One of the best ways for a small business to get on the map is to have the CEO and/or other key members of the executive team establish themselves as thought leaders in their industry. A perfect example of this is the fact that you are reading this story on Small Business Trends. The small business experts who contribute to this site are hoping that their insights will pique your interest and encourage you to find out more about them and their businesses.
Thought leaders have myriad online avenues in which to broadcast their expertise and, hopefully, use those broadcasts to generate business. With the advent of social media, small business owners and experts now use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube (among other social media platforms) to get the word out.
Recently, Google introduced Google+, the search engine giant’s entry into the world of social media. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Google+ has a cornucopia of features and has been catching on like wildfire.
You may ask yourself, with all of the other social media platforms out there, do I have the time or inclination to get involved with yet another time-eating networking site? Is it worth my time as a thought leader to spread myself out even thinner?
My answer to that is simple and emphatic: YES!
The Google Brand
Let’s start with the obvious. If Google+ is the giant search engine’s social media platform, you know that it is destined to be a major player in the social networking world. In less than two months, Google+ has registered over 25 million members and has a demographic more attractive to businesses than Facebook. Over one-third of Facebook users already have a Google+ account.
If you do the simple math, it’s clear that Google+ is already taking visitor time away from Facebook. While Google+ is miles away from catching up to the scope of Facebook, don’t underestimate its ability to catch up.
Remember when people thought it would be folly to challenge MySpace?
The Google+ Basics
Google+ has tried to take the best features from all of the major social media platforms. For a full overview of the features, check out Google’s tour of the features.
Google+ gives you the opportunity to create a personal profile, where you can provide fairly detailed information on your work, family, interests and expertise. These profiles are completely searchable and, by using the appropriate keywords, can help a thought leader to reach a wider audience.
Once thought leaders have created their profiles, they have the opportunity to share their knowledge by posting content and links to content on their profile page. The content is fully searchable and will lead potential followers, customers and clients to your work. Unlike Twitter, there is no character limit to the content you can post. Google+ makes it simple to upload links, photographs, videos and slides.
Google+ includes a feature that can help to broadcast a thought leader’s content to a wide audience. When people see the content you’ve posted, they can use the “+1” function to endorse the content and forward it on. In other words, if a thought leader’s content is given a “+1,” that content is then broadcast to everyone who follows the person who liked your content.
So, now that you’ve created a profile and loaded content, how do you get an audience? Google+ has “circles” that allows you to segment other Google+ members into categories of your choosing. For example, you can create a “family” circle and include all family members. For thought leaders, you can create circles that pertain to your area of expertise or that include target members of the press and/or influencers.
My group of circles includes “business journalists,” “tech journalists,” and journalists working for specific outlets (i.e. Wall Street Journal). By creating these specific circles, I can see the content that these journalists are posting to the general public. When I see their content, I can offer my own expertise and get on their radar. If journalists choose to include me in a circle, it gives me a chance to put my content in front of them and may lead to them using me as a source for a story.
Another interesting feature of Google+ of particular interest to thought leaders is the “hangout” function. “Hangout” allows you to invite up to 10 people to join you in a video conference where you can make a small group presentation or hold any kind of meeting of your choice.
For a thought leader, this provides a number of interesting opportunities. You can hold seminars, client presentations, mini press conferences or roundtables. If you have a video of a prior speech or seminar you’ve presented, it gives you the opportunity to schedule small-scale webinars.
Because of all of the features discussed above, Google+ is extremely attractive to businesses. Because it provides ways of broadcasting your business’s messages to extremely targeted audiences, many businesses flocked to Google+ from the moment it was launched. At the time of launch, though, Google+ was open only to individual accounts and promptly took down the business accounts.
Due to the overwhelming interest from businesses, Google has decided to create a special mechanism just for businesses.
When this launches, it will present even more opportunities for thought leaders to generate business. As of now, thought leaders can talk about their businesses as individuals, but once the business pages launch, thought leaders will be able to better combine their messaging with the specific business goals of their companies.
How will this differ from the company pages on Facebook? For one, the Google+ brand pages will be backed by Google’s powerful analytic tools. It will be easy for thought leaders to monitor which content elements are getting the most traction and which ones aren’t resonating with their audience. Secondly, Google has a powerful ad delivery network that will allow businesses to better connect with their audiences. It is unclear what the advertising model will be on the business pages, but you can expect Google to exploit the power of Google+ to generate considerable advertising revenues.
Most importantly, Google+ business pages will have the power of Google search behind them. Again, it is unclear how Google+ results will be treated in the overall Google search algorithm, but businesses can’t afford not to have a presence on Google+.
Google will always be the 800-pound gorilla in the online world. When Google dives into social media, then everyone — individuals, businesses and thought leaders — had better pay attention and not get left behind.
For thought leaders, Google+ represents a golden opportunity to gain the attention of an even wider audience and to serve your current constituency in even more effective ways. If you have real expertise to share, then Google+ is a necessary arrow in an influencer’s quiver.