Website: check. Twitter: check. Facebook: check. Google+: check?
If you run a business of any kind (but even more so for eCommerce stores, where products are always just a link away), making a business page on Google+ has become just as if not more important than doing so on all of the other major social media platforms. In fact, with ready access to hundreds of millions of Gmail and YouTube users, built-in SEO mojo, and a number of features that are inherently business-friendly (and free!), G+ is simply something most businesses can’t afford not to be on.
To get a good sense of just what’s possible on G+, let’s take a look at how several major brands use the platform in powerful and creative ways to see how you can do the same.
If there’s one company that understands the myriad ways that Google+ can be harnessed to boost its brand, it’s Cadbury. If you’re a fan of the chocolate maker (or chocolate in general), you can probably guess that visual branding is a huge must for Cadbury. That’s something they take advantage of first and foremost with the banner at the top of their page, which, like all G+ banners, enlarges when a user scrolls to the very top.
Just try not to click “follow” after one good look at that photo. The picture is also a great choice due to its Pinteresty look and feel, which helps the brand keep consistency across its social media sites.
Scrolling down a little further, we instantly see more evidence that Cadbury understands not only the powerful visuals G+ makes possible but also how to engage its community. The company regularly runs contests in which followers compete to create the most inventive or alluring new recipe using Cadbury products.
Their feed is also well-integrated into their wider marketing campaigns. Throughout their recent “Unwrap Gold” campaign—a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style campaign that rewarded lucky customers who found gold-wrapped chocolate bars with an actual gold bar worth £22,000—the company used their G+ boards to generate excitement with linked videos and images.
So, how can you take the lessons of Cadbury and apply them to your own G+ business page?
What This Means for You
- Master the visuals of the platform. Don’t ignore the visual possibilities of the cover photo at the top of your G+ page or, really, with every piece of content you post. Because it blows up so large, it’s important to choose a high resolution image that won’t pixelate as it enlarges. While you’ll want to use your cover photo to reinforce your visual branding, think of it as more as something that will set the tone of your G+ environment rather than another opportunity to display your logo, which may not look good at such a big scale. Follow Cadbury’s lead and feature a photo of your products, offices, or, if you’re a small company, your founding team.
- Know and engage your community. G+ isn’t TV or a magazine, and it’s not a place to run advertising. While you can certainly let followers know about new products releases or even occasional sales, it’s best if the bulk of your content falls into the categories of helpful how-tos, witty or goofy commentary or memes, photos that show off your products in new and interesting ways, be it photos of customers using your products or just the products themselves, and videos that give consumers a better sense of the people behind the brand. Contests like Cadbury’s frequent recipe competitions are also a great idea, as they encourage customer creativity.
- Link G+ to all of your marketing campaigns. G+ is another tool in your social media chest, so if you’re promoting something on your other social platforms, it should also be promoted on your G+ page as well. However, G+ followers do like to see that you care specifically about the platform and aren’t just slapping up your content and running back to your other social media sites. Take the time to engage in conversations with customers and even run a few campaigns, competitions and promotions that are exclusive to the site.
2. Glamour and Dell
Yeah, I know, it might seem weird to pair a women’s lifestyle and fashion magazine with a tech giant, but on G+, these two mega-businesses have one clear thing in common: they’re both masters of Google Hangouts.
Part chat room, part live video stream, part, well, hanging out, Hangouts on Air is one of the best features available on G+. It’s like a video conference with your customers, except it comes with any number of fun and useful extra apps, like Google Drive integration, which allows you to present from your own documents and edit live, or like Google Effects, which allows you to don silly hats and monocles while you speak. But perhaps best of all, Hangouts on Air are automatically streamed to your company YouTube channel to be archived for now and every more. This is great from an SEO standpoint, as YouTube is now the second largest search engine. It also allows far more followers to watch what you have to say on their own time, thereby broadening your reach.
As you can probably imagine, there are myriad ways to take advantage of this tool. Earlier this year,Glamour did an entire Hangout campaign, featuring staffers and celebs. Each Hangout was sponsored by a brand, creating ample opportunities for product placement while still providing interesting and relevant content to followers. In doing Hangouts in an intense campaign style, the magazine could build momentum as they went, with each Hangout generating more excitement about the next.
Dell, on the other hand, uses Hangouts as a form of customer service. The company produces Hangout videos to address common user concerns, like how to accomplish true virtualization. It also has hosted numerous Hangouts to answer specific user questions. Together, this is a great strategy, adding to the company’s customer-facing knowledge base and helping customers feel heard and cared for.
Of course, there are numerous other ways to use Hangouts successfully—far more than we have time for here! For more inspiration, I again suggesting checking out Cadbury’s page, as their Hangouts tend to include fun cooking tips and even chocolate making demonstration sessions. The NY Times also did a great job in the lead up to the London Olympics, hosting Hangout sessions with Olympic athletes. Marvel has used Hangouts to announce the release of Avengers vs. X-Men, finding an eager audience waiting to engage and spread the word. The opportunities for Hangouts are as open ended as you are.
What This Means for You:
- Use Hangouts to directly connect with your customers. Whether it’s a customer service call to troubleshoot an issue, a demonstration, a tour of your offices, a conversation with a public figure or even a dance party (depending, of course, on the tone and voice of your business), use Hangouts as a way to humanize your brand and get to know your customers. Keep in mind that a regular Hangout has a cap of 10 people (15 if you’ve got Google Apps), but you can always reach more people using the Hangouts on Air feature. If you decide to go this latter route, make sure to properly fill out the information for your streamed video with the proper keywords so you can also benefit from an SEO-standpoint.
- Co-market with other businesses. Your Hangouts don’t have to be all you, all the time. If, like Glamour, there are brands that complement your business well, go in on a Hangout together. One of you could become a sponsor of the other Hangout, or you could simply incorporate your partner’s products into your set. Brainstorm ideas together for creative ways to ride each other’s coattails.
- Generate excitement about new products, releases or promotions. A status update about a new product is one thing; a Hangout run by an enthusiastic employee is another. When you’ve got something new to announce, invite your most avid fans for a Hangout in which you can discuss all the need-to-knows about your project. Then grab that YouTube link and have your influencers spread the word.
Of course, all of G+’s many neat tools aside, nothing beats really great content. When you’re NASA, you’ve got (literally) out of this world content spilling out of every pore, but it’s again their grasp of their platform that really makes them so popular.
Just take a look at their page if you need any proof.
Even on the relatively slow news day as of the writing of this article, posts included stunning pictures of a Russian lava flow, employee and project features and news about a solar filament disruption. Previously, NASA has also hosted Hangouts linking fans directly with astronauts, posted videos of the lunar eclipse and recruited followers to send fun holiday greetings into space. In fact, NASA has so much cool content, it has separate pages for many of its different projects, like NASA Goddard and NASA Earth Observatory.
What This Means for You:
- Make or curate great content. Look, I know not everyone can be NASA. But you can still make your G+ page vibrant and engaging with a stream of excellent content, whether you create it yourself or pull from tastemakers within your industry. NASA posts 5 to 15 times a day, and while it’s best not to post anything if it’s going to be spam, the more frequently you have something interesting to share, the more avid your following will be.
- Make your content interactive. Great content isn’t always about what you’re sending out to your followers. You’ll really get them engaged when they’re competing in a contest or actively helping out. Whether it’s an invite to send astronauts cards or a baking contest, give your followers something to do and they’ll always have a reason to keep coming back.
From big brands to small, Google+ is a must-have social platform, allowing businesses to establish their brands, spread the word about their products and deepen their relationship with a user base that’s growing every day. For an even deeper look at how to master this powerful site, we highly recommend this Guide to Google+, which will take you through all the finer details of what the platform can do for you. So create your page and get going!