Google Plus For Business: A Smart Social Media Tool
With the advent of Google's new Plus service, the social media landscape has expanded once again with new social media tools, and businesses are scrambling to understand this new network and how it fits into their existing marketing plans.
The new addition of Google pages for businesses has made it possible to now interact with Plus members on a whole new level. Just what that new level is has yet to be seen, but some noteworthy social media gurus are already claiming this to be the next big thing for businesses.
For the purposes of this discussion, it'll be assumed you understand the importance of having created a business profile on Google Plus. Without doing so, it's impossible to make use of any of these features. For more information on how to do just that, see social media guru Chris Brogan's great instructions on the basics.
Roping Contacts Into Circles
The most prolific of Google Plus' social media tools is the ability to put contacts into circles, a feature that has been quickly bedazzled another social media expert, Guy Kawasaki. Circles are networks of people assigned by you. You group your contacts according to some category, say, "Vendors," or "Clients." The idea is that each of these circles has different permissions set. Information about you seen by others can be limited to only those circles you want to have access to that information.
Furthermore, you can limit which circles see the messages you send out. And, you're not limited to how many circles you can have, or the number of circles to which a person belongs.
While circles may help with privacy concerns, the biggest potential comes from their ability to target specific demographics with your message. Combined with demographic statistics, this can be an incredibly powerful tool.
For example, a department store can specify whom it targets with specific ads. A holiday sale on children's toys can be sent out to the "Parents" circle, which includes all company fans who have been identified as parents. A few months down the road, as Valentine's Day approaches, another message advertising perfumes can be sent to the "Male" circle, where many members intersect with the "Parents" circle. Some other uses include:
- Announce a recall of a product only to those who purchased it
- Reward frequent customers with special awards
- Announce localized special events to those within the geographic vicinity
The more work is put into making your circles accurate representations of your target demographics, the better your social media tools will work. Unlike Facebook, Google Plus Circles lets you target markets so specifically that it can be treated as a social media CRM.
Hanging Out During Business Hours
One of the more distinct Google Plus social media tools is the Hangouts feature. Many people are familiar with video conferencing, but Hangouts offers a twist. Typical video chat rooms allow for the creation of one-on-one video sessions. Hangouts does more. Instead, the idea is to create an online gathering room where anyone from a predefined list of authorized users can join the video chat session. You can have multiple people at once, and they can come and go as they please.
Though limited to 10 people at a time, the feature offers a free online video conferencing forum that requires no special software – it's built into the browser. By removing software restrictions, it opens up a whole new realm of possible uses without the risk of losing viewers due to accessibility issues:
- Product demonstrations
- Webinars and online teaching seminars
- New vendors interviews
- Department meetings and project update
- Online press conferences
- Host a backstage hangout with fans, like the Black Eyed Peas did in September.
The hangouts feature is still in its infancy, but as time goes on Google will undoubtedly expand its capabilities. Already it's possible to share YouTube videos with other hangout attendees so you're watching the same video at the same time. Look for this feature to have even more creative options in the future.
Tip of the Iceberg
Google Plus is just getting started, but already most of the social media experts are loving the network – with the notable exception of Peter Shankman, who still can't use it due to a technicality. Judging by his frustration though, it sounds like he's an angry kid who wants to have access to a new toy he's excited to play with. We wish you luck, Peter.