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Why should small businesses try Google+ when they're already using Facebook and Twitter for social media marketing? Digital communications expert Carolyn Hughes reveals how this platform can help
So why should a small business be on Google+? You're already on Twitter, trying to remember to update a Facebook page and your blog, as well as actually running a business. It can be very hard to keep on top of all these marketing activities when you're a very small business, and you can't employ people specifically for community management.
However, all Google Places for Business and Google Maps entries now get automatically set up with a Google+ page. Having an empty page is generally a business no-no, so it's well worth the time spent to set it up.
What is Google+ all about then?
Google+ is a social media channel where you can post information, join communities, follow individuals and businesses and add them to your circles. Circles are a good way to categorise types of people you want to communicate with.
For example, we have circles for our team members, clients and brands and people that we know. You can decide which circles to make your posts available too, as well as making them public.
To set up your page, just log into your Google Places for Business account (www.google.co.uk/business/placesforbusiness), or you can set up a completely new Google+ business page from your own individual account.
You'll need to create a cover image for your page, as well as uploading your logo. Take a look at some other cover images to make sure you get it right. Your business logo and profile information will go across some of the cover image, so make sure any important information isn't being covered up.
Just a simple image in your business brand colours is probably the best bet. The new size is 2120px by 1192px, which is fairly large. You can also upload five images, which sit underneath your profile image. These can be your logo, products, offices or team members.
Posting on Google+ is fairly simple. You can enter your text and/or a link in the box, choose which circles to share it with and whether to make it public. To tag someone in a post you just write a + sign in front of their name.
For example - 'Here's a blog post from +Carolynhughes.' Like any social media, it's good practice to post a variety of interesting content - not just links to your own website.
There are some excellent and active communities on Google+. Currently, the most active ones tend to be around digital marketing and SEO as these industries are probably using it more at the moment. It's well worth having a look around the communities to see what people are talking about. Overall, the general rule (as with many forums on the web) is not to go in shouting about your own business and trying to sell, sell, sell. Be genuine, offer opinions and advice and get to know people, as you would in any networking situation.
Hashtags are used in Google+ in the same way as on Twitter - which is essentially a filing system. Using a hashtag allows users to search all posts with that hashtag, which is great for following a particular event or type of post. You can add hashtags to your posts, as well as searching them for interesting content.
Contributions to SEO
Google+ is widely believed to contribute to SEO rankings. I say "widely believed" because Google (and other search engines) never release exactly how they rank websites. Remember to add all your details to the profile - including address, contact details and website address. You can also add your business description, using all of your key words and phrases, written in proper sentences.
Google has rolled out a scheme where it can attribute authorship to various articles that individuals write across different websites. This means Google shows up your Google+ profile photograph next to articles you've written in its search results.
I'm always surprised how few people have actually set this up. The first step is to go into your Google+ profile and add the URLs of any blogs or websites you contribute to. Click on the About section and then the 'contributes to' section.
You then need to link back to your Google+ profile (take the URL from your profile page) from those website or blogs - this can be done by adding a simple HTML mark-up in the back-end. Or if you use Wordpress, there are various plug-ins that do the job for you.
There are many other features to Google+ to explore like Hangouts, What's Hot, Events, as well as Picasa photos being integrated. So dive in and explore Google+.
This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of SmallBusiness.co.uk. SmallBusiness.co.uk provides free online useful advice, resources, products and services to help point small business owners in the right direction.
Carolyn Hughes works for Fourth Day PR and helps small business optimise social media for growth and new business.
SmallBusiness.co.uk T: +44 (0)207 250 7024
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