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.

The payoff

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.

Your take

Have you successfully used Google+ to promote
your business or your products? Share your experiences and advice with fellow
TechRepublic members.