We’ve shared this stat before, but it bears repeating. A Moz blog on Google Plus reported that “after Page Authority, a URL’s number of Google +1s is more highly correlated with search rankings than any other factor.” Translation: Your business needs to get social on Google+. Now.

As if you needed more numbers and facts to convince you of this social network’s power after that statement, we gathered a few anyway.

A Closer Look at Google+: The Numbers, the Demographics & the Unique Experience

 

The Power in Numbers

As of mid-2013, Business Insider revealed that Google+ had overtaken Twitter as the second most-used social media platform with “359 million active users.” Ignore the naysayers claiming Google+ is defunct. While it can’t quite boast Facebook’s billion, that’s quite a few users, folks.

The Personality & The Action

Demographics are always an important factor when deciding which social media platforms to really spend your marketing time on. And yes, as you recall, our advice is overwhelmingly, “Go for it!” when it comes to Google+. But we wanted to offer you a closer look at the type of people who help make up that 359 million-strong active community. Because it is also always important to know your audience, too.
Google+ users are:

  • predominantly male, with the menfolk making up 68% of the community
  • interested in more professional or tech-centered industries
  • mature but hip with an average age of ripe old 28

What are their primary social actions?

  • Sharing both longer, text-rich posts and shorter status updates
  • Sharing visually engaging posts like pictures and videos

Good news side note: if you’ve been following our advice to create killer content, you and your authoritative, industry-specific posts will fit right in.
One more thing, how do Google+ fans describe the experience?
In his second installment of his three-post series on Getting Around Google+, JR Raphael, Computer World contributing editor, describes the platform like this, Google+ “is a thriving and active community… who regularly comment on posts, follow links and reshare material — a presence that can be valuable both for personal and professional interaction.” Business Insider caught up with photographer Trey Ratcliff, who has claimed nearly five million followers with his picture-showcasing profile. Similarly, the Google+ pro states, “It’s nice to pop into Google+ to discover new things. Facebook is pretty good, but it’s harder to discover new people or have more in-depth discussions around passions.”

Bottom Line

  • Google+ has a captive audience in the millions
  • Google+ users are educated and ready to discuss niche topics
  • Google+ is great for business because it is less about high school sweethearts and your great aunt’s cats than great content. You don’t have to know everyone in your circles. That’s the beauty. In the end, Google+ is really about meeting people with common interests and having in-depth discussions. 

 

Google+ 101: Important Terms

Ok, you know about the users, their behaviors, and their experience. You have everything you need to know to jump in? Right? Ok. If you’re unsure about how to get started, connect with the right people, and optimize your posts and profiles, we’re here to help with your Google+ success.
First things first, let’s define a few terms:

Stream: This is your Google+ homepage. Once you start connecting with folks – this is where you can go to see and interact with all the status updates and posts of the people you follow. Don’t worry, if you’ve used another social platform before, the stream’s functionality should feel pretty intuitive. Just start +1-ing your favorite content.

Location Page: With all the same features as a Google+ company page, the location page option is great for building local business. After you complete the necessary verification of your location via postcard or phone, and you’re ready to reap the benefits of Google+ with the added bonus of location-based marketing.

  • Creating your local Google+ page is a great way to find and network with people in your community.
  • You’ll also have access to the Google+ insights feature. Using this awesome tool, you’ll be able to see how many times your business came up in a local search, as well as how many comments and +1s your posts have received.

Circle: This is where Google+ gets interesting. Circles give you a way to network strategically. How? By allowing you to organize the people you follow and the people who follow you into different groups. This unique arrangement allows you to pick and choose which groups — circles — you want to share certain content with. Let’s break it down with an example, shall we?
You’re a computer repair shop owner. Congratulations! When you created a Google+ business page, you also created four default circles:

  1. Team Members: You would add all of your repairmen, customer service reps and admin support staff to this circle. If you have any benefit updates, inclement weather announcements, or Christmas party details, you could share it here without cluttering your customer-focused content.
  2. VIPs: If you want to listen closely to a tight knit group of top customers and colleagues, this would be the circle. We love how this group should also allow you to respond to any requests or complaints quickly and personally.
  3. Customers: Collect customers here and share quality content to build your computer-repair authority. You can tap into the location-based marketing trend by creating separate circles of customers based on their neighborhood, state, or city.
  4. Following: This is a general circle where you can group people who you don’t know, but who post interesting, industry-related content. In your case, you may want to rename this circle “Mac Experts” and create other similar circles like “Microsoft Gurus,” “Dell Repair” and more. 

Caveat: If you share something with a specific circle, it will not show up in search engine results. You have to share publicly for full search engine benefits.

Extended Circles: Extended Circles are great because they get your content to people you aren’t directly connected with you through one of your own circles. So, say you share a “How To Debug Your Computer” infographic with your extended circles. Suddenly, people in your circles circles’ may see the content. Exciting, no? While this blurb has a ponderous amount of the word “circle,” rest assured that the further reach your content has the better. So, thank you, Google+!

+1s: This powerful social action is similar to a Facebook Like. When someone +1s one of your posts, people in their circles will see it on their streams and in their Google+ search. As an added bonus, each +1 creates another link to your site, directly boosting your organic search results.

Hangouts: This feature is a great chance to facilitate a little long distance networking. This highly social option will allow you to video chat with up to 10 other users at a time. You can even record a Google+ hangout with a colleague, industry expert or VIP customer and share the conversation later.
For even more key Google+ terms, check out this great post.

Tips for Google+ Success

So how do you put this basic knowledge to the test? Here are 4 tips for starting Google+ for your business.
1. Create Your Perfect Profile:

  • Custom Information: Step 1; make sure your profile sounds like it was written by a human for human. Keywords, especially industry and location-specific ones, are encouraged, but as always don’t bog down meaning to get one too many keywords in there. It is also key to give your followers good insight into what you’re all about and to help you build your Google Authorship. So use a similar tone as your website. When people go from your Google+ page to your site, you want it to be as seamless a transition as possible.
  • Vanity URL: Put professional polish on your profile by claiming your custom Google+ URL. This savvy move will elevate your page above inactive users and keep your presence fresh. It will also give you a pretty link to share in emails and on other social media, which will lead to…more followers!
  • Visually Engaging: Make sure you follow all imagery guidelines for your profile and cover image. Remember to use an image (your logo, perhaps) that will instantly brand your business and build recognition for your readers.
  • Correct Information: If you go the location page route, make sure to put in the extra effort and verify your address, hours, and contact information.
  • Connected: Finally, linking your webpage to your Google+ page will help you quickly connect with customers, and it will help Google determine your site’s relevancy – thus boosting your search engine results. You can also take the time to link to your other social media profiles to give people even more ways to follow and connect with your business.

2. Switch up Your Posting Habits:

  • Fresh Posts: If you’re not currently updating your Google+ page a couple times a day, you are probably not harnessing the community’s full potential. So our first posting tip should be easy: start posting.
  • Longer-Form Posts: While jokes and quick status updates are always welcome, longer, information-rich posts are also popular on Google+. So, it’s time to play around with this type of content. If you’re ready, make sure to add source links, an image, and an interesting angle (like a how-to article, perhaps?) for the best results.
  • Bigger Pictures: In an article on how to grow your Google engagement, Social Media examiner shares a cool pro tip from Guy Kawasa. Kawasa, who boasts over 5 million Google+ followers, suggests deleting Google’s default thumbnail and then replacing it with your own larger screenshot. With a host of image tools built in, Google+ is a great place to play with your images to create the most compelling post possible.

3. Build Engagement:

  • Hashtags: This handy little punctuation mark isn’t just for Twitter. Google+ also uses hashtags to organize hot conversation topics. So add a hashtag to your post to get your content in there with other trending posts. Once people find your posts through your hashtag, BOOM, you’ve got another follower to interact with.
  • Tagging: Get an industry leader’s attention by tagging them in your post. With the simple addition of a “+” or “@” and then their name, you’re bringing someone else into the conversation. How very chatty of you.
  • Ask Questions: When posting your own content or commenting on someone else’s, ask questions to keep the conversation going. Again, with Google+’s more discussion-based audience, chances are, someone will weigh in.
  • Community: As Google+ so eloquently puts it, Communities are groups where you can “Talk about the stuff you’re into with people who love it too.” HubSpot calls these pages “gold mines for engaging, learning, and sharing helpful, relevant resources.” So join a few communities to find like-minded people out there. Here’s the list, browse away!
  • Change Your Perspective: In an interview with Search Engine Watch, wildly successful Google+ user and blogger Fraser Cain of Universe Today talks about how to create a Google following and says businesses should shift their focus from “How many followers can I get” to “What can I do to make Google+ better?” Some examples of how he and his team did just that:

○     Adding Something Fresh and Fun: To give their Google+ followers something fun to connect with within Google+, they host a live stargazing hangout so people can check out what’s in the night sky. Yes, this will eventually lead people to their site, but they are also taking the time — and the risk — to build something within the social media. How could you apply a similar idea to your industry?

○     Making Introductions: He also helps people get to know each other by sharing his science-centric circle with people he finds posting about science. So take the time to curate niche circles for your industry and share the love! Introducing people to quality content is kind. They will notice and be more willing to interact with you in the future.

Optimization Tips:

  • Google Badge: Help people connect with you on Google+ directly from your site or blog by adding a Google+ badge.
  • +1 Button: Make it easy for people to +1 your content directly from your post. Again, this will help boost your SERP. Maybe they should call them +:)s ?

The best way to achieve Google+ success is to get out there and try it. Remember, it’s not about who you know, it’s about what you’re interested in. Find groups of like-minded fans and colleagues and get social!