3 Reasons Smaller B2B Brands Should Take Google+ Seriously

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth post in a multi-week series on how to effectively leverage social media for your B2B Business. Last week OpenView’s Kevin Cain delivered “The 411 on Corporate Blogging.” Prior to that, social media strategist Nate Riggs, @nateriggs outlined “3 Ways To Take Advantage of LinkedIn’s Time-Saving Features.”

This week’s post is from Jesse Stay, @Jesse, a social media technologist, consultant, and the author of the new book, Google+ for Dummies.

I have a confession to make. For better or worse, despite my close involvement and knowledge on Facebook, I’ve also been a Google social networking evangelist for the better part of the last decade.

Yes, I was an early Google Wave adopter, and I was an even bigger Google Buzz user. And while each service had potential, neither took hold and both failed for a variety of reasons. The products were a little bit intrusive. Privacy issues were rampant. The interface wasn’t great. User engagement was poor. I could go on, but you get the point.

Then Google released Google+ last summer. I wondered if it would be another flop, but I couldn’t stay away. A year later, I think the search giant may have finally gotten it right, even if Google+ engagement currently trails Facebook and Twitter by a significant margin.

Why, you might ask, have I been so loyal to Google’s social offerings?

Because it’s Google. And because this time, the search giant and its CEO seem fully committed to making Google’s social media offering a long-term success.

That might be an ambiguous answer, but it really is that simple. Much as it seems like Facebook is taking over the world (a sentiment that’s surely to grow after the social network’s record-setting IPO in May), Google remains the king of the Web. And as the search giant continues to integrate Google+ into all of its products, its capability as a social network is only going to increase. Ultimately, that will open the door to some pretty exciting marketing opportunities.

Not convinced? Here are three more specific reasons I think businesses — especially smaller B2B startups and expansion-stage companies — should be considering Google+ as part of their social media strategy:

1. In addition to being a social network, Google+ is SEO fuel.

Google now requires users signing up for an account to also register for Gmail and Google+ accounts. It also recently launched its “Search Plus Your World” feature, which allows users with Google+ accounts to see content that their friends have read or suggested.

That’s an incredibly powerful feature, largely because it gives your content authenticity and it improves its page rank in Google search results. For those reasons alone, it’s worth investing a little bit of time in Google+.

2. Google+ can drive real-time, segmented engagement.

Check out these additional articles in our social media series:

Let me give you a real-life example. Before my presentation at the Social Media Success Summit earlier this month, I asked members of my audience to go to Google+ and include the hashtag #SMSS12 — the acronym for the conference — at the end of their posts. By the time my speech was over, #SMSS12 was trending and driving awareness of the summit to a very targeted group of people. That should make a B2B company’s mouth water.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Google+ isn’t overcrowded with brands and spam yet, which can make it much easier for a B2B company to stand out. All it takes is a little bit of time to develop a solid following, which you can then segment into specific Circles (think Friends, Family, Vendors, Customers, and Prospects). Granted, acquiring a following large enough to be impactful can be difficult, but a good place to start is by searching for certain keywords (a user’s name or company, or key people in your industry, for example) to find the users that are more likely to engage with you.

At the moment, Google+ is all about people, not groups or brands (although, that will begin to change with the recently released Google+ Pages feature). As a result, it’s much simpler to engage with people directly and, using Circles, lump them into specific groups to create more targeted communication.

3. Google+ isn’t going away.

As Google+ expands, it’s going to grow outward rather than inward. In other words, Google won’t simply focus on growing its plus.google.com hub; it will use Google+ to make all of its products more social. As a result, you’ll see further integration into Gmail, Google Contacts, YouTube, and Google’s Android platform. In its first decade, Google’s focus was on the Web and search. Going forward, it will be on how to make the Web — and everything it encompasses — more social through Google+.

Now, before you go crazy creating a Google+ profile or a Page for your business, there are some pitfalls you’ll want to watch out for.

More specifically, here are three big things to avoid:

  • Don’t be spammy or over-promotional: Even with a Google+ company page, the focus should be on your people. If all you do is talk about your brand, or all you share is pitchy content, your following will suffer.
  • Don’t overcommit: I’m excited about the potential of Google+, but I still think it’s critical for businesses to execute a well-rounded social media marketing strategy. So, while it might be temping to spend a lot of time on Google+, make sure you don’t neglect the other networks (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) where your customers might hang out more frequently.
  • Don’t forget your badge(s): Unless you apply for and acquire a verification badge from Google+, your business — or your profile — will lack authenticity. So, after you create a Google+ page, go to Google.com/+/business and follow the various links to begin filling out forms to get your badge. It will not only authenticate your page and profile, it will give the content you post a boost in search results because of its Google+ stamp of approval.

The bottom line:

For smaller B2B startups and growth stage businesses, the best time to be on Google+ is right now. With less competition for users’ attention than Facebook and Twitter, smaller businesses stand a better chance of having their voice heard. Remember, Google+ is a people-oriented network, which gives smaller companies that aren’t burdened by corporate red tape the opportunity to be more creative and personable. In today’s fast-paced, overcrowded Web environment, that’s a huge advantage.

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