By Angie Dunnigan
Since its inception in 2011, Google+ has traveled a difficult road. Some people have loved it, some have hated it; but it’s never managed to secure a steady base of active users. As of early 2015, studies found that just 9 percent of Google’s 2.2 billion users actually posted content on Google+.
That may be why Google chose to completely redesign its struggling social media platform in late 2015, shifting focus to Communities and Collections. These are the two features people use most, according to Google – and they are also the reason maintaining a presence on Google+ still matters for small businesses.
Social Media Examiner explains, “In terms of marketing, businesses that want to reach people who are passionate about something will find it easier to do so with the new changes to Google+.” Sprout Social adds, “This creates a huge opportunity for businesses to segment audiences and share content with the most relevant groups possible.”
So, what are Communities and Collections? Let’s look at how you can leverage each of them to promote your business on Google+.
Google+ Communities are conversational groups devoted to specific interests or organizations. Anyone can create them, whether individuals or businesses. They can be open to anyone (public) or invite only (private). There are an estimated 1.2 million “joins” to Google+ Communities every day, according to Social Media Today.
As a small business, creating and cultivating your own Google+ Community – built around a topic in your niche, of course – can help you engage directly with customers, increase your followers, and establish yourself as a subject-matter expert.
Whenever you post on your company page, make sure to share the post with your Communities. Try to get a back-and-forth dialogue going with your followers. Always add a personal touch by including a comment or question with your post. Avoid “link dumping,” as people could easily gloss over your post.
Google+ Collections differ from Communities in that they are groupings of content –
not users – organized by topic. Think of them like Pinterest boards. They can be shared publicly, privately, or with specific user groups. If you choose, you can have your followers automatically follow any Collections you create.
Anyone who follows your Collections will see the posts you make in their home stream (Google’s version of the Facebook News Feed). Google+ also has its own version of Facebook’s “like” button: the +1 button, which people can use to endorse your posts. Every time someone does so, your Collection will get greater visibility among Google users.
Keep in mind, though, that Collections give followers control over the content they see. For instance, if you’ve created separate Collections on wedding updos, color trends, and hairstyling products, your followers can pick and choose between them using the tabs on your Google+ page.
But Wait, There’s More…
Communities and Collections aren’t the only benefits Google+ has to offer. Once you set up a Google+ Business page, people will be able to find you via Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+ Local – and your business will rank higher in Google Search as a result.
The key to using Google+ successfully is making it part of your editorial calendar. Keep your Google+ Business page updated with fresh content, news, events, and special offers. Start or join conversations in your Communities. Create and curate Collections that your customers will be passionate about.
Contrary to popular belief, Google+ isn’t dead. It’s very much alive, and it should still be and important part of your social media marketing strategy.