.C. (connect with us on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn!). We specialize in helping small and medium-sized businesses make better use of the Web through a digital footprint assessment and developing a custom-fitted digital marketing strategy to help your business achieve its goals online.  Want to know more?  Contact us today so we can get started strengthening your digital footprint!