For many people, social media for B2B is limited simply to the big three networks – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s understandable given the mass of users they command between them. However, this might mean they are missing a valuable opportunity.
Since it’s launch, Google+ has been steadily acquiring new users and a significant number of people ready to evangelise what they see as a better way to use social for business. The network now has over 500 million users worldwide with 235 million people active in any given month. And while Google+ has many of the same core features as the other social networks, it differs in some important ways for today’s social-powered salespeople.
With Google+, the search facility is, as you’d expect, one of the best you’ll find and you can easily see what’s trending at any time. You can post longer articles than on Facebook and you can host small video conferences (called Hangouts) which you can also stream and store on YouTube. Plus, there has also been a lot of speculation about how participating on Google+ can positively affect your visibility in wider search.
Many people also don’t realise that when they currently post on Facebook, only a proportion of their followers may ever see it. This is because Facebook’s EdgeRank mechanism makes a decision about how relevant the post is and restricts its circulation (a restriction that can be removed for a fee of course). Google+ has no such restrictions.
So how can today’s salespeople begin to use Google+ to make meaningful connections with their customers?
Setting up your profile
Google+ offers rich scope for telling the world who you are and how to connect with you.
You can write an elevator pitch tagline as well as a more complete profile to fill in the details. You can show who you work for, who you’ve worked for in the past and where you’re located. You can enter details of your education. You can give people information on how to contact you. And you can link other profiles and accounts – including pages you may contribute to and others you find interesting.
Of course, none of this is compulsory. With Google+, you decide exactly who can see what about you.
Using circles to make sense of your connections
One of the ways Google+ is different from some other networks is how it allows you to group contacts together in ‘circles’. You can create a circle for any group that might be important to you: clients, prospects, thought leaders, friends, European heating and ventilation specialists – the choice is yours. You don’t have to ask for permission to add someone (as you might on LinkedIn) and they do not have to add you in return.
Once you’ve set up your circles, you can then use them to be more precise about who you’re communicating with and also to enable you to focus on which content you want to read at any time – called a stream on Google+. You can easily adjust the amount of content you receive from any source but, unlike with Facebook, this is your decision.
What’s more, if you’re struggling to decide who to circle and how to find them, there are collections of recommended shared circles already available on the web – check out the Public Circles Database, Gabriel Vasile’s Best Google+ circles list and Chris Porter’s database of shared circles .
Searching for the right connections on Google+
You will, of course, want to quickly find out who’s talking about your specific business area. Fortunately, Google understands about search.
Say you’re a business that sells IT security solutions. You might start by searching on ‘antivirus’. From here you can choose to search across everything on Google+ or narrow your search to people and pages dealing with the subject, or communities focused on IT security, individual posts mentioning antivirus, Hangouts discussing the subject, relevant photos and IT security-focused events. You can also restrict the search to just your circles. And you can even select a specific location.
The result is a far more sophisticated way to home in on those people and places who might be good to connect with. Once you do find them, you can create specific circles (eg antivirus and malware, enterprise security, access control etc) and join relevant communities.
Sharing your posts
Google+ gives you a number of ways to communicate and share information with others. You can share pages and posts in the same way you might on LinkedIn or Facebook of course. But Google+ gives you many more options:
- You can make your posts public for everyone to see
- You can share just with specific circles
- You can share with your communities
- You can even share directly with individuals who have you in their circles – when you do this, Google+ will email them directly
You can then combine any of these based on what you want to achieve.
Engaging with others
If you’ve used other social networks, there’ll be little in Google+ to hold you back:
- You can ‘like’ any post by clicking the +1 button
- You can comment easily and join ongoing conversations by using the comment box
- And you can share comments using the share button
Importantly, when you select share, you can be highly specific about exactly who you share with – from communities and circles through to specific individuals.
There’s no time like the present
In this article, we’ve only scratched the surface of what Google+ can offer. Whole books could be written on the subject – in fact, Guy Kawasaki has done just that with his What The Plus! which you can pay for if you want through Amazon, or download it for free here as a PDF.
You will have to decide for yourself whether the opportunities Google+ offers justify the time you will need to spend on engaging with another network, but with its rapid growth and unique features, the time to take a look is now.