Slideshow: 10 Essential Google+ Tips
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Google+ may not have an official business profile capability--yet--but that doesn't mean that the platform can't be used immediately to build your own personal brand and, by extension, your company's brand.
After a recent brouhaha when Google blocked Google+ profiles that didn't represent individuals, the company announced that it is accelerating its plans to implement business profiles on Google+. A timeframe has not been announced yet, but Google says the release will be "much faster than we expected."
Given that Google+ already has 20 million (and counting) users, it seems people were just waiting for Google to come out with a Facebook alternative, especially given the integration potential with Google's other apps and the privacy and security fears Facebook has fomented over time.
There's little doubt that Google+ will play a big role for business, which is all the more reason to make sure you are making the most of the platform to increase your influence and standing as a subject-matter expert.
"It's becoming increasingly more important to monitor your personal brand and understand how to maximize social profiles such as Google+ to command the top 10 Google search results for your own name," says Anna Hutson of Formic Media, which specializes in creating and optimizing search engine and social media marketing strategy. "Google+ profiles rank well, if not almost always in the top 10, for a branded search, which makes it imperative for professionals to have their profile created, filled out, and optimized."
Shama Kabani, CEO of the Marketing Zen Group, agrees, adding that the search engine power behind Google+ gives users the ability to show the world what they want it to see. "Because it's tied into Google and it's a Google product, your Google+ profiles will impact search in a huge manner," Kabani says. "At the end of the day, when someone Googles you, what do they come up with? What does the Web say about you? If you do nothing else on Google+ but set up a profile, the chances of that profile coming up when someone Googles you skyrockets."
Don't forget to make sure that your profile is open to search, and consider setting up Google+ Sparks. Sparks are similar to Google Alerts, pushing information to you based on keywords you set up. "It helps if you set up a Spark for your name, your company, and your industry terms," says Kabani. "That way, when someone mentions you or your company, you're going to be able to see it in Google+."
Sav Banerjee, the director of digital strategy at Rokkan, says another unique feature of Google+ that can be leveraged to build your brand is its openness: "You don't have to be friends with someone to invite them to join you in a conversation," Banerjee says. "On Facebook, it's more about a guarded wall, so you have to be friends with a person to see their comments."
As with any online presence--be it Twitter or comments on a message board--proving yourself as a subject matter expert is key to building your brand. Google+ increases the potential for doing so exponentially, says Banerjee, by providing the opportunity for users to comment on--and be recognized for--sharing insight. "For instance," says Banerjee, "[Google's] Larry Page and Sergey Brin both have their own Google+ pages. If they're asking a question to the community and you have valuable feedback to add to that conversation, that feedback may be +1'ed by Larry or Sergey. If someone is searching on your name and that result shows up at the top of the page, it automatically impacts your image in the market."
Google+ Circles also are an effective way to network, notes Marketing Zen Group's Kabani , especially since so many people have "lives in layers" (including, "frenemies"). The ability to create meaningful Circles and post relevant updates to specific Circles is another way to increase elevate your influence. "Circles really help you define that and name your own networking currency, if you will," says Kabani.
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