With more than 359 million users as of May of 2013, Google+ continues to grab the attention of consumers and brands as it becomes the second largest social network. A presence on Google+ is being aggressively pursued by some of the world’s leading brands, which in turn is causing SMBs to consider if they also need to get on board.
With more limited resources, these smaller firms might worry about managing another social network and questioning if the potential reward is worth the effort. SMBs should understand that Google+ is used by leading brands to both engage customers and build SEO, and is an important part of their social strategy.
There are several big brands successfully using Google+ by incorporating visual elements and sharing content that has a high degree of relevance to their intended audience. Small and medium-sized firms can learn a significant amount about Google+ best practices by reviewing the work of established brands that are building real followings on the network.
Here are some tips for SMBs that want to thrive on Google+ by emulating the success of some top brands.
Establish a Brand Presence
The first step for companies is to build a “presence”, a presentation of what the brand stands for and the types of consumers it is trying to attract. Savvy brands that use Google+ are able to put a “face” to their brand by showcasing interesting and visual content. High-end retailer H&M accomplishes this by posting crisp photos from its latest collections that only include images; they don’t even feature links to make a purchase. They often feature branded hashtags instead to prompt sharing and continued use of the hashtags among brand advocates. Such actions allow H&M to showcase goods, but in a softer way that sacrifices some short-term immediate sales for the larger goal of long-term brand appreciation and loyalty.
Incorporate Photos and Visuals
Brands that are successfully leveraging Google+ are incorporating photos and other visuals that either directly present the brand’s features or provides relevant and fun content. A good technique for visual content is to use photos and videos that show visitors how to do something, whether it’s use an application, find the right shoe size, or make spinach lasagna. The visual-focused format of Google+ adds additional vibrancy to these types of content, giving. Video content is ideal for contests and other user-generated content, especially given the tight integration between YouTube and Google+
The actual quality of photo content should not be overlooked. BMW is an example of a firm utilizing photos on Google+ that are strikingly crisp and present the automobiles as modern works of art, not just a mode of transport. While not every business has the marketing budget of BMW, high-quality photos are no longer prohibitively expensive, and brands should take the time to be sure visual content not only has the right message, but it also looks flawless.
Build an exclusive content hub
Pick some of your best content or products to showcase exclusively on Google+ pages. Build a hub of content that encourages fan engagement and following. Once you have a decent set of followers, then it is time to bring in the audience’s participation by asking for their direct input. Once consumers see their input reflected in a brand’s direction and products, they can’t help but become impressed. You of course need to reward their participation with retention offers or coupons for steep discounts on other products or services. If you identify the very best brand advocates you can invite them to chat with a Hangout, allowing them to see “behind the curtain” into the dynamics of your business. The content within the hub of course needs to hold real value for the consumer and needs to be delivered with enough frequency and humor to keep visitors coming back.
Consider the needs and desires of all followers
Nike is a great example of a brand that uses Google+ efficiently in order to promote its wide range of products. The company’s page has the right blend of coverage of various different sports and the motivational-style content that the iconic brand is known for. The key for brands that want to follow Nike’s lead is not to focus on one piece of the business, but to use Google+ to present all products and capabilities. Don’t be afraid to take a different angle with a Google+ post to highlight something odd or seemingly mundane about the products. It’s hard to predict what types of content will resonate with the crowd, so brands should keep it lively to encourage engagement.
Tune into what your audience likes
Burberry is an early Google+ adopter that leverages the integration with YouTube to consistently share music with its audience. It takes the time to find tunes that fit well with its buyers, providing users with complementary content that goes along with the Burberry brand. The company also pays attention to when it is sending this content, and sets up the frequency similar to a TV station, so users can expect a blast of fresh music and certain regular intervals. Such repetition would be considered stale if it consisted of sales promotions, but the music aspect is far enough from the world of clothing that it feels more like a free fun service. Find out what users enjoy beyond your brand, and you have great insight into how to retain their attention.
Use controversial content to drive activity
Marvel is a leading company using Google+ in part because of the visual nature of its brand, with colorful and action-packed images of superheroes and villains in epic confrontations. It is also adept at sharing content on Google+ that is sure to elicit responses from its rabid fan base. Any social network presence for a company is only valuable if it develops a solid user base, and Google+ is no exception. Companies like Marvel present content in such a way that it can be interpreted differently by different audiences, so they dive into the discussion with other users. Users are encouraged to create “Circles” on the site to further discuss and explore the controversial information. The content only has to hold a small attachment to your brand’s products in order to be effective.
Google+ is very adept at collecting social cues that inform search results, and companies that want to be sure they are always found near the top of results should be utilizing Google+. It’s a great platform for brands that want to promote their products but also know how to use imagery and clever content to build a real brand presence. Small and medium businesses might not have the same breadth of content as the biggest brands, but they can actively grab content and information from other firms and share it on Google+. As long as attribution to the original source is given and the content has some relevancy to the brand presence, then it’s cleared for usage.
The growth of Google+ pages and success stories among big brands are positioning it as a smart play for companies that want to enhance their social presence beyond Facebook and capture an engaged and active audience.
Catherine Gluckstein is President of SumAll,a forward thinking, socially conscious company focused on harnessing the full power of real-time business intelligence for marketers. Today SumAll tracks more than $4bn in revenue, 290bn social actions and 190bn site visits for over 100,000 businesses. Companies connect with SumAll in less than 60 seconds to integrate multiple data sources including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Analytics, others into one intuitive, interactive chart. For more information, visit https://sumall.com/.