Google+ may never usurp Facebook as the King of Social Networking, but it might well wind up the Prince — or possibly the King of Social Marketing. Google+ is (at least as of this writing) a social network where people are serious about sharing ideas. The discussion and banter are far less sophomoric and catty than on other platforms. Instead, you'll find users actually sharing thoughtful ideas and posts.
But Google+ isn't like Facebook. To get the most out of Google's social network, you actually have to put in some work. Don't worry. The work is not that challenging and will pay off in the end. Let's take a look at some of the ways you can get more from Google+.
1: Create intelligent circles
Google+ allows you to create circles and then add other users to them. Do not over look this tool. By creating intelligent circles, you will make it much easier to post specific content to specific circles and to follow the different interests. This can be especially helpful to your business, where you want to create circles unique to your company. Within these circles you can post specific content geared to one aspect of your company (say, Sales or Support).
2: Join related communities
There are countless communities on Google+, many of which will be of interest to you and/or your company. Search these out and join the ones you feel best suit your needs. But once you've joined those communities, do not jump in and immediately start posting about your company or product. You must first let people know you're there. The best way to do that is to engage with the users within the community. Build a rapport with the group and once you (and they) feel comfortable, start speaking up about your company or product. Best-case scenario, you won't have to bother posting about your company/product, as the users will become interested and look up your profile.
3: Link your content
Instead of just randomly hopping into Google+, you should be linking your important content from your blogs, company announcements, etc., to your Google+ account. Google+ isn't like Facebook, where a drive-by posting will get you somewhere. The audiences of Google+ prefer actual content to moment-to-moment updates. With that in mind, you should have your primary content location linked to your Google+ account.
4: Get to know hangouts
Google+ hangouts are a great way to connect. Hangouts can be an effective way to help prospective clients get to know you and your company and even do spontaneous (or planned) webinars. Not only can you do standard chat, but the built-in video chat is outstanding. If you have the equipment available, you can enable high-res video chat. You can also switch a hangout from text to video. This is a Google+ feature that's a must-know for your company.
5: Develop and nurture relationships
This is crucial. You do not want to just blast a bunch of circles with spam. You need to get to know those prospective followers/clients/customers and build relationships — not simply connections. The longer you spend developing those relationships, the better Google+ will work for you. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received with regard to social media was when a gentlemen told me to sell myself, not my books. The more I managed to get people interested in me, the more likely they would become interested in my work. Same holds true for relationships on Google+. This also means not just clicking +1 on followers' posts, but commenting on posts and even joining hangouts started by those followers/communities.
6: +1 other posts
Although you don't want to blindly go through and +1 posts of those you hope will add you to their circles, you do need to be interactive with others. The quickest way to do this is to click the little +1 on their posts. It is important to be consistent with this. Don't +1 a post that says "I like blue" and then turn around and +1 a post that says "I hate blue." And don't just +1 particular users to get their attention; be honest and thoughtful with your choices.
7: Research best times to post
This is a tricky issue. Most will tell you the best time to post on Google+ is between 9:00 and 11:00 am. As people are drinking their coffee or sitting down at their desks and gearing up for work, they are more likely to spend time checking out social networking sites. But this doesn't mean it is the best time for you to post. You'll need to do some research into your specific area to find out when your particular audience is ready to read your brilliance. Timing+ is an online tool that analyzes your last 100 posts to identify the best posting time for you.
8: Move related photos to Picasa
Google+ and Picasa have a good relationship. If you move (or copy) all your photos to Picasa, you can easily decide what to share on Google+. This makes it easy to manage your sharing of company/product images with your circles. Don't worry that you have to also sign up for a Picasa account. When you sign up for Google+, you're automatically signed up for Picasa as well. You will find this method of sharing photos to be far superior to having to manually upload from various PCs. And if you have an Android device, you can set it up so that photos from the device are automatically synced with your Picasa account... and are therefore automatically available to your Google+ account.
9: Get a vanity URL
A vanity URL does much more than just appear professional — it allows users to easily remember the address of your Google+ account. Not only that, but having a shortened, vanity address over a lengthy standard address means cleaner PR material and email signatures. Getting a vanity URL isn't just a matter of checking a box. You need to meet the following criteria: You must have a profile photo, you must have at least 10 followers, your account must be at least 30 days old, and your account must be linked to a website. The final criterion is crucial and might throw WordPress users for a loop. For WordPress users, installing WordPress SEO makes this process quite a bit easier.
10: Check your Added To Circle notifications regularly
People will add you and you need to know that they do – but you also need to keep track of the type of users who are adding you into their circles (and what circles they are adding you into). You will want these people to be interested in buying what you're selling — or to be other industry leaders, like yourself. If you find this isn't the case, it could be that you are a posting, commenting, and +1'ing in the wrong groups. Make sure that the people finding you are those you want to connect with. If that's not happening, refocus your efforts on joining communities, commenting, and sharing.
Google+ might not be the most-used social networking site, but it does offer a more focused, serious take on the popular tool. Making the most out of Google+ will take a bit of time, but it's time well worth spending. In the end, you'll wind up with circles of followers who are actually interested in what you have to offer and not just posting memes and madness.
Have you successfully used Google+ to promote your business or your products? Share your experiences and advice with fellow TechRepublic members.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.