Get Your Local SMB Back In Business With Google’s Social Media Platform
The dawn of the internet was a game-changer, everyone knows that. Instant information, lightning-fast communication, the joy of 2AM shopping in your pajamas—all of this thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web. But one of the best things about the internet, and something that is often overlooked, is that it has really leveled the playing field when it comes to marketing.
Having a great website, launching an email campaign, and building a social media presence can all be done on a shoestring budget now. SMBs everywhere have realized the importance of an online marketing strategy, rolled up their sleeves and jumped right on in, and, most impressively, are doing a pretty good job.
But, while it’s normal to see a mom-and-pop store flaunting their wares on Facebook and local eateries with their own Twitter handles, what’s less common, and needs to be addressed, is their failure to embrace Google+.
35% of small businesses use Facebook for branding, 19% use Twitter, but just 11% of small businesses use Google+ as a means of communicating with and engaging their customers, according to a recent study.
Google+ is not your average social media platform. It combines search, social, and behavioral targeting to become a pretty powerful beast. So, give your SMB the chance it deserves and follow these useful tips to boost engagement and increase your sales:
1. Set Up Your Business Page
Setting up a Google+ business page is easy, just follow this excellent guide. It walks you through the basics so that you can start paying attention to the important things, like integration, engagement, and even analytics, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Remember to add a Google+ button to your website to make sure your visitors can find it.
2. Set Up a Google+ Local Page
One of the great things about being an SMB is the opportunity to really engage with the people in your area. In an age where everything is becoming homogenized, communities everywhere are rallying around to support their local businesses, because there’s nothing quite like the personal touch.
But your community can’t support you if they don’t know you’re there. And how will they find you? Google.
Google Local has replaced Google Places, and is also easy to set up. You can include directions, reviews, photos, and videos on your page, increasing your brand’s visibility and sales leads. As well as this, Google Local pages rank highest in search engine results, giving you the edge over your competitors.
3. Network Strategically
Once you’re up and running, the first (and most important) things to get to grips with on Google+ are your circles.
Basically, a circle is how you sort and organize your connections, categorizing them based on factors that you choose. By doing this, you can send strategic posts to particular groups of people (say, offering discounts to particular target demographics). This prevents customers seeing content that doesn’t apply to them, increasing the engagement potential of the content that does.
You could have a ‘competitors’ circle, or an ‘other local businesses’ circle, and yes, these circles can overlap, like lovely Venn diagrams.
4. Post Compelling Content
Now that you have your circles, it’s time to start posting wonderful content and start reeling in business left, right and center.
At this point, we’ll assume that you’re well versed with the importance of compelling content marketing as well as what works and what doesn’t, so we’ll keep this brief and to the point.
Whether you’re posting image or resource content or starting (or joining) a hashtag trending conversation (yes, hashtags work on Google+, too), remember, Google+ lets you really target, so a one-size-fits-all approach will not work here.
5. Be Proactive!
Posting content is great—but if you want to really start a conversation, you have to ask questions (open questions are even better).
However, a one sided conversation isn’t really a conversation. So make sure you not only ask questions, but respond to other questions as well. Comment on users’ activity, offer your opinion, and start developing meaningful relationships.
Try developing a weekly post theme using a hashtag. Think #throwbackthursday, #smallbusinesssaturday, or even #mustachemonday, when the best picture of a mustachioed man using your product gets a fabulous free gift. You get the picture.
Use +mentions to directly address customers and businesses, inviting them to join your conversation.
6. Join Communities and Host Hangouts
Communities and hangouts are another unique feature of Google+ that are fantastic for boosting engagement.
Google+ communities can be used to connect with people who have interests relevant to your business, people who you may not have encountered otherwise. Run a pet store? Join a dog lovers’ community (maybe even a local one). City spa? Health and beauty.
They’re about conversation, not shameless self-promotion, so participate regularly (with valuable insight) to foster worthwhile connections and increase your followers.
Hangouts, on the other hand consist of live, real-time multimedia interaction with your customers. Hairdressers could host an updo tutorial as well as a question and answer session; cafes could try online barista training.
They’re automatically recorded and can be posted to YouTube, so add a link back to your website to direct interested users to your business.
Although Facebook still enjoys a significant lead when it comes to active internet users, Google+ has been steadily increasing in popularity since its launch in 2011, surpassing Twitter and YouTube to become the second largest social network, despite the naysayers (and there were plenty). This, as well as the fact that, well, Google+ pretty much is Google (it’s integrated with Google Docs, Chrome, Google Reader, Gmail and YouTube) mean that SMBs need to quickly get on board.