For those marketers who haven’t jumped onto Google+, here is a step by step guide to getting started on Google’s social network.
Note: Google recently announced that it will be splitting Google+ into Photos, Streams, and Hangouts. For more on how this change will impact your strategy, check out MarketerGizmo’s coverage of the split.
Set Up Your Google+ Profile
This process is straightforward, particularly if you’re well-versed in social media profile setup in general.
You’ll need the following items for your Google + profile:
- Header Image: Recommended size is 1080 x 608; maximum size is 2120 x 1192; minimum size is 480 x 270
- Profile Picture: Larger sizes are better; minimum size is 250 x 250. Keep in mind that Google+ will make your picture into a circle:
- Tagline & Introduction: These two pieces create the “Story” section, and you cannot make your tagline private if you put one in. Taglines are 10 words; introductions aren’t limited, but only the first 50 characters appear in search results.
- Any Additional Links: Here’s where you can direct users to a particular page or section on your site, your Twitter profile, etc.
Link Google+ to Your Website
If you use WordPress and the All in One SEO plugin, you can easily link your Google+ URL to your site:
Alternatively, having Google Webmaster tools linked to the Google Analytics code that is installed on your site can trigger an automatic association for your profile.
Or, in lieu of all that, you can simply install the provided code snippet on your home page to verify the link between the profile you’re creating and your website.
Google+ will also want you to verify the email address you’re using for the profile, which is a simple process of sending a confirmation link and clicking on it.
Backfill Your New Google+ Profile With Existing Content
Nothing looks more depressing than an empty profile, so go ahead and put your existing content in there.
You can do this under the “posts” tab,using the “share what’s new” field:
Notice that you can share lots of different types of updates here (link, video, photo, event, poll), so try to mix it up if you have the content range to do so.
Unfortunately you can’t change the dates on your updates to make it look like you’ve had your page for longer than you have (like you can on Facebook), but if you use Buffer or another social scheduling tool you can easily setup a schedule that will share a few older posts every day so the page fills up naturally.
To make the page look its best, start with 5-7 pieces of content, then schedule the distribution of the rest for a couple of days (or weeks, depending on how much you want to include/how far back you want to go).
You might also notice in the above screenshot that Google+ is suggesting a hashtag for my logo update post:
This is a pretty nifty feature of Google+, because if you add a hashtag other people who are browsing that hashtag may stumble upon your update.
For example, on another post I added #marketing. when I click on that hashtag, it flips my post over and shows me other posts that used that same hashtag:
You can use the left and right arrows to browse, or the X to exit and go back to your post. It’s a nice way to see what else is being share that’s like your posts, and I found it to be a very engaging way to learn a lot about a topic in a short amount of time.
Find and Add Google+ Communities
The big problem with every social network ever is that you need people to read your updates to make it worth your while. (Of course at least on Google+ you have the side benefit of improved SEO rankings even if your profile starts and remains a ghost town.)
The good news is that on Google+ you can access ready-made Communities with which to share your updates.
Communities are, as you might surmise from their name, groups of folks with similar interests who have chosen to hang out together online. They work a lot like Groups on both Facebook and LinkedIn; some are moderated, others aren’t.
You can choose to make your posts available to the public, particular circles of your followers, or a group, but not all of those. Posting to communities is a nice way to gain some traction on posts, but as in other social network groups, you’ll get the best results from being an active member rather than just popping in twice a week, throwing in a post from your site, and bailing.
Ideally you would share content within circles/communities as part of your regular social media scheduling process. Unfortunately, this continues to be impossible via Buffer or Hootsuite, despite Google having shared its API with both companies.
It’s a bit of roadblock in the whole “automate your Google+ marketing” thing we’ve got going, but it’s not impossible to overcome.
You’ve got a couple of options for scheduling posts:
- Use Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule posts to your brand’s Google+ page. You control the content and the timing of the posts.
- Install the DoShare Chrome extension, which will allow you to post to Communities on a schedule, but is not as snazzy as Buffer or Hootsuite, and requires a separate step for Google+ scheduling. You also need to be signed in to Chrome to use it, which may be yet another step for those who don’t routinely use this browser.
Truthfully, none of the available options are as good as simply being logged in to Google+ and sharing that way. It’s by far the simplest way to interact with Communities and share content in the most visually pleasing way.
Whether or not this hurdle is has been intentionally set up to force users into their Google+ account is up for debate.
You can put your posts on autopilot via Buffer or Hootsuite, but be sure to keep a careful eye on them. I have personally had spotty success in things getting to our Google+ page, and have periodically had to go back and manually add content due to a sync fail on Buffer.
Conclusion: Streamlined Google+ Marketing Helps Safely Diversify Social
Update: This section has been updated to reflect our new recommendations based on Google’s split of the network into three parts.
Facebook’s recent algorithm updates make reaching your followers more challenging than ever, while, “Google+ brand pages may search for users, add individuals to circles (for which the user will receive a notification), and even send users within a circle an email when posts are published.”1
If this kind of functionality sticks around post-segmentation, Streams/Photos may remain solid ways to reach out to your followers.
We’ll continue to update this guide with new strategy tips as the network’s fate becomes more clear.