Google+, which debuted this summer as a web-sharing tool and social network for personal use, is now available to businesses, too. Creating a Google+ page is a relatively easy endeavor that could create social-media marketing opportunities for your small enterprise. Here’s how to get started — and what’s in it for you.
For starters, you’ll need a Google account. If you don’t have one, click here to sign up. Note that Google+ business pages are attached to a single account, so give careful thought to who will manage your Google+ business page, because he or she is the only person who will be able to access it. (When logged in, that user will be able to easily toggle back and forth between a personal profile and business Google+ pages.)
Once you’ve established your Google account, you’ll need to create a specific Google+ page for your business at this link. Select the category that best describes your business and verify contact information (phone number and location). Once you’ve completed this step, you’ll be asked to upload an image or logo and provide a brief synopsis of what your company does and your website’s URL.
Next, you’ll want to develop a following for your Google+ business page. This is a little trickier than establishing Circles in your personal Google+ account, because Google+ business users cannot follow Google+ users who do not follow them.
So, how do customers find business pages on Google+? The “big idea” behind Google+ is new search tool called Direct Connect, which locates a Google+ business page whenever a user puts a “+” sign in front of a business name in a Google search. The tool is currently in beta and limited to a few major brands, but Google says it will soon be made available to others. To get an idea of how the tool will work, type “+Pepsi” into Google. (Omit any space between the + symbol and the text.)
Meanwhile, small-business owners can use two other Google+ features to gain visibility. First, add the +1 button to your company’s website, which allows visitors to recommend it with a single click. The +1’s that your site receives may show up in search results, next to ads, and on other websites. In short, +1 votes boost the site’s reputation as one worth checking out. Google+ users who are signed in and searching may also see your site if one of their connections has given it a +1.
Although +1 recommendations can make your company’s website appear more relevant to Google+ users, they do not directly link to your Google+ business page. To connect them, you’ll need to add a Google+ badge to your website, which will lead users to your Google+ business page and allow them to follow your business’s updates, media, and other content you share.
Why should you create a Google+ business page? Three reasons.
Search visibility. Adding both the +1 button and Google+ badge to your business website will lead to tallied search results “that appear as a single total,” Google explains. In that sense, two buttons are better than one, and your +1 recommendations and activity may make your site “more compelling.” (However, Google is careful to note that Google+ is “just one of many signals Google may use to determine a page’s relevance and ranking.”) When signed-in Google users do a Google search, they’ll see the tally of +1’s your site has received. Google+ users who also have a social connection with you may see how they are personally connected to your site. The idea is to indicate that your site has relevant content, and ultimately, prompt click-through, because if a friend thinks something is worth reading, odds are pretty good that you might find it interesting, too.
Targeted messaging. As you gain followers, your Google+ Circles will allow you to easily send appropriate messaging, offers, and promotions to different groups of customers and business partners, a feature that Facebook’s business marketing generally lacks.
Online brand control. Google+ allows users to comment on posts, but not to start new conversations. For businesses, this allows more control over online brand reputation than, for example, a Facebook fan page’s wall that is set to allow for open posts — which can be positive or negative — until the page admin deletes them.