With 170 million users and growing, Google+ has certainly proven that it’s worth the SMB time investment and a content marketing strategy to go with it. But that doesn’t mean small business owners have taken to it like fish to water. It’s been a rough transition for some. Or at least I know it was a rough transition for me! I haven’t always felt as comfortable on Google+ as I have on other social networks. It’s always felt a little awkward, a little cold, a little bit like an empty room. But it doesn’t have to go down like that.
For me, getting more comfortable on Google+ meant settling in, adjusting to site-specific features, and finding different ways to attract my audience. Sure, Google+ may have features similar to other social media sites, but that doesn’t mean they work the same way.
Below are 6 ways I’ve found success using Google+.
1. Grab Readers’ Attention With Formatting
Content may reign supreme on the Web, but the formatting of that content comes in a very close second. After all, if a user can’t process your information because of display or readability problems, it doesn’t matter how great it is. They still can’t read it.
The same rule applies here. On Google+, content passes by at lightning speed with new content constantly pushing down the content that came before. To stand out, you need to format your updates for prime readability and visibility. By doing so you increase your chances that a reader is going to find and want to read your content. As a publisher, it also gives you more control of your content and the message it’s sending to users.
To make your updates pop in a user’s Google+ timeline, use formatting hacks like:
- *text* to bold the selected text.
- _text_ to place that term in italics
- -text- to add strikethough
It may seem trivial, but often the difference between a headline that gets read and one that doesn’t is its ability to be seen.
2. Incorporate +Mentions & #Hashtags
Let’s be honest here, we’re all on Google+ for one reason – to increase our visibility and brand awareness. Lucky for us, Google+ provides two great features to help us successfully do that.
- +Mentions: A +Mention on Google+ is similar to @’ing someone on Twitter or tagging them on Facebook. Its functionality designed to let a person or brand know that you’ve mentioned them in the hope that they’ll share your content with their own audience or engage directly on your page. To tag someone on Google+ and get their attention, simply type +[their name]. As you type, you’ll notice that Google will propagating a list of people for you to select. Just make sure you click the right one.By tagging people and letting them know you’ve featured them or their content, you increase your visibility and get yourself on their radar.
- Hashtags: Hashtags have become an important part of Internet culture almost overnight. From Twitter to television, we’re starting to see them everywhere as they help us follow online conversations. When you insert hashtags into your Google+ status updates, Google will automatically link that hashtag to the search results for that query. By pairing your status updates to high-traffic Google+ queries, this can help your updates attract more attention.
For example, if you write a post about marketing lessons from American Idol, by using the #americanidol hashtag in your update, it makes your content more findable to people searching for news on that topic.
3. Visuals Work
Want to become a Google+ ninja? Make sharing images an important part of your content marketing strategy. It doesn’t take much perusing around Google+ to notice that this is one social network that places a large emphasis on photos. And it makes sense that they would! As content consumers, we love sharing photos because it’s easy to consume. Be aware of that as you build your Google+ content marketing strategy. Look for opportunities to create unique images to go along with blog posts or the content you’re sharing. Or share photos of others – maybe asking users what their favorite business books are, sharing what your staff is up to today, giving people a sneak peek at your new office space. We love this content.
4. Break Out The Archives
As I mentioned earlier, life moves pretty fast on Google+. Content publishers are constantly updating their timelines and users are logging in at different times to access their stream. For businesses with years of archives or who live to aggregate content, this provides a great opportunity to recycle content they’ve already produced or shared. Have a post from a year ago you think deserves new legs? Share it on Google+. Have an article on your site that you noticed has been getting a lot of search traffic? Share it! Want to use Google+ to share your Best Of posts? Do it! Those of us who have been creating content for years suddenly have a new way to bring life to old posts or images that before were just collecting dust in our content archive.
5. Partake In Targeted Sharing
Perhaps the most awesome thing about Google+ is the ability to share targeted content with segmented Circles you create. You get to define your audience in your own words and then cater content specifically designed for them. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Only more effective.
If you haven’t optimized your Google Circles yet, it has to be Step 1 of creating your Google+ presence. SMBs may want to have Circles such as:
- Local Businesses
- Industry Thought Leaders
- Blog Commenters
- Future Client Wishlist
Once you have your circles, make them public and let people be a part of what you’re building.
6. Start a Real-Time Think-Tank
As a content publisher, I can’t help but think one of the coolest things about Google+ is the ability to have conversations in real-time with my audience. I can post a question, a potential blog topic, or just a random thought to my wall and, in minutes, get dozens of responses. As a business owner, this is very useful. It can be useful to test content ideas before you dedicate time to expanding on them, to see what products/services your audience would be like to see, or serve as a thought leader think-tank space. For me, this is one of Google+’s biggest strengths – real-time conversations without any annoying character limitations.
Above are some of the techniques that have helped me see value in Google+. What have I missed? Have you boarded the Google+ train yet or are you still hanging out at the station?