Q&A: Do I Need to Sign Up for Google+?

By Vanessa FoxBusiness on Main

Just when I got a handle on Facebook and Twitter, I started hearing about Google+.  What exactly is Google+, and should I be using it to promote my small business?

Google+ is Google’s recently launched social network, still in invite-only “trial mode.” During the first few weeks, invites were tough to come by. But now, more than a month into the trial, anyone using the service should be able to send you an invitation (if you don’t know anyone on Google+, contact me using the http//www.vanessafox.com/contact/ form on my site, and I’ll send you one).

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So, as a small-business owner, should you devote even more of your limited resources to social media by jumping into the Google+ fray?

Maybe not.

Google has been explicit that this trial period is for personal connections and profiles only, and that business profiles won’t be available until later this year. In fact, Google has very publicly been removing business accounts — it even removed the Sesame Street profile. If Sesame Street doesn’t get an exception, no one does.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate in Google+ as someone representing your organization. If your audience members are discussing topics relevant to your business on Google+, then absolutely consider creating a profile and joining them there. Google+ product manager Christian Oestlien said, “We recommend you find a real person who is willing to represent your organization on Google+ using a real profile as him- or herself. “ (Here’s mine.)

It’s worth getting comfortable with Google+ since Google is planning to expand it to power much of its infrastructure. Google+ may eventually be integrated with Google Maps (for local businesses), YouTube (for any businesses publishing video), AdWords (for socially targeted audience), Google Product Search (for product ratings and reviews), and so on.

To get started with Google+, you’ll set up “circles” so you can share and view content and discussions with different groups. For instance, you could set up a “family” circle and share personal posts only with those you add to that circle, and a “business” circle and share posts related to your company with your customers. With circles, you can manage who sees what and you don’t have to worry about filling your customers’ feeds with photos of your kids or cats!

As with all social media, don’t be overly promotional. Spend more time reading than posting, and add value to discussions.

— Vanessa Fox

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