Meagan Parrish

As marketers are aware, Google+ is becoming a more important part of the social media marketing mix – especially considering recent social search developments. With the addition of Google+ data in “Search, plus Your World” results, the network is generating a lot of buzz (though not all of it is positive).

As Brafton recently reported, a survey conducted by AYTM Market Research found that 45 percent of respondents don’t like the idea of having their social activity included in their search results. Nonetheless, 8 percent say they are more likely to launch Google+ accounts in light of this update, and this means more prospects may soon be accessible on the network.

So what does “Search, plus Your World” really mean for marketers? To start, Google has added three primary features to search: “Personal results,” “profiles in search” and “people and pages.” Each feature personalizes search results when the searcher is logged into Picasa or G+. Content that is shared on Google’s social network stands to be much more visible in search among logged-in users.  Users will have to opt-out rather than opt-in.  This builds on the longstanding theory that +1 data could become a search ranking signal and, for marketers working on SEO campaigns, Search plus Your World could be a game-changer.

Social media marketing for Google+ should become significantly more important, not only for social but also for search efforts. But Google+ is still uncharted territory for most marketers, and many might be resistant to add it to their social marketing mix until the site establishes more users. Think of it this way: Personal profiles were active on Facebook and Twitter, then brand pages followed. Google+ might take on the reverse situation. Since 77 percent of global top 100 brands are using Google+, business participation may encourage personal profiles to monitor companies’ activities and share with their circles. Also, with more than seven in 10 big businesses building brand pages, you don’t want your company to fall behind.

Here are five steps toward leveraging Google+ for search and social visibility – starting with the basics and moving to tips on building your targeted circles to boost your reach.

1. Get the Google+ basics down

So as a marketer, how can you make the most of your Google+ brand page? First, let’s start with the basics: Set your business apart with a polished page that makes it look like you’re a G+ pro. Your page should include an introduction about your company, contact information and your recommended links.Google+ basic setup

When it comes to writing your introduction, less is more. Be sure to clearly convey what your company offers, but remember that this is a social space. People don’t want to read the nuances of your business model. (Drive them back to your site to learn about that.) Recommended links can include company news pages, links to your blog and links giving users opportunities to connect on additional networks (like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn).

Also, make sure you upload a profile image and five photos to your banner. A high resolution version of your logo is the clear choice for your brand’s profile image. Then, the five photos should be selected based on what you think will best capture the interest of your target audience. Some B2C and B2B brands go with recent offerings: The Gap features hot items from their winter collection in their banner, while Nielsen has added charts depicting research. Meanwhile, Pepsi has a timeless banner, using the five image blocks to create a larger picture that makes the soda can really pop.

Gap Google+Pepsi Google+Nielsen Google+

Depending on what you offer, come up with a way to show off something unique about your business. You can also start creating circles based on how you want to segment your audience. Default circles include:

  • Following
  • Customers
  • VIPs
  • Team Members

My recommendations would be to modify the default settings to add the following circles:

  • Employees (dependent on company size, of course)
  • Pages (that you’d like to interact with or follow)
  • Competitors (if you’re curious to know what they’re talking about)
  • Decision makers (great for B2B if information to categorize users as such is available — and whether B2B or B2C a variation on this can be created or broken down into smaller circles that consider prospects’ gender, age, income, region, etc.)

Obviously segmenting your circles might take as much time as sorting lists on Twitter, but it could be worth it in the long run if you’d like to take advantage of posting content specifically to a certain circle. Once the basic setup is taken care of, the hard part comes. What should you post and who should you share it with?

2. Remember that Google+ isn’t Facebook… or LinkedIn or Twitter

One thing to remember when planning content marketing approaches to Google+ is that each of the top players in the social realm has a particular voice and audience. So where does Google+ fit in?

Let’s start with Facebook. On the (current) social giant, each post (or object) tries to provoke some type of response from the fan. Since Facebook users tend to add people they know personally, the goal of a company Facebook page should be to become “friends” with prospects and solicit comments and conversations – through employee photos, polls and more. Facebook pages create customer brand loyalty through a personal environment where pages encourage their fans to share their opinions – including in the form of Likes.

LinkedIn has grown into a social space where people can develop their personal brands and build their professional networks. It’s a great place to post PR, company news and corporate landmarks.

Twitter, on the other hand, isn’t as much of a personal network as it is an update provider. It’s a space for timely news and blog updates, finding social trends and keeping up with conversations about various topics.

To recap, Facebook takes the personal, Twitter takes the news and LinkedIn takes the business updates. Where does that leave Google+? Well, Google+ has a little of all three aspects. It allows you to provide status updates longer than 140 characters, companies can post their news, view industry trends and, with the addition of “hangouts,” page moderators can hold live webinars with circles. As a “Like” or comment, Retweet or LinkedIn share indicate successful social content and boost reach on other networks, +1’s and comments are positive on G+ – and the benefits extend into Google search visibility.

But just because Google+ encompasses many aspects of the other social networks, it doesn’t mean it should become a catch-all for whatever content you can think of creating and sharing. It means marketers need to be armed with a variety of content and be savvy about how they organize their G+ connections into circles. Of course, before sharing content marketing, you first need to get your business in users’ circles…

3. Build your own circles (as a means of building brand circles)

Google+ brand pages can only add personal profiles to circles after users have added the brand pages, so marketers first have to get their brands on users’ radars. The first step should be promoting your company’s G+ presence on other social networks, your website, in emails and any other place you can engage existing fans and followers. But then there’s also the opportunity to find new G+ contacts among the site’ 62 million (and counting) users by engaging them directly.

A lot of the work you do for your brand may first come in the form of doing it on your own account since your brand page can’t add personal users. Here are some tips to adding to your own circles as a means of boosting your brand page:

1. First, check out the people who have already added you to their circles and begin sorting them into circles relevant to their profiles. You’d be surprised how many G+ users list their locations, occupations and interests in their introductions. You could also separate your circles into prospects or other brand pages to market any new services or business promotions. Remember, social networks aren’t just about posting, you need to listen too – and the better you listen on Google+, the more likely you’ll share the right content and get your current G+ followers to spread the word about you and, ultimately, your brand.

2. After you’ve take a long look at the people who’ve already added you into your circles, it’s time to find more. Search for people who will share the same interests as you. If you’re a marketer and enjoy talking about recent internet marketing news, you could do a search for “marketing” within Google+ to find people, pages and posts relevant to that search. You can further filter searches by location (if you’re interested in location targeting). If you’re not sure where to start on the search front, just check out the current “trends” and find conversations that you want your brand to ultimately be part of on Google+.

Google+ search

3. Interact with the people who come up in your industry G+ search results. The key to getting your business added by relevant audiences is engaging users who have similar interests to your brand via you. Add these people to your circles, and make desired users aware of the content your brand can offer by sharing it with them via your account. If it’s clear that you share top content, users will be more likely to add you back to their circles – and this will put you in a better position to encourage them to add your brand.

4. Be consistent with your own profile and maintain an active pace in conversations. This may sound like a lot of effort, but you can (and should) share the content that you post on your company’s brand page.

Once people have you in their circles, now comes the hard part. How do you get those people to +1 or circle your brand page?

4. Turn your G+ connections into brand followers with relevant content

Sure, you can just start sharing your business page with your circles and ask them to add your company. But what you should be doing is sharing content from your business (and tagging your brand page of course!). Demonstrate your brand’s value through shared content that appeals to your target market or a particular group of people within a circle. This will make it more likely that they’ll add your brand and you’ll become your own content advocate, helping your site pages garner +1’s for a boost in search.

Because you’ve hopefully segmented your Google+ connections into appropriate circles,
Google+ Circlesyou can likely tell what types of branded content will most appeal to different users. For instance, let’s say you work for a software company and your brand released an innovative product for personal computer users. If you’ve created a circle of people who have a profession or interest in technology, sharing a related press release or the new product page with this audience would be ideal. On the other hand, a blog post about how to streamline tech integration within business operations would be better for the tech professional circle and your existing customer circle (while less relevant to the consumer tech enthusiasts).

Since different circles may like different things, share news or updates from your brand page that directly relate to those circles. Keep track of the content you’re sharing and the tone you use. Most likely, you’ll share a variety of content that appeals your audiences. Share the right type in the right way and you’ll draw attention to your brand.

Even if you do ultimately straight up ask people to add your brand, they’ll be more likely to do so if you’ve been sharing engaging branded content.

5. Leverage the power of your employees for bigger G+ brand reach

Brands should also be leveraging the power of their employees and contributors to gain some immediate traction for their pages. Employees can share or +1 their business’ content, get involved in conversations on the company’s page and become advocates for the brand. Marketers should push company employees to also participate and get involved in industry conversations.

Start by having employees add your brand page to their circles, then share content specifically with your employees’ circle that your staff would be interested in reading. Maybe it’s your company’s anniversary or an upcoming networking or philanthropic event. If you share content that’s relevant to corporate employees, they’ll be more inclined to comment on your activity or tag your company in posts to their circles. (Or, of course, you could take the simple approach and just ask or require your employees to participate on the network.)Dell shares Dell content on G+

Get your employees to follow topics or people in your business’ industry or in similar roles at other companies. The more people your staff engages with, the more visibility your brand will receive when your content or brand page is shared with their circles.

Another idea is to have employees hold a hangout for the business page. Utilize and promote this feature as you would a webinar to encourage people who are not in your circles to join and provide feedback. Your brand can promote the upcoming hangout in blog content, newsletter marketing campaigns and other social media outlets. And don’t forget, have your employees (especially the ones involved in the hangout) share it with their audiences too.

Final tips…

So hopefully you now know how to setup your profile, search for relevant Google+ users, grow your circles and promote your brand page. In the end, this will help you garner more +1s for amplified search and social reach.

Let’s conclude with some real-life examples of effective business page updates to circles.

Samsung does a great job of sharing engaging Google+ content in the form of photos:

Samsung on Google+

Here’s a great news content consumer-facing post from openSUSE:

As Google+ continues to develop, marketers should look out for additional opportunities to engage their users. I can’t wait to see what’s lies ahead! How about you?