Google’s latest innovation, Google+ (indicated by a +1 icon on the web, or simply a + sign), has been released and is already making waves. At the core, Google+ is essentially a social network that allows you to “compartmentalize” your life and have more control over content you search for and share — which could change the future of small business marketing as we know it. Here’s a rundown on the +1 sign that’s changing the face of Google, and how to start using it.
What’s the “+1″? According to Google, the +1 is “shorthand for ‘this is pretty cool.’” When a user clicks a site’s +1 icon, it’s basically a stamp of approval, one that Google will make known to others. (If this sounds awfully similar to the Facebook “Like,” it’s based on the same premise, but with broader applicability than basic social networking.) The +1 indicator on a site could also bloom into a powerful referral marketing engine for businesses. It not only shows a user who in their network gave the “thumbs up,” it indicates the number of other users who also have. Plus votes also play a role in prioritizing Google’s search results, based on what others in a users’ network have recommended.
Key Google+ features. Google+ networks are based on the idea of “circles,” allowing users to categorize the people in their network and control who sees what information. (Your business investor probably doesn’t need to know the name of your high school prom date, and Google+ circles intend to keep it that way.) For businesses, this feature could have the potential to solve the targeting issue that has caused Facebook users angst. Google+ also offers “sparks” for self-tailored content, online video chat for groups up to ten people called “hangouts,” and is equipped for mobile.
Google+ for business. The Google+ action starts with the creation of a Google profile. The only problem: Businesses can’t register for the time being, and Google says that won’t change until winter 2011. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of Google+ today in other ways.
Your first step should be to integrate the +1 feature into your blog or website by adding a bit of code. Once added, users who have a personal Google profile can indicate that they like your site or piece of contact by clicking the +1 button. It’s then added into the queue of potential sites that are prioritized in search results in that person’s circles.
While some fear that Google+ may ultimately be another Facebook-esque tool, Google+ Product Manager Christian Oestlien promises a richer experience for businesses than currently exists in social networks today. In a recent post, he says, “We will be working on producing a business experience that is more unique to the Google+ experience and will focus on showing businesses the advantages of extending their identity across Google and Google products.” While the evolution of Google+ remains to be seen, it stands to reason that it will be integrated with Google’s other business-related products like Google Offers, Google Places, and AdWords.
If you believe in the potential of Google+ for business and want to understand the intricacies of it, you can apply to become part of a small Google+ test panel of non-personal user participants (including small businesses) that will get to review the potential business features of the tool before everyone else.