Guest post written by Jessica Edmondson.
You’ve heard it a million times. As a small business, you must have a Facebook page, and a Twitter profile, and you should also be on LinkedIn and Google+, and hey, why not throw Pinterest in there too?
It’s not that this advice is wrong, really. All of these platforms can be an important part for your content marketing calendar. It’s just that different audiences are attracted to social networking sites for different reasons. Someone who follows your Facebook page is primed to expect a different kind of content than he or she will consume on your Twitter feed.
Well, a subject that’s best communicated in 200 words just isn’t going to shrink down to 140 characters very well. What’s more, if you have someone who follows you on multiple pages, that person will be bored if you’re providing him or her with identical content on all those channels. This gives people less motivation to follow you on multiple platforms, reducing the amount of interactions you can have and defeating the point of having more than one channel in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the temptation to duplicate content. For small or micro businesses, you’ve barely got the time and energy to do a good job with one social media profile, let alone be a pro at all the social channels out there. I get it, but still I’m going to make the sacrilegious claim that the solution to this isn’t spreading yourself thin across all platforms “just because.” Instead, you should whittle your social media efforts down to just a couple of sites.
And one of them should be Google+.
Why? Despite a rocky start, Google+ usage has now surpassed that of both LinkedIn and Twitter. According to a recent study commissioned by Janrain, Google+ is in second place behind Facebook, garnering a full 34 percent of social logins. In fact, a recent study by Searchmetrics predicts, based on current monthly growth rates, that Google+ usage could surpass that of Facebook as soon as 2016.
Google+ is also a must-do from a production and distribution standpoint. It boasts a number of tools that help small businesses better connect with followers and promote engagement. It’s also highly visual, which is even better for engagement rates. This also means you’ll have a host of powerful Google services, such as YouTube and Google Docs, integrated into one platform. That makes coming up with content strategies and getting your message out there that much easier.
In fact, using Google+ can be a great way to establish yourself within your niche and really master your unique brand voice. For a deeper look into the “how” of Google+ marketing, I’m going to break up this discussion into a two-part series where I’ll first discuss how you can make the most of the platform with Communities and posting visual Google+ content.
Let’s get started.
1. Use Communities to Find a Content Niche
Chances are, you’ve already got an idea of who your target customers are and hopefully what they’re looking for in your product. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got a content marketing niche that distinguishes you from your competitors.
Let’s say that you sell shoes, and that the main difference between your shoe line and that of your competitor’s is that yours is made from organic material. That single difference can give you a big edge in the content department, because it allows you to explore an entirely different media focus. Rather than simply posting on G+ about your different styles or sales, you could publish a series of articles on the benefits of using organic materials for your products. This is also a great way to leverage long-tail keywords.
You could have regular tips promoting organic living far beyond the topic of shoes. You could challenge your followers to see if your shoes will compost within a certain time frame using a certain set of decomposing bugs, and post photos of the results. See how that’s so much more than creating a strategy around the general topic of “shoes”?
If you don’t have your content niche already, Google+ Communities is a great way to find it.
Located on the dropdown G+ menu, Communities is a bit like groups on other platforms. Here, like-minded individuals can gather to discuss just about every topic under the sun, whether that’s “Social Media Strategy” or “Why Chocolate Is Awesome.”
As a business, this is a great place to find subtopics related to your main focus, participate in relevant discussions, and see what your potential followers are talking about. Chances are, you’ll see knowledge gaps your business just might be poised to fill. This will provide you with a wealth of ideas for posts you can promote on the site. And if that gap isn’t big enough, there might even be the opportunity for you to form your own new Community and become a leader. This will go a long way toward establishing your reputation as an expert in your field.
2. Take Advantage of the Visual Nature of the Platform
If there’s one thing even detractors of G+ can’t deny, it’s that the platform looks good. It’s highly intuitive to use, and its visual nature is in sync with consumer behavior. (Social media users prefer consuming photos over just about any other medium, something they demonstrate with clicks and shares).
That’s something any small business would be remiss not to take advantage of. G+ can be adeptly used to do everything from posting photos that provide an inside glimpse of the office to showing your product in production or out in the field with your customers. As discussed in-depth here, posting photos from community events is also an effective form of content marketing, helping to create a better sense of your company’s culture and voice. The Pablove Foundation, pictured below, is just one such example.
Pablove also posts videos regularly, starring community members, volunteers, and staff members to discuss various projects and report from the field. This is another great way to embrace the visuals of the platform and mix up the content approach, increasing shares along the way.
Even if you’re just sharing a link to a blog post, photos are still crucial. For this, I highly recommend getting rid of the small image that Google automatically pulls when you insert a link in lieu of a screenshot or other more compelling photo. This can be uploaded easily with the photo button on the post box.
With Communities being a great source to find your content niche and with Google+ naturally being visually appealing to your customers, Google+ marketing will help you save time and better focus your marketing efforts instead of spreading yourself thin across all the social channels out there.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in this Google+ series, where you’ll get tips on how to use Circles, share resources, and Hangout with your customers.
Jessica is a writer and content marketer at Distilled, a creative online marketing company. She particularly fancies small business topics that involve social media and branding. You can circle her on Google+ here or follow her on Twitter here.