A social media presence has been a must for businesses over the last few years. Most companies know that they should have a Facebook page and a Twitter account and most companies think that this is enough. However now that the search engine giant Google has entered the social media arena it can not be ignored. This means understanding how to use Google+.

The fact that Google have poured so much time, money and manpower into Google+ shows that they have every intention to use this social media platform for big things.

Before we look at how to use Google+ for your business let’s look at how it works.

How it works
It’s best to think of Google+ as a combination of Twitter and Facebook. Rather than having friends or followers you have circles. You can have as many ‘circles’ as you want and put as many people into those circles as you want. The point of having different circles is so you can put people into different categories. One circle can be for friends, another for work colleagues, and another for interests that you have. There are several advantages of having people in separate circles. The biggest is that you can share different things with different circles. So if you want to post photos of your night out on the town you can share these with friends but not with work colleagues. Another is that because people have more control over what you can see they are more likely to accept strangers in their circles; as long as they can see that you are an active user in a field that they are interested in.

Just another Facebook?
When I speak to people about how to use Google+ most people say “isn’t Google+ just another Facebook?” Most people do not use Google+ as a Facebook replacement. The majority of users use it to connect with other people that have similar interests to themselves. To use myself as an example I am a massive motorsports fan. Although I have a few friends on Facebook who share this interest I tend not to use Facebook to share photos, links, blogs and conversations about motorsport. Instead I do this via my Google+ ‘motorsports circle’.

People that use Google+ are very active users as they are only seeing things that they are interested in, rather then posts about someone going to the shops, someone is “in a good mood” and all the other rubbish that you tend to get on facebook. This in turn means that not only are they are much more likely to read posts from people they follow but will also click on and share links they see posted

Business pages
It is easy to set up a page for businesses. Simply click on the ‘page’ icon, click on ‘create a page’, select the type of page that you want to create and then fill in the information. However you can not create a business page without having a profile first.

Get traffic
So you’ve set up a profile and then created a business page, now what? This is where your level of input will determine whether G+ will prove a business asset or not. Like all social media, G+ is not simply a matter of “build it and they will come”. The key is to get involved, become part of the online community. Use your personal profile to search for people that have similar interests to you and your business. The larger your circles the larger your audience. But remember people aren’t stupid. If it looks and feels like you are just using G+ to increase your sales without adding anything new to the conversation then you will soon be ignored.

The way to avoid this is to share things that you think people will find interesting or useful. Make your business page a place where people are able to find useful resources such as ‘how to’ articles, reviews of products or a place for industry news. The more you give the more people will want to visit your G+ page and your website. However this isn’t the end of the story, once you have someone’s attention make sure you make the most of it. Traffic for traffics sake will get you nowhere. You need to make sure that all your social media outlets are acting as a funnel to your website where you want to convert visitors into sales.