This article is written for small and mid-size businesses, but also for groups within larger organizations that are constrained by poor enterprise infrastructure. The points here take nothing away from the fact LinkedIn is an important social platform, especially for personal use and content publishing. Businesses should have strong presence and active participation on both platforms. This post will explain how the nature of Google+ participation is different from LinkedIn and other social sites, and why that should make it a primary hub for all your customer facing content.
If it ends there, you might be missing the most powerful potential for your business, especially for social selling.
What if the theory, “be on the social channels your customers are on” is wrong?
I thought of this because when I ask B2B marketing and sales professionals about their use of Google Plus answers are either, “I don’t really use it, my customers aren’t there,” or “I post my content there just like I do with Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.”
Have you ever been in one of those situations where you find out something significant has been going on, right under your nose, and you didn’t even realize it? Maybe good friends starting up a relationship that many knew about but you didn’t?
That’s how I felt a few months ago when I received the wake-up call about Google Plus. I had been a Google+ “user” for well over a year. I have posted a fair amount of content, but mostly I use these sites to listen and find good content.
My Epiphany Yielded a New Engagement Process
Now, when we write blogs, we first post the link to the blog to Google+. As much as possible, in emails and Twitter posts for example, we distribute the Google+ plus link. Why do you suppose?
A foundational premise is: quality content is the currency by which we buy attention, engagement, subscription and ultimately a business relationship. More so online, through social channels.
So how easy is it for online viewers who come across you personally, as well as your business, to find and access relevant and useful content that helps them get to know you, to decide if you and your company might be a useful resource?
To how many places do you need to send them: website, blog(s), LinkedIn, SlideShare, YouTube, Box or Dropbox repository, marketing automation landing pages? What can you do with the good content that is locked in individual hard drives?
Are you curating content to private tools like Pocket (useful tool), or yet another public location and channel?
Here’s how Google+ can help us do this better.
Depending on your belief system you could stop after this: Google Search and Author Ranking.
Content posted to Google+ is tracked by Google and contributes to their search algorithm. Good author pages improve click through rates, as well as your personal credentials. It also establishes your ownership of that content. Other channels, especially Twitter and LinkedIn, are not even considered by Google for search.
Need I say more? OK there’s much more. Here’s what I’m looking to achieve tactically through my use of social media.
Relationships — create personal relationships, and engage with people to gain and share insights and information (content)
Good selling has always started with good networking, in search of referrals.
Unless you’re one of those professional social geeks who seem to have little else to do but hang out and engage on Twitter and other sites all day, how much online “dialogue” do you regularly engage in that leads to real relationships?
How active and expansive is the comment stream on your blogs? How well have you attracted and created relationships with industry influencers, or even prospects, online?
Google+ is set up to foster conversations. It is dialogue that creates true engagement, which leads to real relationships (much more than “likes”!) But dialogue doesn’t have to be just in real time. Google+ fosters what I call “asynchronous dialogue.” Days can go by between comments, but the conversation continues naturally.
We’ve turned off comments on our blog, and are directing people to comment through Google+.
Publish content — Avitage proprietary content as well as third party curated content
Question: How long does a Tweet last? Well, it’s measured in minutes. If your followers aren’t on Twitter within 11 minutes of your Tweets, less at very busy times, your message is the proverbial tree falling in the woods.
Twitter is primarily a real time communication platform. Google+ provides both. Because content is archived on your homepage (see Attention and Archive sections below), content on Google+ is easy to find and access at any time. Call this longer shelf life, but also much easier for you (and others) to find and re-use when you need it.
When you publish content to Twitter you have 140 characters to capture attention and convince someone of the value of the content you are promoting. With Google+ you have large images that can (and should be) featured, and as much text as you care to provide.
Call this a richer user experience with your content.
There is a lot of talk currently about sales people blogging. Or maybe you’re frustrated with your blogging technology or results. Make Google+ your blog. Full text blogs with pictures are natural on Google+.
Which do you do more, “follow” someone on a social site (Twitter) or subscribe on their website with your email address? Why? How well are those registration pages and blog subscription forms working?
On Google+ people are more inclined to sign up to “circle” you because it’s is easy, with low disincentive. Like Twitter, but unlike LinkedIn, people don’t limit followers to those they know or trust. On LinkedIn, over 500 followers is a good accomplishment, on Google+ it’s a good start.
When it comes to networking, scale matters (see network effect below.)
Part of being a publisher, of “being the media,” is to have your own subscriber base. Getting people to circle you will not only get you many more followers than through direct email requests, it will also get you the (limited) ability to connect with them through email.
Attention, The Network Effect — find and get found by prospects, extend my reach and exposure through others (who share my content)
When content is shared on well-developed networks, the expansion factor is huge. But when people share your content on Google+, the network effect really takes over. Google refers to this as “ripples.”
As content is shared, a common practice is to add comments, which makes it more attractive.
Content can be shared with the general public. But it can also be targeted to segments based on topical interests through the use of circles. And you can direct content to be shared through those who circle you to their “extended circles.”
Since it’s part of the motivation and the culture to share on Google+, strangers are inclined to add your (interesting and useful) content to their page, further extending your reach.
Use your company Google+ page to house your content inventory. Have your sales and marketing people (partners, etc.) use their own Google+ presence to share that content, to expand their connections and leverage their reach.
Meet Industry Influencers
Today, you’re likely to meet more professionals and influencers on Google+ than your target prospects or customers. But this is incredibly important.
This makes it a great time and opportunity to use it to establish relationships with people who can contribute to your credibility by commenting on and promoting your content.
The dialogue oriented engagement nature of Google Plus makes this a natural activity. It’s actually why many are there. And the novelty factor also helps.
Build Credentials — share my “innovative insights” (I hate the TL word)
Publishing content through Google+ will improve your Google Author Ranking, which has significant implications for SEO and search results, along with your credentialing.
For the same reason a good LinkedIn page is essential today, the same is true for Google+. Your homepage is easy to access (or be shared), and a natural “next step” for online viewers who are checking you out. When you add your content inventory behind it (see Find and Archive Content below), this is an instant and powerful way to demonstrate your expertise.
“The authors of the book Absolute Value assert that your buyers are not looking to you for validation of your credentials. They are looking to others who have either experienced you, or have commented about you, online. This “conversation” is how people are going to decide to work with you. As such, your job is to make sure that you are helping to create and enable the conversation.”
Find and Archive Content — let other people find and vet content for me, and have one place for all our customer facing content
This creates a terrific organizational discipline. Almost everyone can do better curating their content in one pace. With Google+, use the comments area to post a Content Header that explains the purpose and key points of the content. This makes it easy for all to quickly consider whether it is relevant to their situational interest.
Organize your content topically. Set up a Community for your primary topics, with folders for sub-topics as your content archive. Now when you curate content, curate it to the appropriate topical folder. This doesn’t mean turn off curation sites. It means add important, reusable articles to your central content archive.
You now have topic oriented landing pages with content that you can subscribe people to view. This makes you a go-to source for these topics.
Google+ Summary and Next Steps
As Wayne Gretzky is credited with saying, skate to where the puck will be, not where it is. Your customers and prospects may not be active on Google+ — yet. But you want to be ready when they do. Operative word is DO. Why would you bet against Google at this point?
This starts by not using Google+ the way you use other (passive) social media channels, use it the way it was designed and provisioned to be used.
Establish a mature presence on Google+. This means develop your authority ranking, set up your content inventory, build out your followers, learn the art and discipline of online engagement, and build credibility so when people do arrive, you’re “a player”!
This isn’t easy, but here are three important steps to get started:
Inventory ALL customer facing content — proprietary as well as curated 3rd party content — on your Google Plus in topic oriented community folders.
Post and drive all viewers first to your Google Plus page to view your content, so they circle you, share and view related content. Serious prospects will ultimately find you and your website.
Engage people directly, (pro)actively and consistently, as though you are in relationship conversations — you are!
Please join the discussion with your comments and questions on the Google+ post for this blog.
Google Plus Resources:
Maximize Social Business — rich resource on Google+
Why You Should be On Google Plus – Dori Clark