Hangouts, circles, events, authorship? What's all the buzz about Google+ and why do brands and business owners need to pay closer attention to Google's social network? Read on to find out.
Although Google+ didn't receive a warm welcome when it was launched back in 2011, two years later brands are starting to realise just how beneficial being part of Google's social networking site can be. Not only is Google+ the second largest social media site on the web, with about 235 million active users, but creating a strong presence by sharing awesome content can also help brands increase their rankings and traffic. Those who have been using it for a while have already noticed the difference.
If you've not started using it yet, here's a short beginner's guide to help you get started and understand how it works.
Creating An Account
To set up your Google+ account, you first need to sign up for a Google account if you don't already have one. Then go to Google+ to fill in your details and information and add your profile picture. You'll then have the options to follow some friends and other profiles that might interest you.
When you've completed all the steps, you will land on your Google+ Stream which looks like this:
A Couple Of Useful Tips
If you're a brand or a business owner, make sure you use your business name or your real name. You should also take advantage of Google's feature that allows you to get your own custom URL for your Google+ profile page. Simply go to the About tab -> Get Link. You will see some URLs that have been pre-approved so if you see more than one option, choose your favourite.
This is similar to Facebook's newsfeed or Twitter's timeline. It's where you will see updates from those you follow as well as trending topics, popular users, events, and more.
Use the Home tab on the left side to move around " see your Google+ profile, photos, pages, communities, setting and more. On the right side you will see Google Hangouts which you can use to send messages, have video calls, host webinars and much more.
Following People And Adding Them To Circles
You can create as many circles as you want, such as "Family", "Friends", "Work", making it easier to keep your contacts organised. If you're using Twitter or Facebook, the Google+ circles are similar to Facebook's Groups or Twitter's Lists. This means that you can add people to your circles and only share content with a particular group of people. After you start finding and adding people to your circles, you'll see their activity on your stream.
Posting To Google+
So, when you post on Google+, you can choose who sees your content " everyone, only people in a particular circle, a community, a page or just one specific person. Google+ also allows you to tag users and brands in your posts by simply using +username. As a business, you can use circles to better target the people you want to see your content, which is extremely useful.
Similar to Facebook Groups, communities are built around a specific topic and they're extremely active and engaging. There are many communities to choose from, depending on what you're interested in. Simply find the ones you like and request to join.
Click the Communities tab and then search for groups that interest you.
If you're a brand or business owner, create your own community and use it as a tool to educate your audience about your product or industry, encourage them to ask questions, and just share knowledge and engage with your potential customers.
I'm a fan of the Hangouts feature as I can join various interesting Hangouts where experts in the industry share their knowledge and tips. So, while you can use it to text chat or video chat privately, with one or five of your friends, there's also the option to start a Hangout on Air (your account will need to be associated with a YouTube account first).
This type of public chat is a great tool for professionals, brands and business owners who want to create a live session or a webinar and share their advice and tips on certain topics. And what's even better, those Hangouts are then archived as YouTube videos so people can watch them whenever they want.
As the name suggests, this is similar to the Events feature on Facebook. You can use it to promote any upcoming event such as a party, a meet up or a Hangout. You can also have you events integrated to Google Calendar to make it easier for people to remember it. In addition, you can set the event to be open to the public or just to a specific circle.
"What's Hot" shows you the posts, topics and hashtags that are trending on Google+.
So, when sharing content on Google+, make sure you also include one or two hashtags as it can help improve your content's discoverability and make it more popular. When someone is reading a post about #Bali and clicks on the hashtag, they will discover even more content about Bali. It's an effective way to promote your content and make it easier for to get found on Google+.
If you are new to Google+, this guide should be enough to get you started. Have questions? Leave them in a comment below.
Article by Alex Gavril of 123-reg. Alex is a blogger and copywriter with a focus on tech and social media.