Google+'s redesign is easier to use, attractive and has a clean look and feel.
I had signed up for Google+ months ago and have been using it to read industry specific posts, watch the Help Desk Hangouts and to learn more about how Google+ can be used more efficiently for our business. I'm so impressed and pleased with what Google has done with the redesign! Here's an overview of some of the new features and enhancements that your business can utilize. My personal favorite is the new dedicated Hangout page! Let's get started with the Navigation Ribbon.
You can edit the navigation ribbon and move the apps around in whatever order you like - it's easy and being able to personalize is a nice touch. In order to be more efficient, I placed mine in the order as I would most likely use them during the day. If you hover your mouse over "Photos" you will see more options like "add photos from phone or album". Hover over "More" there are a couple of apps I stored there. Apps I don't need to use on a daily basis such as games, pages and profile, I keep in "More" . Here's how I set my ribbon up for now.
Dedicated Hangouts page
This is my favorite feature and Hangouts can become an important part of your business. Google+ added a dedicated Hangouts page on the Navigation Ribbon. This is what you get and a lot more!
- An always-updated list of invitations from the people in your circles.
- Quick access to every public and On Air hangout, for those times when you want to meet someone new, or watch a live broadcast.
- A rotating billboard of popular hangouts, pro tips and other items you don't want to miss.
Google+ Hangouts are great for local small to medium sized businesses with limited marketing budgets. I seem to say "with limited marketing budgets" a lot these days. That's because it has become a reality for local businesses. There is no cost for Google+ or the Hangout feature. That in itself is a huge factor. Here's some ways Google+ can be used for business:
- Internal meeting: Have a 30 minute morning meeting to see what everyone is focusing on for the day. Or, that weekly sales or marketing meeting. We used to do these at a small company I worked for and included our rep out in San Francisco. I wish they could have been as easy to setup and have the benefits of Google+. You can take notes and access after them after the meeting. For more information on features like this go to Google + Hangouts with Extras.
- Customer meetings: meeting your customers face-to-face is a big plus and it's easy with Google+.
- Market research: having a focus group where questions can be asked - the feedback is priceless.
- Technical support: there is a "share your screen" option in Google+. Take over your client's computer and show them exactly how to fix a problem. Sending email instructions doesn't always work - video is the way! Being able to show step-by-step how one troubleshoot a problem is huge.
- Sharing of Applications: share a PowerPoint presentation or Excel spreadsheet. If you are a Google Apps user, you can collaborate and brainstorm in your hangout.
There are many more ways you can use Hangouts to communicate with your customers. Brainstorm with your team! Comment with your ideas.
A Few things to keep in mind
- There's 10 people allowed in a Hangout - 1 host and 9 others can join in. Unlimited people can watch the hangout.
- Decide if you want to post publicly or share with a specific group of people (client or colleagues).
- To prepare and organize your Hangout click on Hangouts features, requirements, and instructions before starting your Hangout!
Help Desk Hangouts
Vanessa Schneider, Google Places community manager helps out with the Help Desk Hangouts. Vanessa is well known on the Google Places Forum. Business owners and Google Places experts "the top contributors" highly respect her engaging personality, technical expertise and resolving customer issues in a timely manner. The first Help Desk Hangouts I watched was with Vanessa and Toby Stein called "Help Desk Hangouts on Air: Learn how to use Hangout for your business". It gives a clear overview of how you can use Hangouts for your business, choosing your format, tips an tricks, etiquette, and more. They gave me some of the ideas above on how to use Hangout for our business.
To see all of the Help Desk Hangouts go to Google + Help Desk Hangouts On Air.
You can Instant Upload photos from your Android phone. This is a part of Google+ for Android. Go ahead and Download the app This is great if you are at a customer location and want to upload photos to share your experience. I saw Matt Cutts in Korea on Google+ a few months ago. It reminded me of when I had been to Korea on business in 2002 and 2003 and we would email pictures of us at KOFA and customer visits back to the home office. Now it's so easy to do this with Google+ for Android.
Photos can be added from your phone, albums, from posts and photos of you. What's really cool is Google added another new feature. When you add photos to Google+, you have the option to clean up and neaten photos before posting them with Creative Kit. It's pretty easy!
- Click on the photo you want to edit
- Click on Creative Kit and a new window appears with the editing options
What's up here? There's a lot of "buzz" on YouTube and blog posts about the new "white space" between the main news feed and my Chat list. On large monitors the space is huge. One has to wonder if Google+ giving us this space to use as we like or if they are planning to do something with it. I can't find an option that would allow me to put something in that space can you? Is it going to be an area for advertising? Google, help us out here!
Other elements of the redesign
Explore: this option is included on the navigation ribbon and the homepage, which points you to content that's most popular and talked about - what's hot, what you might be interested in. Trending on Google+ is included in Explore as well.
Profile: the enhancement is a large slider type looking photo called a cover photo. You can upload your photos and videos here, manage your circles and about yourself. On the About page be sure to utilize the Tagline to say something relevant to what you do.
There was an enormous amount of thought, planning and effort put into this redesign. Kudos to the Google+ team and all involved. As I'm going through the new design I keep finding some cool elements. If I start writing about all of them, this post will never be done. The Google Official Blog talks about a stream of conversation cards and an activity drawer that highlights the community around your content. I wish they would explain this in more detail.
What element(s) of the redesign do you find most useful and impressive? And, what apps do you think can really help out local businesses?
Sources for this blog post include:
The Google Official Blog post - Toward a simpler, more beautiful Google.
The Globe and Mail article +1 for the new Google Plus design?
Google+ Support Google+ Support