It's true: Not everybody gets, or is on, Google+. The slow traction of this social media platform is so well-known that there's a common meme making a snotty joke at its expense . But Google+'s status as the ugly kid at the social media dance is rapidly changing, in large part due to the first thing you need to know about Google+:
Google incorporates activity on Google+ in its search algorithms. That means every time you engage on Google+ about what your business does, Google adds a little preference about your business when people search for terms related to your business. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have no such pull. You might accuse Google of rigging its own game, and you'd have a valid point, but just because a game is rigged doesn't mean you don't have to play.
If you are interested in playing, read the following top five tips to learn how to increase your chances of winning the Google+ game.
Meet the new boss (not the same as the old boss). The social dynamics within Google+ are different from what you're used to on Twitter and Facebook. Circles allow you to send specific messages to only the members of your following that you choose. This means you get to send work-related updates to your clients and your boss, while saving the cat photos for Grandma and the joke about the Klingon madame and the Vulcan priest for your buddies. It also means you're more responsible for which content reaches which individuals. So if you send sales content without some kind of introduction, you'll lose followers and rank because that's considered a no-no and the Google+ community enforces its own rules relentlessly.
It's half blog, half platform, all engagement. A post on Google+ receives a permanent URL that ranks in related searches, just like the entries on your blog. A 500- to 1,000-word long-form blog post isn't appropriate (or even possible with the Google+ formatting options), but 200 to 300 words with a photo or link is powerful collateral in this space. As with top blog content, using strong SEO with tactically chosen keywords scores big in the search game, but don't even think about trying keyword stuffing or similar techniques. Google+ demands cogent, well-written content.
Develop relationships. The earlier social media strategy of building a follower base to whom you can endlessly sell products doesn't work on Google+. Instead, consider it a broadened platform for the kind of relationship sales you're used to making at chamber of commerce and Elks Club meetings. Lead with simple comments and posts that demonstrate your expertise and engagement, peppered with the occasional personal note such as a joke or shared YouTube video. When your followers are ready to buy, they'll contact you.
Look before you leap. Before posting anything more significant than a plus mention or a simple comment, take a week or more to simply observe how things are done on Google+. You'll find richer, more professional conversations than on the teen-dominated sites, and more discussion of ideas and less blatant selling than on the professional networks. Learn by watching, then make your first post. While you're looking, find the thought leaders in your industry. Commenting on what they have to say is a sharp practice for quickly gaining followers of your own. Also search for some of the leaders in Google+ performance, such as Mike Shervington, Chris Brogan, John Ellis and Mark Traphagan. Their feeds are full of breaking discoveries on leveraging Google+ as well as reapplications of old tricks.
Post early. You'll get the most traction if you post between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., when most people are beginning their workday. That's the best time for getting interested people to notice your post. Avoid posting between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., when most professionals are on their way home or already at the dinner table.
Jason Brick has contributed more than 2,000 blog and magazine articles to local, regional and national publications, and speaks regularly at writing and business conferences. You can find out more about Jason at www.brickcommajason.com.
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