Today President Obama proclaimed  this “National Small Business Week.” In honor of small businesses, the Google.com search engine homepage here in the United States has a message, “Here’s to the dreamers, doers, shakers, and makers. Happy Small Business Week.”
But more than just a message on its homepage, Google announced today it has created a Google Small Business Community, and also a special Google Helpouts page for small businesses to find services they need.
Google Business Community
The Google Business Community  is open to the public (pictured above). It’s actually been in “soft launch” phase but this is the official big launch. As of this writing, it has over 8,000 members.
It’s set up as a community on Google’s social network, Google+. Anyone can join, provided you have signed up for a Google+ profile. On it you can connect with other small business owners. A lot of business owners and entrepreneurs who are joining are introducing themselves on the Community page.
Hint: when you introduce yourself on the Google Business Community, use the #SmallBusinessWeek hashtag this week, as well as other hashtags like #SmallBusiness. Using hashtags increases your networking, so that others looking for similar information can search on those hashtags on Google+ and potentially find your update and your business. A few other suggested hashtags for Google+ include: #SmallBusinessMarketing, #Startup, #SmallBusinessTips, #SupportSmallBusiness and #SmallBusinessOwners. Google+ automatically assigns hashtags, but there’s no reason not to include one or two relevant ones manually.
After Small Business Week is over, look for the Google Business Community to be a source of business resources and information. Googler Jade Wang writes  on the official “Google and Your Business Blog”:
“After this week, the Google Small Business Community will continue providing information and inspiration. Daily posts, weekly trainings and regular Hangout series will be based directly on what you want to learn. And a team of trusted Advisors and Googlers with digital expertise will always be around to answer your questions.”
Helpouts: One on One Consultations With Experts
Google also announced that it created a Helpouts page specifically for Small Businesses .
Helpouts are live one-on-one video calls that you make over your computer, to get help from someone else who has expertise. You will need a Web cam or front-facing camera on your computer, laptop or tablet to use the service. Google provides the platform for holding the video calls, and for connecting with Experts. Participants use the Google Wallet shopping cart service to pay for any paid sessions if a fee is involved.
Helpouts offer consultations on such topics as WordPress, YouTube strategies, website reviews, computer repair advice, QuickBooks and bookkeeping — any topic where you might need expert guidance for your business.
Some Helpouts are free, but some you pay for. Rates vary. The prices are established by the person giving the expertise. Some charge literally by the minute, such as $1.50 per minute for pay-per-click advice. Others charge a flat fee, such as $25 for a half hour sales consultation.
The Helpouts interface is well designed. For instance, it’s very clear from the Helpout listings whether a fee is charged or whether the session will be free. That way you won’t get surprised.
Also, you get to see the expert’s expertise before you choose. You can see the person’s background, qualifications and reviews that others have left about that person.
The Expert’s availability for Helpouts is listed. This is an efficient timesaver, because you don’t have to email back and forth to schedule a session. Sometimes a Helpout is available immediately, or sometimes it has to be scheduled in advance — but it’s all right there. There’s a built-in scheduling calendar that makes it efficient and easy. See image above.
This week in honor of #SmallBusinessWeek, Google is offering $20 toward a one-on-one live video Helpout session for those who join the Business Community mentioned above. The special offer is posted right on the Community page, under the section “About this community.”