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Is Google Plus Right for Your Small Business?

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Is Google Plus Right for Your Small Business?

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: April 19, 2012 Updated: June 7, 2013

Does your small business have a presence on Facebook or Twitter? Are you wondering whether it’s worth investing time and resources in yet another social network? When Google rolled out Google Plus (Google+) last year, many asked the same question. And they’re still asking.

There’s no doubt that social media is a great outreach and engagement tool for small businesses with limited marketing budgets. But as more and more social networks come online (Pinterest anyone?) is it really worth the effort to branch out and jump on every social media bandwagon that comes along?

To help you decide whether Google+ is worth your time and resources, here are some the factors to consider as you determine your strategy.

Google+ Versus Facebook

If you want to understand the merits of Google+ versus Facebook, this article from American Express OPENForum,“Google Plus vs. Facebook: Which is Best for Business?” does an excellent job breaking down the factors to consider. Here’s a summary:

  • Breadth of Audience – Facebook has a powerhouse user base that checks in regularly, making them easier to engage. “…For small business, whoever your customers are, they're already on Facebook and know how to navigate it.” Google+ has a smaller user base, although the audience is more focused (male engineers, designers and developers are among the highest Google Plus user groups). But they visit the network less often, and are thus harder to engage.
  • Engagement Features – Although both have similar engagement features – Facebook’s “Like” and Google’s “+1” button, for example – Facebook leads the way in options and tools that let businesses engage with their fans, with a plethora of apps, polls, events, and visibility into friend activity. At Google+, your options are limited to uploading photos and live video chat “hangouts” with friends or customers.
  • Branding – Facebook’s new “Timeline” design for pages is a real boon for small businesses that can customize pages to reflect their brand in a way that’s unparalleled in social media. Google+, on the other hand, leaves less territory for your brand building (although recent updates see Google+ moving away from its earlier Google-heavy branding and white space model).

One more consideration: “Segmentation.” Through its “Circles” feature, Google+ lets page owners segment fans or customers and deliver more tailored messaging to them. Facebook has rolled out a new Interest List feature that lets users organize content and reach more targeted users according to topics that interest them, but Facebook doesn’t offer the level of segmentation that Google+ does.

Google+ and Online Businesses – The Potential Impact on Search Rankings

Google is a search engine behemoth, but how does Google+ impact your businesses’ search engine results? Some marketers are encouraging businesses to setup Google+ pages to maximize their rankings, and here’s why:

  • The “Search Plus Your World” Feature – Google’s new “Search Plus Your World” functionality gives users the option of co-mingling personalized searches (based on content shared by friends on their Google+ network) with regular search results. This is a matter of user preference, however; users must be logged into Google+ to enable this, and they can also disable this feature from the top right of the Google Search screen.
  • The “+1” Endorsement – Web pages that have been “+1’d” (or liked) by users in your circles are automatically bumped up in your search results. Think of it as a virtual word of mouth recommendation. Likewise, any content your business shares on your Google+ page will show up in related Google searches (again, the user must be logged into Google+ for this to happen).

So far, it remains to be seen how strong an impact Google+ pages will have on overall search rankings. But if you run an online business, Google+ and the integration of the “+1” tool on your website could give you a big advantage, potentially boosting your organic online search rankings – something worth testing.

The Bottom Line

So, what should your small business do? With limited resources, it’s important to focus your efforts on the social media network that’s right for your business.  Be strategic. Consider these factors:

  • Is your target audience active on Google+? A quick look at the latest social media usage statistics for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and others (care of OnlineMBA.com) shows that 71 percent of Google+ users are male, 44 percent are single, with engineers being the most common occupation.  Demographics aside, you could poll your customers to see whether they are active (meaning they visit the site at least once a day) in-person, via email, or on other social media sites.
  • Where is the best fit for your small business? For businesses that specialize in professional services, connections may be more easily made and engagement might be more fruitful on LinkedIn than Facebook or Google+. For service businesses, Facebook and Twitter might be a better fit. It all depends on where your audience is hanging out and if they are joining in conversations about topics that are relevant to your business. Take a look at what other businesses in your field are doing. Where are they engaging? Are they successful?

If you decide Google+ is right for your business, set goals and track your progress. If not, keep it on your radar and be prepared to adjust your focus if it becomes a hangout for your customers and a forum for conversations that matter to your business.

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About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Comments:

Yes, Definitely Google+ is very much beneficial for Small Business. Just like Facebook "like" button, the Google Plus has its "+1", the purpose of both is same, i.e. Promotion, Interest, recommendation etc.
"Google Plus" can only handle internet users are not yet active. But for many other service businesses that will be opened for active use plus pages will be useful. Great advice Caron. Thanks for sharing this useful information.
Hello Caron ,first of all thanks for the article. For me its not easy comparing Facebook and Google Plus both have their pro's and cons ,honestly i think it all goes down to your audience and i think this highlights the importance of a business doing accurate market research. It's like what you said about how Google plus might have a less engaging user base and how the user base may be a larger concentration of people who belong to a particular group, like when you said, "71 percent of Google+ users are male, 44 percent are single, with engineers being the most common occupation" .So if i was a small business that maybe sold tutorials on programming and the Google plus users just happen to be a large group of programmers i would without a doubt market on Google plus rather than face up to stiff competition on Facebook. So bottom line for me is, i would market on Google plus if i had the audience. [URL="http://www.best-dj-software.com/best-dj-software/best-dj-software"]best dj software[/URL]
Truth is I love facebook, I started looking into Google+, even bought a course in how to set up and take advantage of all its features, not finished yet. What drives me to learn about Google+ obviously is that is owned by Google and just wondering how is that going to affect online searches in the near future and as a small internet business owner I am planning to keep as informed as I can. Thanks Caron for this intro.
Hello Caron, Please take a look at my reply and challenge to your post - For those of you not on Google+ yet, here is what I wrote: ***Beginning of copy*** In the post below +Caron Beesley goes through what she thinks are the pros and cons between Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. In my opinion, she does an ok job in providing a non-biased opinion, until further investigation. Having read my share of posts and articles covering similar opinions, I decided to take a look at what she had done on Google+ herself. I hate doing this, but Caron, I have to throw you under the bus! Having a profile on Google+ yourself and not having actively posted anything publically doesn't do anything to build your credability in saying how well Google+ can/cannot work for small businesses. In looking at who you have publically circled and that have circled you, there is very little to show that you are actively engaging with any sense of community here within the Google+ community. To top it off, doesn't even have a Google+ badge on the website or even an active page that I could find on Google+?! If one were to write an article like this, wouldn't it stand to reason that one would have shown an attempt to do research to see the pros and cons of Google+, Facebook, and Twitter for onesself? I hope that if you read this Caron that you will seriously consider giving Google+ a harder look. Circle people like +Mark Traphagen, +martin shervington, +Yifat Cohen, +Meghan Peters, and +Rob Gordon to name a few. Actively engage with us, share content with us, and then I challenge you to write another piece on what you think from your personal experience instead of what the rest of the "media" is saying! ***End of copy*** This post was edited to remove a link. Please review the Community Best Practices for how best to engage in our Community. Please note that Community members may include only one (1) link in their signature line. Any additional links to websites, social network profiles, or email addresses will be removed. Thank you for your understanding.
But about privacy of my IP. Read about what happens once you put anything in a Google service. This link has been removed from public view. Please refer to the Rules of Conduct.
Frankly Google+ will remain also ran - though a long distance. Cannot be ignored but facebook has the first mover's advantage. Also the much touted features of Google plus e.g. circles is now there in facebook as well. So, the site should carry google+ button but it will be long before google+ qualifies for the ad money that facebook is attracting.
Great advice Caron. Thanks for sharing this useful information.
I believe google plus is still in at experiment stage. I understand from one of the Google blogs that there's more to +1 endorsement. The fitness test is an interesting point that you have raised. At the same time I feel the guys at Microsoft and Yahoo! must also be preparing for a similar feature. With technology moving forward, mergers (MSN and Yahoo), Web 2.0 development, mobile computing and 4G revolution, Google will have to do a lot more than Google Plus to keep people from using the site. I agree with the last comment that 'setting up at least a minimal presence on gogole plus could be a smart move'. Thanks.
Google plus as of now continuously retains its good position to become one of great social media platform that can be used for professional and personal lifestyle. As you have business either its good or not, then you should have your own business profile on Google plus and start gaining additional online popularity.

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