With the launch of Google+, a whole new world of opportunities exist for small business owners. On June 28, Google launched what it calls the Google+ project: “Real-life sharing, rethought for the web.” Google confirmed that it’s planning to roll out business profiles to its new Google+ social network, which began testing in beta release and gained more than 20 million unique users world-wide within the first three weeks. Initial thoughts throughout the business world show that the perceived advantages to creating a presence on (yet another) social networking site are promising and definitely not to be overlooked.
I received the invitation to become a part of Google+ in the beta stage, and as an avid Facebook user, I was somewhat skeptical at first. However: my experience has been a good one and I’m not the only one who thinks so as is apparent in the fact that Google+ for individuals continues to thrive, even starting out in an invitation-only atmosphere. Google+ allows users to create custom communities, instantly upload photos and video, and interact on-the-go via Google+ Mobile on your Smartphone. Whereas Facebook allows you to add friends, Google+ Circles allows you to group your friends into Circles, making the interaction with friends, relatives, and colleagues much easier to manage. You can also add people who are not in Google+, giving them the option to receive your updates by email. Other features include Sparks, (an interactive newsreader); Hangout, (real time audio/video chat for groups); and the instant photo and video upload. For the small business owner, harnessing the possibilities of these options like grouping clients or customers into manageable Circles for easy follow up and broadcast of specials, events, and updates combined with the power of Google platforms, creates an intriguing small business marketing opportunity.
Take the Good With the Bad
All of the Google products small business owners have come to know and love may be right at your fingertips as Google works to tie them all together. Since Google’s inception in 1998, the company has created a strong set of business tools from global file sharing via Google Docs, to self-managed advertising campaigns through Google Adwords and Adsense. While Google+ for individuals maintains with limited users in the beta stage, Google has asked users not to create business profiles, which are set for release in the near future. As a proponent of Google+ as a potential small business marketing tool, I must say: I wasn’t enthused about setting up a new account with yet another social networking platform. With so many social media platforms currently in use, it takes time to create new profiles, learn how to navigate a new system and add your contacts. However, in the end, the gains to be made from cultivating contacts and making connections via a strong social networking platform like Google+ will bring a strong return for business owners world-wide.
According to Chris Piepho of Minneapolis-based marketing company, Small Business Shift, “If Google+ gets any traction whatsoever, it will be important for small businesses. It’s almost a given that it would eventually integrate in some way with Google Places, and that Google will use the combined infrastructure to surface +’s and reviews from people you know when browsing Places pages or running a local search.” In regard to real-time sharing of location and business search, small business owners wouldn’t want to overlook the opportunity to be a part of Google+, especially if it means the possibility of allowing a potential customer to seamlessly search for businesses via Google, walk into their place of business, check in with Google Places, then send out a review to their social Circles on Google+. The system also allows users to see public posts from Google+ users nearby, based your phone’s location. This is another prime business advantage, potentially allowing small business owners to check on what specials their competitors are running, and the ability to offer users local deals.
Road Map for Success
As Google+ moves from beta testing to open invitation for individuals, my suggestion would be to accept the invite, setup and complete a profile, and add your business information. Use the links section to add links pages, blogs, or content about your business. Begin to create your Circles of friends, family and consider adding a circle for “Customers” or “Colleagues” so you can still use the platform as a networking tool and stay in touch until the business profiles become available. Becoming familiar with your individual Google+ account give a small business owner the edge when Google+ opens business pages for general use. Google+ promises a broader social media tool box to work from, and makes gains in taking Web 2.0 applications one step further effectively working to make your business better. Google+ is one opportunity a business owner can’t afford to miss out on.
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First Person: Marketing Your Small Business On The Cheap
Small Business Marketing: Four Wallet-Wise Strategies
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