This morning Energy Circle's CEO Peter Troast and I sat in on a webinar by Chris Brogan about using Google Plus (Google+) for your business. Chris Brogan is among the few people who can legitimately claim the title of "social media guru" -- he's a New York Times Bestselling Author on the topic, and his new book, "Google+ for Business: How Google's Social Network Changes Everything" is set to come out around holiday time next month. Most likely, it will be the definitive guide to using Google Plus for businesses. (He's also offering a couple more webinars on Google+ if you'd like to join one.)
Anyway, we came away from the webinar with a few good nuggets. Google Plus Business Pages are still relatively new, and it's interesting to see how businesses are using the platform. While it may seem like Twitter and Facebook are enough work already -- "why do we need another social media platform?," you're asking -- there are a few solid reasons that Google Plus is worth jumping into for Home Performance businesses.
That's not to say that Google Plus will replace Facebook or Twitter; they serve their functions well, Google Plus serves its own. But check out the following insights, courtesy of Brogan, and let us know whether you agree, or if you think Google Plus will flounder (as some have suggested).
Facebook is great for connecting with people you already know. Google Plus is better for connecting with people who share the same interests as you.
Despite the presence of business pages on Facebook, it's still a platform that's largely geared towards connecting with people you already know. On the business side of things, it's great for connecting with friends and family, existing customers, and friends and family of existing customers. Most of the businesses that I "like," for example, are businesses that I have some connection with -- either they're local businesses that I'm familiar with, or they're run by people I know. Twitter, on the other hand, is all about extending your social network beyond people that you know personally. (For example, I'm reluctant to request friendship on Facebook from someone I don't actually know, whereas on Twitter I'll follow all kinds of people depending on whether they post interesting things, without any hesitation.) Google Plus gives you the best of both worlds. Because of the "circle" setup, which lets you group your contacts into circles like "friends," "family," "colleagues," "energy people," etc, it's much more conducive to reaching a broader audience than Facebook. You can pick which circles you share which content with, which means you don't need to be best friends with every one of your contacts.
Twitter is great for short interactions. Google Plus is better for longer conversations.
Twitter is all about conversation, but because of the way the timeline works (and because of the famous character limit), it's difficult to get too in-depth. Conversations that begin on Twitter will often end up on a blog comment stream or in some other location. Google Plus is better for going in depth, because, like Facebook, it allows you to comment directly underneath any given piece of content. So, for example, if you post a video, every comment made by every one of your contacts will show up directly beneath the photo. Anyone who views the photo will be able to see the whole conversation, and can contribute without having to worry about whether they missed part of the conversation. It's all in one place, it's easy, and it doesn't have the character limit that Twitter has.
Google Plus "Hangouts" let you video chat with up to ten people. (More than Skype).
Video chatting is a very cool way to connect with people. You can have meetings, you can have discussions, you can have casual chats, whatever you want. Skype is a great service for video chats, but Google Plus actually lets you involve more people on the call than Skype -- up to ten. So if you have colleagues who are out of state, or if you want to just connect with other Home Performance pros around the country to discuss a topic, or if you want to save on driving time (and gas) with clients, hangouts are a great feature.
Your Business Page is your business card.
Brogan emphasized in the webinar that Google Plus is still driven largely by individual profiles. We can surmise that this is because people would rather connect with a person than with a "brand," but Brogan illustrated it by pointing out that 1,530 people are currently following Ford Motor Company. 19,605 people are following Scott Monty, Ford's social media director. That's a pretty big gap. The takeaway: focus on building your individual profile, and direct people to your business page as need be (use it like a business card). This is a different animal entirely from Twitter, where your individual profile and your business profile wouldn't be directly connected, and it's also different from Facebook, where people are more likely to "like" a business page than to try and befriend the business owner (unless they know him personally, of course).
Google is the #1 Search Engine in the world.
As Google+ continues to unfold, one thing that we do know is that it's Google. Sparing you the geekery, there are some very smart SEO folk who are making a compelling case that the value of participation in Google Plus is even greater than Facebook and Twitter. Google is the biggest search engine in the world by far, and it's well accepted that one of the primary reasons they created Google Plus was to enhance the quality of their search results by incorporating social data.
Also, while we're still waiting to see how Google Plus will integrate with Google Places, it's definitely gonna happen. If you want your website and your Places page to perform well in search, it's a good idea to stake your claim in Plus.
Skeptical? Enthused? Feel free to chime in in the comments section.
For more info on how social media can benefit Home Performance businesses, check out our free White Paper on the subject.