Google+: How to Get Started On Google Plus


Google+ Logo

Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Google+, Google’s new social networking platform. Questions like: “How do I get started?” “Does it work a lot like Facebook?” and “What? Another social networking platform? If I close my eyes will it all go away?”

If you’re serious about growing your business on the Internet then Google+ is something that you’re going to have to pay attention to…at least for now. There’s already evidence that Google+ and the +1 button (similar to Facebook’s Like button) are having an impact on search results.

For years we’ve been saying that the secret to online visibility comes down to two things: search and social. And with Google+, they are forever intertwined. So, to help you navigate these fresh waters, we’ve create a series of Google+ how-to videos, with this article providing context and narrative.

Setting Up Your Google+ Account

As of the time I wrote this, Google+ is by invite only, but if you go to flyte’s Facebook page and request an invite on our wall, we’ll be happy to send you one.

Probably the first thing you’re going to want to do on Google+ is review and edit your profile. Chances are that Google already has some (hah! “some”) information on you, perhaps through your Gmail account, or your use of a Google app, or even because at some point you set up a Google profile.

However, it’s probably a good idea to review your information and update it as necessary. Make sure you customize your page as much as you can…like any social network, the more “lived in” your profile is, the more you’ll be able to attract and engage other people on the network.

Once you’ve take care of your profile, the next step is to adjust your privacy settings. One of the things I like most about Google+ is how easy it is to manage and control your privacy.

Organizing The People In Your Life

Unlike most other social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) that added the ability to group and filter people well after you had made a mess of things, Google+ launched with Circles, which is how you’ll organize different groups of people in your life. They work like Twitter lists or groups on Facebook (not Facebook Groups, that’s a different animal entirely.)

Google+ starts you off with some preset groups, but you can rename them or delete as needed. Also, no one but you can see your circle names, so feel free to give circles names like “Ne’er Do Wells,” “Stinkers” and “People I Wouldn’t Want to Meet in a Dark Alley.”

As you create your Circles and drop people into them–a very fun activity thanks to the slick interface–keep in mind is that Circles control both your incoming stream (messages from other people) as well as who sees your outgoing messages. No need to bore your family with a link to your latest blog post; now you can just share that with your Business Connections circle. Likewise, photos from your kid’s birthday party can be safely shared with friends and family but no one else.

Hangouts: Group Video Chat

Whether you have vendors from China or clients from China, Maine, or it’s raining and you don’t want to go outside, Google+’s group video chat option, called a Hangout, is a great, free option to having face-to-face meetings, whether it’s one-on-one or with multiple people at once. As long as they have a video-enabled computer, you’ll be able to see the spinach stuck in their teeth. (Provided everyone’s got a good connection.)

Sparks: So Far, Not Much

Although Google+ is promoting Sparks as one of the key concepts of Google+, so far they’re not very impressive. Basically, they work like Google alerts, but with fewer and less interesting results. (At least that’s been my experience.)

Sparks are areas of interest; choose a preset Spark or create a new Spark and Google finds and retrieves information about that interest–SEO, video games, the debt ceiling–readily available to you and only a click away.

From an business and networking standpoint, the way you might use Sparks is to get ideas for blog posts or videos, or to have something to share with your Circles that would be of interest to them.

Sharing on Google+

As with so many other social networks, sharing quality content is critical to your visibility and engagement. If you’ve ever shared anything on Facebook–and if you haven’t, you’re probably not reading this post–then the Google+ sharing tools will look familiar.

Go to the top of your Google+ home page you’ll see a sharing box. Choose what type of content you wish to share–update, video, photo, or link–and your .02, and then choose which Circle and/or people you’d like to share that with.

If you’re sharing a video you can upload your own video or choose a video from YouTube.

How About Google+ for Businesses?

Out of the gate there’s no equivalent for Facebook Business Pages on Google+. Some businesses have already created pages, but Google+ has been asking businesses to hold off as they’re rolling out some business-specific plans which are now being accelerated. Google has not been shy in saying that they may start taking down personal profiles of businesses.

It’s probably not worth starting a page for your business just yet, but rather you should be concentrating on building your personal network on Google+ instead.

The Takeaway

If growing your business or non-profit via the Internet is critical to your strategy, then you should be checking out Google+. Set up your account, organize your connections into appropriate circles, and start sharing some quality content.

Spend time reading others’ posts and commenting on them. Play around with a Hangout. Create a Spark. And lastly, feel free to connect with me on Google+.

If you have any questions about Google+ or how you can use social media to grow your business please contact flyte today.