Although Google Plus is still in its infancy, the social media world is investigating its uses and benefits. Currently, Google is only allowing personal profiles and it’s an invitation-only party. Right now at least.
I’ve asked Rachel Kerstetter from our PR Department to give our readers a basic review of what Google Plus is and how we can start using it.
Currently, Google is working on not only ironing out the wrinkles for the 10 million users that it attracted in the first two weeks, they are crafting entity profiles that will allow brands, companies, organizations and other non-individual users to jump in and start using Google Plus. The sign up period for business profiles ended on July 15th and a small group of businesses will be using the profiles so that Google can analyze how users interact differently with them than with other individual users.
What it is
For now, individual users are exploring the newest social networking experience. Google Plus features what I call hyper-personalization, allowing you to segment your connections in any way that you choose and sharing with select groups of people.
Benefits to your business
One Google Plus user pointed out that it could become useful as a business collaboration tool because of some of its included features. I’m going to hit a few of the Google Plus features that could benefit business communication. I’m sure that as the network grows, more useful features will be added.
- Circles: Since you can personalize each circle with any way that you choose to label your group, you can share with industry-specific people easily. Imagine having circles called, “Industry Contacts” or “Business Partners” with which you control what you share, keeping personal and professional interest separated but still contained on the same network. And you can add one person to as many circles as you’d like. Once you get started on Google Plus, it is very easy to make new circles.
- Hangouts: Business groups can chat and video chat through Google Plus to keep things all in one place while members are in different physical locations. Multi-user video chat is a pay-for feature on Skype so Google Plus could cut your video conferencing costs. Hangouts allow up to 10 users to video chat. Google Translate can be integrated into the Hangouts which makes international business easier and cheaper.
- +1 Button: People can share items via the +1 button similarly to the various other social media buttons that you see elsewhere online. The Google Plus method of sharing is much more selective. The detailed method of separating people into circles could increase sharability (so to speak) of articles, posts and other information. People are much more likely to share industry-specific information on Google Plus because they can choose who sees it and not clutter their friends’ or family members’ newsfeeds with work-related postings.
- Sparks: The Sparks menu is another hyper-personalized feature that Google Plus offers. This acts as one-stop shopping for topics of interest. You can browse topics (sparks) or add them to your menu for quicker browsing. This option sorts your news for you and allows you to go as specific in your interests as, “saw blades” or specific company names and as broad as “Construction” or “Buildings.” These sparks of information help individuals to keep an eye on what is happening around a certain topic, but it also helps get messages out to those who want to read them.
To select the content that shows up in the sparks feeds, Google Plus uses a combination of +1 sharing, normal Google Plus link sharing and Google’s search engine algorithms. The aim of the sparks material is to get fresh, new things into the feeds. One major parameter of sparks selection is the visual component, leading videos to frequently rank higher. If your business sells a product, consider uploading a video of the product in use to YouTube. There are still bugs in the system, but for companies engaging in SEO, sparks could eventually help increase visibility. Also, if you set your company’s name or your product name as a spark, you can use it to monitor your coverage. It is much like a Google Alert, except it doesn’t send you an email.
Other benefits related to Google Plus are:
– Google Docs is a tool that lets you upload and share documents with anyone, anywhere. This lets you share even out of the office. This is not fully integrated with Google Plus yet, but has the potential.
– Google is overall easy and free to use. One Google Account gives you access to a ton of Google products from Gmail, Google Voice and Google Plus to Google Translate, Google Docs, Google Reader and Google Business pages. There are companies that encourage employees to open Gmail accounts so they can use Google chat to make work more efficient.
– Wider professional access. Many workplaces block social networking sites to avoid the inefficient use of time by employees. Facebook may be blocked, but chances are Google is not. This means that your business contacts might have easier access to communication through Google Plus than they would with another social network.
– Potential is the overwhelming benefit that Google Plus holds. The fact that Google Plus is new, added to Google’s financial capability and the existing Google products that are, or can be, integrated into Google Plus, gives this new social network enormous potential for growth and business usability.
Building your Google Plus
Once you’ve got a Google Account and a profile on Google Plus, you can start building your circles right away with your current Google contacts.
Since most businesses use Outlook for email organization, chances are that your business partners are not stored in your Gmail contacts so adding them to your circles would be a cumbersome process of looking for each individual process if you don’t export your contacts. (Google Plus provides a tool for you to import contacts from a Yahoo! or Hotmail.) If you have a Google Account and have set up your Google Plus, transferring your contacts from Outlook is much easier than searching for people or sending a bunch of invitations. Microsoft provides directions on how to transfer contacts here.
If you tend to conduct business communication through LinkedIn, rest assured that you can also import your LinkedIn connections in a similar method as Outlook. You can find out how here.
Once you’ve got all of your business contacts in Gmail, you can simply go to your Google Plus Circles page and click on the “Find and invite” option. From there you can drag each individual contact into your desired circle, or you can select multiple contacts at once by clicking and highlighting over the ones you want to add then drag them into your desired circle.
If you operate the social media for your business, I strongly recommend that you try to snag a personal invitation to join from a friend or colleague so that you can start becoming familiar with Google Plus. (If you don’t know anyone who can invite you to Google Plus, we might be able to help if you let us know in the comments.) Once you’re on, start thinking about how business can use it best when the entity profiles become available.