The Ultimate Guide to Google Plus For Businesses

19 June, 2013

Readers Tip: If you have a specific question about Google+ that isn’t answered in this ultimate guide or if you’d just like to keep up to date with some of the latest Google+ and digital marketing developments, we’d recommend adding the author of this guide, +Paul Goldston, to your Google+ circles:



UPDATE #3 – Jun 20, 2013 – While most of the strategies and tactics in this article will not really change too much over time, the actual Google+ interface has already been re-imagined three times since the original version of this article was written. This update works to reflect the most recent interface changes. Furthermore, this particular blog update includes any functionality changes that are relevant to businesses using Google Plus. These include:

  • Google+ content recommendations plugin for mobile blogs and content pieces
  • Related #hastags
  • Stream updates

UPDATE #2 - Mar 18, 2013 – Some really cool updates to Google+ have been added into this ever growing blog post including:

  • Interactive Posts!
  • Profile/page design overhaul (including larger cover images and revamped ‘about’ section)
  • Sign in using Google+

UPDATE #1 - Feb 20, 2013 - There have been a couple of big changes to Google Plus over the last couple of months. I’ve now updated this article to also include:

  • Google Plus communities
  • Updated active usage figures
  • One-to-one interactions for brand pages (including some tactics)
  • Update on Google Plus promotion strategies
  • Google Plus management tools
  • Google forms integration

And with that, let’s begin!

When someone asks me about Google+, I’m sure they usually regret it. Not for any reason other than the fact that such a simple question is often met with an excited barrage of stats, strategies, tactics and farfetched hypotheses.

I am of course a HUGE Google+ fan.

However, instead of inflicting my love of “The Plus” onto my friends and family at every chance I get, I’ve decided to let it all out here on the Reload Media blog. Maybe I’ll even get a UTM tracked QR code tattooed to my forehead so people can just scan my face and visit this article whenever the topic pops up in conversation!

But seriously, if you are a marketer, a business owner or are just curious about what all the fuss over Google+ is, this article is for you. Some of the things I’ll be discussing include:

  • What is Google+
  • Why you need to get on board as soon as possible
  • Setting up a business page
  • Tactics for building your following both on and off the platform
  • How Google+ can boost your AdWords campaigns, and
  • A list of additional tips and tricks I’ve found along the way on top of the many that are peppered throughout this article!

As this article is quite long, I’ve included a PDF download link for those of you who would like to keep some of these tips and tricks on file or read the article again at a later date.

However, if you do download the PDF or if you found this article helpful in any way, please consider the +1 button (at the top of the page) as our tip jar and feel free to leave a tip. Linking to this article is also very welcome! For those of you reading this on your smartphones, any social sharing would be greatly appreciated!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FREE PDF NOW!

So now, without further adieu…

What is Google+?

In June 2011, Google launched a platform that changed the social media landscape as we knew it. For the first time, a real challenger to Facebook had emerged – Google+.

Google+ is a social network and recommendation engine that borrows some of its core elements from both Facebook and Twitter. Like Facebook, users are able post rich content and detailed status updates to their profile and have this content show up in other user’s newsfeeds. Unlike Facebook however (and similar to Twitter), Google+ users are able to follow anybody that they want to without requiring their target to accept a ‘friend request’.

However, the really unique feature of Google+ is ‘Circles.’

Circles allow users to create custom groups of people that they would either like to receive updates from or send updates to. Even though Facebook and Twitter have both introduced ‘lists’ which are somewhat similar, circles are by far the most robust and customisable social media audience segmentation tool available out of all the social media platforms.

From a business point of view, the ways you can use circles are only limited by your own creativity! Send exclusive updates and insights to just your clients, share cat photos with just your family or even share news to all of your circles AND to their extended circles.

But there’s so much more to the platform than just circles. Check out this video from +Martin Shervinton to get a quick overview if you’ve never used or seen Google+ before:

Update: This video has been updated to highlight the new ‘stream’ design interface of Google Plus as well:

But There’s Nobody on Google+?

Like the Android operating system vs Apple’s iOS, many people believe that if Google+ and Facebook were released at the same time, Google+ would be the leading social network in the world. As we all know, that simply isn’t the case.

In fact, for many of you reading this, at this early stage in the game you probably don’t have a huge amount of family and friends on the platform (if any at all). And that’s fine. But before you claim the “nobody uses Google+ defense”, consider the following:

  • Google+ has grown to 400 million users in just over a year
  • 150 million are ’30 day actives’ across Google
  • 100 million are active on a monthly basis on Google+
  • 50% of these actives sign in daily and spend up to 12 minutes a day on their Google+ stream (up 3 minutes from August 2012)
  • Google+ is backed by one of the largest, most successful companies in the world
  • It is very obvious that the development and growth of Google+ is Google’s number one international priority for the foreseeable future, and
  • Google+ is not just a social network, it is a recommendations engine. More importantly, it is a recommendations engine that is being integrated into the search results of the world’s most popular search engine. Consider what that could mean for your business in six to twelve months time’

Update – As of January 2013, Google+ is now the second largest social media network in the western world. Check out this great graphical representation from the team over at Dustn.tv:

Update: For Australian readers, the 2013 Sensis Social Media Report also states that 15% of all social media users in Australia are now using Google+!

Why You Need to Get Your Business On Board…

If you only take away one thing from this article, let it be this – all businesses that rely on Google as a major source of their online traffic and revenue need to develop their Google+ strategy as soon as possible.

Here’s why…

Authorship

Authorship is basically the process of telling Google which content you have personally produced either on your website or around the web. You may have already seen examples of Authorship in action. If you’ve been on Google recently and have seen the little profile images showing next to the search results, this is an example of successful Authorship linking. Here’s an example of how one of my past posts looks like with Authorship set up correctly:

In the example above, you can see that, by linking my Google+ profile to my blog post, we’ve been able to add some valuable rich snippets to our search results. These include:

  • An image of the author
  • A ‘byline’ linking to the author’s Google+ profile
  • An indication of the author’s credibility by way of listing of how many people have the author in their Google+ circles.

Even though having authorship linked won’t have an enormous effect on your search rankings at this point in time, it can certainly help with your click through rates in the natural search results.

Visit this link to find out the two ways you can set up authorship linking manually.

If you have a WordPress blog, you can install this simple plug in to make life a bit easier.

AuthorRank

Here’s where it all gets REALLY interesting. In 2007, A guy by the name of +Bill Slawski wrote about a patent that Google filed in 2005 called ‘Agent Rank.’ This patent basically explores the idea of ‘ranking agents’ based on the content they create (read Bill’s original post and hypotheses here).

In the patent, Google describes ‘agents’ as all sorts of entities; authors, publishers, brands and more. The problem was that, at the time, Google had no way to really identify agents in a meaningful way. Then along came Google+; a social network that easily doubles as an ‘identity proving’ platform.

At the moment, as authorship is the only rich snippet that appears in the search results, the SEO world has settled on the term ‘AuthorRank’ as opposed to ‘Agent Rank’ as the next game changing algorithm update.

The idea of ‘AuthorRank’ is this – if Google is able to identify and verify reputable authors in certain fields, they will then be able to weed out spammers and only serve up legitimate, relevant content by content creators that have proven themselves to be influential and relevant in their industry vertical or niche topic area.

In simpler terms, the higher your ‘AuthorRank’ is for your specific niche, the higher the content you produce for that niche will rank in Google.

Wow. Mind = blown!

So, although Google haven’t officially announced any change in ranking factors based on an author ranking system yet, the SEO world is buzzing as all signs are pointing to it coming to a Google search results page near you in the next six to twelve months or so.

So How Will it Affect My Business?

There’s talk that this could be one of the most significant algorithm updates in recent history. Many pundits believe that, if and when the update rolls out, content that has reputable authors linked to it will gain a large rankings boost above content that does not.

This is an amazing opportunity for you to get ahead of the algorithm (for once) and to prepare your business for what the SEO industry believes is inevitable.

+Mike Arnesen wrote an amazing article on AuthorRank and described what he believed to be some of the factors that individuals and brands will need to work on to help build their AuthorRank:

  • Google+ engagement levels
  • Number of people who’ve circled you
  • Posting frequency
  • Authority of publishing websites
  • Comments per post
  • +1s per post
  • Shares per post
  • Relative authority on non-Google social networks
  • Outside authority indicators
  • Average Page Rank

Check out Mike’s post here.

There are a lot of great suggestions in Mike’s article and across the web on how you can start building your AuthorRank today but the main take outs in my opinion are to:

  • Get a Google+ account;
  • Get Authorship set up for both the posts on your website and the posts on sites you’ve been published on;
  • Choose a niche or a couple of niches that you want to become an authority on;
  • Be real and connect with real people in the niche you want to build your authority for;
  • Interact and develop conversations like you would at any social gathering or networking event; and
  • Regularly create great, sharable content.

Update: I’ve recently read another AMAZING article on how you can build your AuthorRank by +Joshua Berg . You can check it out here.

My main take outs from this article (to add to the tactics above) include:

  • Don’t focus on getting the ‘most’ amount of people circling you but rather, focus on developing relationships with the authoritative people in your niche;
  • Focus on getting links from the world wide web to your personal profile page on Google+ or to your business page on Google+. Here’s MY personal Google+ profile in case you’d like to link to it and send me a bit of link juice haha!
  • Treat other people on Google+ the way that you would like to be treated (yep, it’s the same on Google+ as it is in anything else you do in life!)

However, these just scrape the surface. I strongly recommend you read Josh’s article if you’re interested in social media optimisation. After this article of course!

Search Plus Your World

Google Search Plus Your World is basically a Google search filter that allows users to adjust their search results according to their social graph (when they are logged into their Google account). This feature explores the concept of ‘social search’ and is currently live in the US. We do see glimpses of this in the Australian Google search results but not to the extent of the US implementation.

The ‘Search Plus Your World’ filter means that, with the toggle of a switch, users are be able to display their search results not by the standard, natural search rankings, but rather, by which friends and acquaintances in their own social circles have recommended and ‘connected with’ online content.

It will be critical for businesses and brands to build up their Google+ following in order to reach their follower’s extended social circles in these filtered search results.

We’ve done an extensive post on Google Search Plus Your World here which delves much deeper into the what’s, how’s, when’s and why’s of this feature.

However, if you just want to check it out, watch the quick demonstration video below:

Be a (Late) Early Adopter

We’ve already discussed the rapid growth of Google+. But it’s true, in Australia, only a small portion of the population is actively using the platform. This is a huge opportunity for you as business owners and marketers as you have a chance to get onto the platform and build a name for yourself before it REALLY takes off.

The platform is still an extremely friendly place where everyone is trying to help each other out to grow their followings and connect with more people. What should be more enticing however is the fact that you have an opportunity to become an early adopter in your field and get a huge head start on your competitors before any inevitable, ‘author’ focused algorithm changes come into play.

At Reload, we believe that as soon as Google announce that Google+ signals will affect search results in some way, businesses will be clamouring to get their Google+ strategies up and running on the social network. As the goal of these strategies will be to pull their large consumer bases onto the platform in an effort to increase their following and authority, it won’t be long before the social network hits full speed.

As soon as this announcement occurs (if it ever does), I don’t believe it will be too long before we see ‘calls to actions’ directing users to Google+ pages instead of Facebook pages in traditional advertising channels.

Our advice – get onto the platform before the rush!

Google+ Local

At Reload, we’ve also written extensively about Google+ Local as it is a core part of our SEO packages. Earlier in 2012, Google changed the name of their maps listings from ‘Google Places’ to ‘Google+ Local’ in a bid to better integrate maps and business listings into the Google+ platform. Further to this, all Google Places listings were migrated over to the new Google+ Local platform.

Google+ Local is basically just a much more social version of Google Places and is integrated heavily into the Google+ platform. There were three main changes that occured after the worldwide migration from Google Places to Google+ Local:

  • The Zagat ratings system was introduced. We’re not sure how much longer this new ratings system will be in place but, for now, it’s being used as a new way for customers to review businesses more accurately in different industry verticals. Expect to see improvements to this area as time goes on.
  • Users now have the ability to filter their local reviews by their own circles. This give more weight to the idea that Google+ is becoming a recommendations engine as this allows users to filter reviews by trusted sources in the online social circles.
  • If you have set up a Google+ business page in the ‘local business or place’ categorisation, you have the opportunity to link your Google+ Local listing to your Google+ business page. This will allow you to create an even richer social experience with your customers as you will then have the ability to let your reviewers add you to their circles (and you can follow them back once they’ve done this!)/li>

Google+ Local maps listings are hugely important, especially for bricks and mortar stores that rely on Google to provide phone numbers and directions to their customers. With Google working to integrate Google+ into more and more of its products, Google+ Local will need to make up an important part of your Google+ strategy.

For more information on Google+ Local, check out the in depth article we published after the launch earlier in the year here.

Or, just check out the video below:

Show Google That Your Brand is Legitimate

And finally, having a Google+ account is a great way to signal to Google that your brand is in fact legitimate and trustworthy.

Once you hit ‘a meaningful number of followers’ on your Google+ business page, you are able to apply to be verified by Google. This means that your page will receive a tick of approval from Google as being a legitimate company/brand/entity.

Again, there is no evidence that becoming verified will help your search rankings but it certainly can’t hurt – especially with the possible algorithm changes that may be coming our way.

For more information on how to get your page verified, check out this link.

Setting up Your Google+ Business Page

Setting up your Google+ business page is a pretty straightforward process. If you haven’t had a chance to create one, check out my quick tutorial video below on how to get started:

Update: Although the Google+ interface has changedm setting up a business page is still basically the same. Here’s a link to the page creation tool if you want to get started right away.

Building Audiences For Your Google+ Business Page

So now we get into the juicy part of the article. If you’ve already got your Google+ page set up and are just looking for some strategies and tactics to drive the growth of your page and your website’s +1s, get ready for some crackers!

However, before we get into that, it’s important to understand the difference between goals, objectives strategies and tactics.

Like anything in marketing, it is absolutely critical that you set your goals, objectives, strategies and tactics before jumping into Google+. As a refresher from your ‘Marketing 101′ textbook:

Goals: These are the broad, overarching outcomes you would like to achieve out of your Google+ activity.

These might be something along the lines of ‘increase brand awareness’ or ‘position our brand as a digital leader in our vertical’ or even ‘set up Google+ as a customer service channel for our users’.

Objectives: Objectives are much more specific and measurable indicators of how you are going towards reaching your overarching goals.

For instance, if your overarching goal was to increase brand awareness, then an objective to help contribute towards this goal might be to ‘increase the amount of followers of our Google+ page by 150% over a 6 month period’.

Now, you know I’m going to say it, but make sure your objectives are SMART!

Again, as a refresher, every single one of your objectives should be:

Specific;

Measurable;

Achievable and Attainable;

Realistically possible through available resources; and

Timed.

Strategies: Strategies are basically what you are going to do to achieve either one or a number of objectives. These are basically the general game plan of what you are going to do. It is important to note that strategies will generally encompass a number of tactics.

For example, if we were to follow on from the previous objective of increasing followers by 150% over 6 months, a strategy to help achieve this objective could simply be to ‘develop an engaging, entertaining and/or educational content schedule that our target audience will enjoy and interact with.’

Tactics: Tactics are the specific activities you will undertake in order execute your strategy and achieve your objectives. This is the fun part!

As the aforementioned strategy is to develop an engaging content schedule, the tactics in this case would include the actual details and calendar of the content schedule itself.

For example: ‘On December 24th, post a video from our CEO wishing all of our customers a happy holiday.’

Some Google+ Tactics…

Ok, so now we’ve got that out of the way, I’m going to split this section into two distinct areas:

  • Strategies and tactics for building your audiences on the Google+ site; and
  • Strategies and tactics for driving follower interactions and growth outside of Google+.

Tactics Growth

Tactics on Google+

Page Tactics

It is really important that you set a good first impression on your Google+ page. A few tactics to help make your page stand out include:

  • Create a great, integrated cover image and profile picture. You can get as creative as you like here and you can even use animated gifs to really stand out. However, if you are going to use animated gifs in your cover image, it’s our recommendation to make these very subtle so they don’t become a distracting. Here’s a great example of how an animated gif can bring your Google+ profile and page to life:

(The animation looks much slicker on the actual page – visit https://plus.google.com/+MartijnVreugde/poststo check it out!)

UPDATE: Google have increased the size of the cover images on both profile pages and business pages on Google Plus to a massive 2120 x 1192 pixels!

While many people love these new cover images, there are some who believe it is just TOO big. Never fear, here is a link to a bit of a hack that will allow you to reduce the size if you don’t want your cover image taking up so much screen real estate.

  • In the about section of your page you can set up your tagline. This is what shows up when a users hovers over your username on Google+. In around 5 words or less, come up with something that will stand out and set you apart from your competitors:

  • It’s important to also consider the ‘about’ section of your page. This is especially important for mobile users as it is the first thing they will read after clicking on your name.
  • Furthermore, the links on this page are ‘followed’ by Google!

There has been a large overhaul to the ‘about’ section in Google Plus – for the better. This design revision give the about section not gives the about section the prominence and clarity it deserves. Check it out!

Circle Tactics

I know, I know! We’ve already discussed circles. However, here we’ll talk a little bit more how you can use circles to grow your following.

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet about circles is that they are extremely easy to share. Therefore, a valid strategy would be to try and get you or your brand page into as many highly shared, relevant circles as possible.

If there are not any out there that you can find, why not try creating and sharing your own?

In order to test this strategy, we developed a circle filled with what we categorised as 30 of the top Australian business pages operating on Google+:

We developed a list of pages that had some great content strategies and interaction pieces (and also included ourselves and couple of our own clients in the mix). The results were really positive and every page gained a quick 40 – 50 followers. Not bad for a small scale test!

Another tactic we employ is the creation of an ‘our followers’ circle which allows us to follow back every single person who follows our page. This passively indicates that we are in fact an active brand and that we have taken the time to add them back. Over time, these users may or may not move from the basic follower circle into other circles based on the amount of interactions they have with us and their areas of interest.

For example, we have a circle full of people who have engaged with our brand on more than one occasion in the past so that we can target future posts specifically to them.

Content Strategies and Tactics

A well thought out, strategic content strategy is vital to the success of your Google+ page. Your content strategy, in my opinion, is like your key into your follower’s social sphere. I know that the cocktail party analogy has been done to death but there’s a reason for that – it’s just so damn accurate!

If you haven’t heard it before, it goes something like this:

‘Social media is like attending a cocktail party. If you walk into a cocktail party dressed as a salesman and then start spruiking your products and services to everybody, you aren’t going to be very successful. In fact, you are going to irritate almost everybody at the party and be ignored; possibly even kicked out!

However, if you treat the cocktail party like a networking event and strike up some real, meaningful conversations with the guests, you are going to both have a much more positive and memorable experience.’

When a user decides to follow your business or brand, consider this an invite to the cocktail party. They have accepted you into their social sphere and their conversations. It’s critical that when you speak, you are saying things that are engaging, entertaining or educational and in a manner that is suitable to the relationship. This is your content strategy.

When developing your content strategy, ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Will my target market find the content engaging?
  • Will my target market enjoy seeing this content in their news feed?
  • How does this content fit in with my brand/brand personality?
  • Will this content assist my social media goals and objectives?
  • Does this content encourage interaction or sharing?

Unlike Facebook, with Google+ you are able to segment your content strategy much more based on whatever circles you decide to create. This means that you could in fact be creating multiple content strategies for a number of different people.

Reload Media for example might only share SEO posts with followers who are clearly only interested in SEO while, at the same time, be sharing funny office moments with marketing students (who may one day either be looking for a digital marketing agency or for a digital marketing agency to employ).

Engagement Tactics

It’s one thing to post great content, but to become a truly social media savvy you actually need to interact with your people!

Now, at the moment on Google this can be difficult as a brand as you can only interact with people who have posted on your page or added you to their circles. However, when you HAVE managed to build up a following and your audiences are engaging with your awesome content strategy, it’s critical that you continue the conversation (where applicable) in order to develop the relationship. Note – Get excited, this has been updated. Read on!

This is where social media can get hairy for a lot of businesses as it can be hard to allocate resources to respond to your social media channels. However, at Reload we always like to use the ‘ringing phone’ analogy. If a phone is ringing in your office, you are not going to let it just sit there and keep ringing; you’re going to pick it up.

Enacting a Google+ strategy is like installing a new phone line into your office. If you are going to install the phone line, you’d better make sure there’s someone there to pick up when someone rings (and trust me, if you follow some of the steps in this article, it WILL ring!).

WARNING! SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT! If you simply don’t have the resources to handle your social media community management in a best practice manner, Reload can help you out here. Moving on…

But don’t just respond to comments made on your own content, go and comment on your follower’s posts and content and show them that you don’t just care about what YOU have to say. This again relates back to the cocktail party analogy. You can’t just talk about yourself in a conversation; you need to listen to what others have to say too!

I’ll admit though, engagement is much easier and much more natural when you are doing it as a person as opposed to a brand. Google+ allows individuals to reach out and connect with anybody on the network. If you want to build your own personal authority in a particular niche, start by seeking out the leaders in the field on Google+ and striking up some conversations with them. If they add you to their circles then this will just add to your own credibility and may even help with your search rankings down the road.

Update:  As of December 2012, Google Plus brand pages can now interact with individual user profiles without the prerequisite of first being in these user’s circles!

This is a huge step forward for business pages. In the past, brand pages were only able to interact with those users who had already circled their page. This was an extremely limiting factor to growing a brand page as most pages were required to rely on external strategies or top notch content schedules in order to build their followings.

Now however, brand pages are able to interact with all Google+ users and can develop real, one-to-one relationships with influential users and user groups.

In saying that, it’s critical that brand pages do not abuse this new found communication freedom and use it to drive engaged follower growth and enhance brand-consumer relationships.

Posting Tactics

At Reload, we’ve found a couple of posting tactics that work really well that we’re more than happy to share with you:

1. Ritualistic Posts - We have two photo albums that we add to on a regular basis on Google+ that have been really successful for us:

  • Meme Mondays – an album where we post a new digital marketing based ‘meme’ every Monday morning (around the time that people start work) – check it out here.
  • Geek Shirt Fridays – An album that feature our staff members who wear the geekiest t-shirts in each Friday. The best shirts are featured and the public can vote on the best ‘geek’ shirt each week using the +1 button – check it out here.

2. Exclusive Google+ Content – One really great way to draw your customers into Google+ is by posting exclusive content that is only accessible via your page and nowhere else. On the Reload Media page, we post weekly exclusive digital marketing ‘tips and tricks’ videos that are only available through our Google+ business page. Here’s an example of one of these exclusive videos.

3. Send an Email to Your Circles - If you are posting some great content to a circle of yours that has less than 100 people in it, you can tick a checkbox that will send an email to everyone in this circle and push a notification to their phones if they have this feature turned on. This is a great way to drive traffic to your page initially but be careful not to abuse this function! No one likes a circle spammer!

4. Circle Count – This amazing free tool can give you loads of data on both your own and your competitor’s Google+ page. With regards to posting, you can easily discover what day of the week and what hour of the day your posts are getting the most traction:

5. Hashtags - Just like on twitter, you can use hashtags (#) to group your posts into a particular, searchable topic. For example #ppc #googleplus would allow your post show up for anyone searching for either of these particular hashtags. Furthermore, you can see which topics are trending on Google+ and join the conversation!

Update: One of the big updates after the 2013 Google I/O conference was ‘related hashtags’. These are an awesome addition that enables Google to automatically analyse the context of your Google+ posts and attach a relevant hashtag so your posts are more findable.

Here’s an example:

As you can see here, Google automatically added the #Facebook hash tag. When you click on the hashtag, the tile flips around and you can browse other relevant conversations around this hash tag. Very cool.

6. Mentions -You can mention specific people in your post simply by typing a ‘+’ or ‘@’ symbol before their name. This will notify that person that you have mentioned them and will encourage interaction and conversation. Just don’t overdo it!

7. Hangouts & Hangouts on Air – Google Hangouts is an absolutely incredible tool and is literally getting better and better every day. This tool allows you to video conference with 9 other people. Hangouts are just another way to create exclusive, engaging ‘content moments’ with your audience. You could literally do anything from focus groups with your most influential and engaged users to a cooking show with your ‘Loves Cooking’ circle!

Here’s a video that explains hangouts in a bit more detail:

What’s even more exciting however is Google’s ‘Hangouts On Air’. This extension on Hangouts allows you to not only video conference with 9 people, but to broadcast your content live across the internet! Furthermore, Google+ automatically saves this video when you finish and adds it as a video in your Google+ account which can later be used as webpage content if you so choose.

Here’s a video showing a few examples of Hangouts On Air in action:

Update (additional ‘On Plus’ Tactics):

8. Google Plus Communities - Since this original post went up, Google introduced Google+ communities. This is basically the equivalent of Facebook groups but, in my opinion, a much more powerful solution. Both brand pages and individual users can set up and moderate communities.

You can use communities yourself or for your brand to in order to build up a very targeted group of individuals in relation to a specific topic, theme or industry. A community will give you a home base to communicate with these individuals while allowing you to build trust and authority amongst the group. You can also join other relevant communities and become an authoritative source of information in these groups as well.

Below is a quick video explaining Google+ communities:

I’m embedding a video below created by Martin Shervington who is a world leader in the area of Google Plus strategy and tactics. Check out the video below and, if you enjoyed, I’d strongly recommend you check out his Google+ profile!

9. Google Forms - Another really cool feature that Google have recently announce is the ability to share your Google forms (from within Google Drive) onto Google+ and allowing users to fill out these forms without needing to log in.

The answers from these forms are collated in a live spreadsheet in real time so you can gain instant access to your form results. The possibilities for the usage of forms are really massive so it’s probably best that you just go and have some fun with forms and let us know how you go!

To give you an idea, here’s a form we posted to our Google+ page that asked users what content they most enjoyed from Reload and what they would like to see more of:

Tactics Off Google+

Integration Tactics

In around 1996, when the internet was still a relatively rare thing to find in the average home, I distinctly remember seeing a web address on a Rice Bubbles box and getting very excited.

This was the first time I’d seen a company promote a web address in the real world. I remember tearing off the web address and keeping it for a time in the future when I might be able get access to a computer that was connected (because what ‘normal’ person would be able remember such a jumble of letters and words as http://www.kelloggs.com.au!?!).

After a while however, web addresses began popping up everywhere until my reaction changed from one of excitement, to a mere eyebrow raise, to ignorance. The only web addresses I took notice of from that point onwards were those that told me what I was going to get if I visited them (or those I was actively looking for).

Fast forward 10 years and we saw the exact same audience reaction with Facebook. The early innovators who slapped Facebook logos on their TV commercials and packaging increased their Facebook fan counts by thousands. This was because this had never been done before and users were curious. Now however, you can’t even walk into the local vet without seeing a big old Facebook logo plastered somewhere letting people know that they too have a page!

The problem with just adding a logo these days is this – unless you’re amongst the first integrate a new platform into your other customer touch points, you need to give your audience a clear reason as to WHY they should visit or interact with your social media assets. Simply adding logos to your flyers or website footers just isn’t going to cut it.

So with this in mind, here are a couple of tactics we use recommend in order to drive Google+ interaction and follower growth:

1. Simple call to actions next to the +1 button on all website pages:

  • Facebook VS Google+ interactive tally:

2. ‘Circle us’ integration – the call to action isn’t very apparent on this one due to widget restraints and due to the fact that this widget is not yet widely used in Australia.

Here is a link where you can find all of the official Google+ badges and buttons for your website.

2. Pay With a Plus – If you are releasing huge articles on your blog (like this one), it can be beneficial to include a ‘Pay with a Plus’ functionality. This will allow your users to uncover hidden content (like a pdf download link) after they +1 your article. Now you need to use your common sense with this tactic. People are not going to publicly endorse your content if they don’t know what they are endorsing! Our recommendation for you if you want to try this out would be to either give user’s a preview of what they are going to get before you ask them to endorse you. You can either have a go at developing your own custom ‘Pay With a Plus’ functionality or you can try this paid subcription based WordPress widget.

3. EDMs – Send out Google+ specific email marketing pieces directing your databases to your Google+ page. Make sure to give them a reason to visit!

4. Other Social Channels – You can leverage the followings you’ve developed on your other social channels to drive traffic to your Google+ page. For example:

5. Promotions – While Google has a strict ‘no promotion’ policy on the Google+ platform itself, this does not necessarily mean you cannot run a Google+ promotions through an external, custom built landing pages. We are currently in talks with Google at the moment about what we can and can’t do on a custom landing page with integrated Google+ functionality. Stay tuned! In the mean time you can follow this link to read Google’s promotional policy in full.

Update: This promotion is now live!

6. Integration into offline touch points – If you are going to integrate your Google+ presence into other, offline touch points like television, radio, print ads, point of sale or packaging, just be sure to give your audience a reason to visit and engage with you. You will have much more success this way.

7.Use AdWords – Consider developing a Google AdWords campaign that drives traffic to your Google+ page. Again, make sure users have a reason for following your page in your ads and support this when they arrive.

Update:

8. Google+ Sign In – We wall knew it would be coming at some point but Google officially released Google+ Sign In earlier this month. This allows users to login to apps and websites using their Google+ account (much like Facebook Connect).

For developers, here’s a link with all you need to know on how to implement this.

For interested marketers, here’s a video that explains Google+ Sign In:

9.Interactive Posts – Probably one of the coolest additions to the Google Plus box of tricks is the new ability for interactive posts! This new feature allows website owners to optimise their Google Plus sharing to include very specific ‘call to action’ buttons on the content that the user is sharing.

For example, if you share an item from an online clothing store, the store might like to add an ‘Add to Cart’ button to this particular item so users can purchase the product directly from the social network.

Another example might be if a user share’s their score on a game or app while signed in through Google+, the score could include a ‘Challenge’ button so other users can try to beat this score! We’re extremely excited to see some of the applications of this new feature…

For more information on how it all works, check out the developers guide here.

Update:

10. Management tools – At Reload, we recommend Hootsuite for all community management activities. This is no different for Google+. If you would like to schedule you Google+ posts or manage all of your social posts in one place, then Hootsuite is the tool for you. Check this video out on how to add your Google+ page to your Hootsuite account:

Update:

11. Google have also released a funky new plugin for those of you that have mobile websites which encourages more Google+ interaction with your content. This plugin is very easy to install and will enable users to more easily recommend your amazing content on Google+. Furthermore, the plugin uses the users circles to determine if any of their connections have also recommended the content piece. For example:

Linking Google+ to AdWords

If you have a Google+ page and you have a Google AdWords account but the two are not yet linked, I’d recommend doing this a.s.a.p. Follow the steps on this page to get started.

What does this do?

Well basically, having your ads linked to your Google+ page will allow you to have social extensions appear in your ad:

As you can see, the Reload Media ads include both a +1 button and a notification about how many people have +1’d or followed out page. Finally, the social ad extension includes a link to our Google+ page as well.

The notification on how many people have followed you comes in two varieties:

  • Basic – This is what you can see in the example above. It simply tells you how many people have followed the brand on google+
  • Personal – This notification will appear if you have any connections on Google+ that currently follow the company in the AdWords ad. For example the ad might say ‘Llew Jury and 362 other people +1’d or follow Reload Media.’

Although Google say the average uplift in CTR across all industries is between 8 – 12% on ads with social extensions, we’ve had clients with increases in click through rate by well over 200% and decreases in cost per conversion by 55% to 85%!

If you want to start checking out how your social extensions are affecting your account, just segment your campaigns, adgroups, ads or keywords by +1 annotations in your segmentation options:

Tips and Tricks

And just to finish off with, here are a few extra tips and tricks to help you soar ahead of your competition on Google+.

1. Formatting font in posts and comments

Here’s a few trick that will allow you to either bold, italicize or strikethrough parts of your Google+ posts or comments:

  • Any words that you would like to be bold, just enclose them with asterixs (*). E.g. *word*.
  • Enclose and words that you would like to strikethrough with a hyphen (-). E.g. -word-.
  • Any words that you would like to be italic, just enclose them with underscores (_). E.g _word_
  • You can also combine these as much as you would like.

2. Link to a post

On every post you submit there is a small arrow in the top right hand corner. Clicking this will allow you to grab a link that you can use to send directly to a post. We use this feature a lot when directing our Facebook audience to a particular Google+ post.

3. Drag and Drop

You can post images and other content directly from your compute by dragging and dropping directly into your share bar

4. Edit your posts

If you’ve posted something and want to change it, you can edit it whenever you like (unlike other social networks). Just hit the arrow on the top right hand corner of the post and click ‘edit this post':

5. Lock your posts or disable comments

In the same way you can edit your posts, you can also disable comments or lock your post. Locking your post means that no one is able to reshare it which is a great option for when your are sharing something privately or only to a specific circle:

6. Mute posts

If you’ve interacted with a post that is getting a huge amount of engagement and you would like to stop receiving notifications, you can simply mute that particular post by again, hitting the arrow in the top right hand corner of the post:

Final thoughts

Wow. That felt good to get all of that off my chest! I hope you’ve been able to take away some useful tips from this article and this article has been able to help you see Google+ in a new light. If you have anything to add or debate or if there’s something you’d like me to expand on, please feel free to leave a comment below. Also, if you did find this article helpful I’d love it if you could share it on whatever social network you prefer to share this type of content on!

Thanks for reading!

Key Takeaways

  • Get yourself and your brand onto Google+ a.s.a.p and start building your authority in the subject area in which you would like to rank for in the future
  • Link your Google+ page to your website and your AdWords account
  • Make sure you’ve developed goals, objectives, strategy and tactics for your Google+ activity
  • Use calls to actions on all of your Google+ integration and traffic driving activity (whether it be online or offline)

Other Recommended Articles by Paul Goldston

About Paul Goldston

Position: Head of ROI

As Head of ROI at Reload Media, Paul has the important task of ensuring that all of Reload's clients are gaining positive returns for every marketing dollar they spend. His primary focus is on ensuring Reload is achieving and surpassing both internal and external client benchmarks. Paul’s specialist areas include search engine marketing, social media strategy, conversion optimisation and integrated digital strategy.

Find out more about Paul Goldston on Google+.
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