Google+ is a social network with huge potential for businesses, but its best value is for individuals. If it had any of the following features it might be a contender for businesses, but as it is today? No way.
- A vanity URL so you can direct customers to your page. "Find me on Google+ at Google.com/SocialMediaCoach" would be one thing. But who's going to remember "https://plus.google.com/b/113284144259635347526/"?
- User interface editing abilities. One of the ways Facebook has Google+ beat is the many ways you can interact with your followers: custom landing pages, polling, events, and insights into traffic and performance.
- Notifications. Managing a Google+ page is a bit easier now that you can add multiple administrators, but getting an email or text alert that someone has reacted to a post, followed the page, or tried to contact you would be great.
- Integrated profiles. Currently there's no way to know who is managing a Google+ page, and precious little on the "About" page. Give us a place for a call to action, or a link to our Google Voice number please.
There's more, but I'm cutting it some slack since it's still in beta. For now, here's how you can use Google+ for your business.
Research and outreach
Needless to say, Google profiles are a huge resource for business. Who's interested in your industry? Where are the influencers and groundbreaking technologists? Follow the best of the best and learn about what interests them. Take a look at the Ripples of some conversations to find even more influential Google+ users.
Building the brand of your company through your staff's intelligence
You hire the best and the brightest right? Let them shine on Google+ and help build the brand identity of your company through your fabulous employees and their ideas. This includes the CEO, the marketing team and your engineers. Nothing proprietary of course, but perhaps there is a collaborative opportunity out there waiting to be discovered.
You don't have to have a business page to support your customers. Search Google+ for people talking about your business and reach out to them. Now that's something they will remember. Be genuine about it though, no Trojan horses allowed.
Schedule some hangouts with your staff to talk live with customers and potential customers. Show them who you are and what you're thinking about. A relaxed environment like this can bring out the best questions and show you're truly interested in their needs. Hanging out in somebody else's hangout is also great. Don't steal the show, but be pleasant and useful. Add to the conversation and support the owner of the hangout.
Google+ might be a good replacement for your micro-blog. Post URLs here with a short comment or two. Got a quick thought, but not the time to write an entire blog post? No problem, on Google+ you can shout out and ask others for input.
Another way to use Chat and Hangouts is to share documents and screenshots with your team. This is a great way to inspire unity if your staff is spread out all over the world.
Search engine optimization
Last, but certainly not least, is the huge SEO value of a Google+ profile for individuals. If your CEOs set up profiles with links to your business with the right keywords, it may really be one of the best traffic drivers you have. I'm still testing this theory, but it only makes sense that these profiles will be SEO gold.
What do you think? Are you ditching your Facebook page for a Google+ business page yet?
Janet Fouts is a social media coach and senior partner at Tatu Digital Media. She blogs at JanetFouts.com, where this article first appeared.