Google+, which recently celebrated its first anniversary, has gained a reputation as a desolate wasteland of a social network. Google has fought back, claiming an ever-growing userbase (75 million daily active users today) but the calculation methods are sketchy at best.
Given the platform's lack of popularity, should you bother maintaining a Google+ presence for your small business? Absolutely.
Why? There are two reasons, says Jacob Smith, digital marketing specialist for Zumba Fitness.
Show Up in Search
First, Google+ integrates with all of Google's other extremely popular public-facing services: search, Google Places, Google Maps and so on. Any business on Google+ will likely see an SEO (search engine optimization) boost from maintaining an active Google+ page. If you're running a brick-and-mortar store, such as a restaurant or appliance shop, having a Google+ page will help add valuable data to your Google Places page.
"For small businesses, Google+ isn't another one of those minor social media platforms that pops up and can be ignored," says Smith. "[Google is] tying it to SEO and other purposes. There are some realms where you need to be there to have a brand. If you take my name and Google it, my Google+ profile comes up as a good result. John's Locksmiths will show up quicker on organic search if John has a Google+ page."
SEO and brand management aside, Google+ can be a powerful tool for a small business to use internally. When you combine the social network element of Google+ with services such as Google Docs, what's left is an extremely capable communications tool for already-established networks.
"Google+ has a lot of integration with other Google products," says Smith, naming Gmail and Google Docs as examples. "We use Google's full suite of apps internally. While we're writing on Gmail, we can hop on to Google+ and communicate ideas with coworkers in real-time. If you're using Facebook [or Skype] like that, you're jumping through platforms to do the same task."
Additionally, Hangouts can be a user-friendly way to host video conferences for brainstorming sessions or troubleshooting.
"Small businesses can do a lot with Hangouts," adds Smith, pointing to how easy it is for non-tech savvy people to engage in a Hangout and share documents and presentations with one another. "In the newest setup for Google+, you can pull people in from Gmail, swap screens and share documents."
Google+ gives your small business two advantages over the competition: better search rankings and an impressive array of internal communications features. So why wouldn't you use this free tool?
How is your small business using Google+?