How to get the most from your Google+ business page

Google+ can be a lucrative business opportunity but you need to be shrewd to get the most out of it...

With the official release of Google+ Pages, profiles can now be created for businesses, brands, products, artists and several other categories.

With over 40 million users, and the inherent benefits of the integration with Google search, brands and businesses should look to develop a presence on the Google+ network as soon as possible, in order to capitalise on a rapidly expanding business opportunity.

Creating a page within Google+ is a surprisingly simple and somewhat straightforward process. The initial set-up involves creating a personal profile to allow you to become the administrator of a business page, as you cannot directly create a page without a personal profile. You must then choose a category for your page from the options provided – whether that is a product, company or local business depends on the user. The next important stage is to provide any potential customer, or follower, with all the relevant information that they would need; with this in mind, you should name the page after your product or brand to increase the likelihood of users finding it via search engines, and provide suitable web links or contact details.

Once the basic skeleton of the page has been created, you can flesh it out with additional information and images to make it more searchable and visually appealing. The option to edit the profile allows you to create a tagline for the page and upload a profile image, both of which must be instantly recognisable to existing customers, and demonstrate in a clear manner what your company is about to unfamiliar users. The ‘About’ section within your page allows you to provide more detail as to the nature of your business or brand, and include clickable links back to a homepage, other social networks you use or additional links to your web presence, for added SEO value.

Spending time branding your page appropriately will pay dividends in the long run, and choosing attractive images will draw users’ attention and show that consideration has gone into the page design. Both personal and brand profiles on Google+ allow the user to create a panoramic profile image comprised of five image tiles; brands currently using Google+ have displayed some inventive uses of this space by employing .gif files to create a moving profile image, as can be seen on Burberry’s profile page.

Another interesting and useful feature that Google+ employs is that of ‘circles’, which allow you to segment users into individual categories for distribution of tailored content. Brands can implement this function to their advantage by placing followers into individual circles, based on factors such as location, age, sex or interests; alternatively, they can increase engagement and consumer involvement by asking users explicitly which circles they would like to be placed in. This process will offer a more personalised and ultimately rewarding experience for the user, as they receive only the content that they choose without becoming bombarded by a growing stream of brand content.

Perhaps the most interesting feature offered to brands within Google+ is that of ‘hangouts’. This video conferencing feature allows G+ users, and brands, to simultaneously chat via a video stream with up to nine other users, who can be explicitly invited or can simply ask to join the hangout once it becomes open. Google is also working on bringing the hangouts’ ‘on air’ functionality to brand pages, which will enable an unlimited numbers of users to view the stream simultaneously via a live YouTube feed. Already there have been a number of high profile hangouts ‘on air’ carried out to date, from users such as The Black Eyed Peas and the Dalai Lama.

Although still in their early stages, Google+ Pages have been embraced by a number of large brands and organisations such as Pepsi, Amazon, Macy’s and NASA, to name but a few.

Google’s +1 button is the fastest-growing social recommendation tool in history, and its integration into Google search means that any ‘+1′d’ content from either your websites, blogs or Google+ profile will contribute to your rankings within Google search results.

Google+ offers a platform for brands to directly interact with users from their brand page by commenting and engaging in their conversations, serving to reduce the distance between a brand and its customers. Furthermore, the fact that Google+ posts and pages are ranked in Google search results should provide enough incentive for any brand deciding whether or not to invest time into this fast-growing social network.

George Guildford is an Account Manager at digital PR agency Punch Communications, which represents a range of clients including Sony Ericsson, Clinton Cards and RatedPeople. www.punchcomms.com

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