It began with the rumor that Google was taking a second go at "going social." As quickly as Google Buzz flopped, the public's excitement over Google's next social experience grew. As a community manager, I was excited to see its potential and plan how I would incorporate it into my day-to-day activities. And then the invites went out. I joined almost immediately after receiving mine. I poked around a little, added a few friends to various circles, and posted a cliché update about how Google+ would be the next big thing. Well...was it?
That question will garner different answers depending on who you ask. To be frank, Google+ didn't stop us from logging into Facebook and Twitter every day, but it did capture the attention of more than 500 million registered users. This is no number to scoff at -- more than 500 million people have a Google+ account with 235 million of those users logging in at least monthly. Now that Google+ is about 18 months old, it's safe to say the platform is here to stay.
Google eventually nixed the invite-only approach, making Google+ available for all Gmail users.The potential for growth of the platform is tremendous, so this is a great time to incorporate the platform into your marketing plans and take advantage of the upswing in growth for Google+.
However, there are a few things to consider about Google+ before making the jump to this platform -- the first, and most important, being that the platform is different from and acts uniquely compared to Facebook and Twitter. Because Google+ is a Google product, posts and accounts will appear high in search results. This is one reason Google+ is essential for a business.
Businesses use Facebook to keep their audiences informed, and the same can be done with Google+ to entice new business. You can promote your company and engage with your current community, as your Google+ account is likely to show up on the first page of search results. Strategically, Google+ can be used as a selling feature as well as a way to represent your company and product offerings.
Keep in mind that the type of content shared on Google+ matters. Google+ posts that contain images or videos do especially well, so start by strategizing around posts with rich media content. For example, take a look at the CNN and Nordstrom Google+ pages and notice how images with little text dominate their pages. Posts that contain images are shared more and receive more +1s than posts containing just text.
Another important thing to note is that Google differentiates business and personal Google+ accounts by naming them Google+ Pages (business) and Google+ Profiles (personal). Multiple people can contribute to your Google+ Page from their Google+ Profiles if they have admin access. Allowing multiple members to manage your page can help to maintain an active presence and steadily grow your Google+ following.
Remember that the best social media marketing plan is a comprehensive one. This begins with knowledge of the different platforms so you can take advantage of each one's unique qualities.
Courtney Kettmann is the community manager at Viralheat.
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