How to Use Google+ for Your Business

Google+, Google's social networking service, takes a more intuitive approach to social networking. Your acquaintances are organized in groups called Circles. You can view posts limited to the members of one circle only. You can also communicate with members of a circle all at once with a group message called a Huddle.

In an article for, Executive editor Anna Maria Virzi mentioned that Google is discouraging businesses from setting up corporate profiles right now, because it will include business profiles as a Google+ feature later this year. And a user named Glen Casebeer reports in a Google+ comment that Google suspended his "entity-based" Google+ page Northwest Music Scene. So keep in mind that you set up a business or "entity" site at your own risk at this point. Still, there's no harm in exploring this particular social network and laying some initial groundwork.

You can apply for a test program as a "Google+ entity" by filling out this form. After you do that, you can start planning your Google+ presence. (If you are interested, don't delay - see this story from AdAge.)

Not all business sites have been removed by Google. Virzi also passed along the news that Ford Motor Company has jumped the gun and created two business profiles on Google+: Ford Motor Company and Ford Europe. The former corporate profile page (which is still online at this writing) has held a live chat (using Google+'s chat feature) and a "hangout" session with followers - and it seems plenty of people have added Ford to their own Google+ circles.

Ford, to its credit, asked those early adopters what they would like to see from the company on Google+. The dozens of suggestions received to date should provide any businesses with ideas for how to cultivate their own business profiles on the network. Here are some excerpts:

- "Give us information." This includes new car data and any humanitarian efforts the company is pursuing.

- "Giveaways are a big plus."

- "A hangout with one of your designers."

- "Genuine interaction." Several people cited that they wanted the company to demonstrate that they had read readers' posts and were reacting to them.

- "Short videos on innovations."

One user said she was planning to create a "car circle" and said there was no such thing as "too much information" she could get from auto manufacturers via Google+.

How could a Google+ business presence look? Here are some ideas that occur to me:

- Your Google+ profile can easily be connected to a Picasa Web album that shows -your products for sale. But you can also upload photos of your products to Google+ as LinxPrint, a Vancouver, CA sign company, has done (link.

- Your Google+ profile can link to YouTube videos in which you greet customers and tell them about your company.

- Huddle: This feature enables you to send a single text message to everyone in one of your circles. This might seem obvious, but a circle including all of your customers could receive regular Huddles about new products, seasonal sales, or new developments with your company or with you personally.

An article in PCWorld speculates that Google will integrate the Google+ live feed into its Search feature. This gives businesses an incentive to set up a Google+ site with lots of content-rich posts. Those posts can lead people who search on Google to the Google+ site. If Google decides to integrate its payment system Google Checkout and its business catalog search system Google Product Search into Google+, e-commerce will be even more of a viable prospect on Google+.

What's the bottom line? Yes, Google+ is another site that will take some time to learn to use. And it might require more of your time to post there. But in my opinion, you should jump on this opportunity as soon as it becomes available.

If the Ford Motor Company posts are any indication, devoted customers who like your products want to interact with you on Google+. They want inside information; they want to talk to your innovators; they want forward-looking, socially conscious news and views from you. They want to be in your inner circle. And they don't care if you jump the gun and start doing business on Google+ even though Google hasn't set up a formal business feature yet. Are you listening, businesses?

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