Some business owners balk at the thought of adding Google+ to their social media marketing mix. But as the saying goes, they may be cutting off their nose to spite their face by doing so. The truth is, Google+ has some distinct advantages over Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as a marketing tool. And if you get started now, you will have the edge over your competition when they finally see the light and start using this service.
Two of the features that enable Google+ to stand out over its competition, and help companies to generate leads, are Hangouts and Communities. Hangouts are essentially online video chats that are limited to 10 people. Companies can also automatically record and broadcast their video chats on YouTube with Hangouts on Air, opening the potential audience for your video chat exponentially.
Hangouts as a Marketing Tool
Hangouts are an effective way for companies to connect with their target audience. You can invite prospects to attend a hangout in which you offer specific tips and strategies that will enhance their business. For instance, a lawyer might offer legal tips to small business owners during a hangout. At the end of the hangout, you can direct the prospects to your website for more information.
Many marketers are using Hangouts as a replacement for the traditional webinar, since they can include interactive presentations, expert interviews, and roundtable discussions. As a lead capture device, Hangouts aren’t quite as efficient as other webinar services like GoToMeeting, which require attendees to fill out a registration form. But there are ways around this. You can send out a registration form and invite people to sign up for the Hangout on a first-come, first-serve basis. Or you can capture leads by embedding the hangout on your website and including a traditional lead capture mechanism on the same page.
Communities Connect Brands with their Target Audience
Communities have the potential to be a real game changer for companies. Any Google+ user can form a community. They can be private or public, open to anyone or open by invitation only. Communities are similar to Facebook and LinkedIn groups, in that each community focuses on a particular topic or interest. But the main difference is that Google+ Pages can join a community and act like “real people.” This gives Pages a tremendous opportunity to build followers, increase brand awareness, develop brand authority and trust, and ultimately, generate leads for their businesses.
Pages can join communities that are of interest to their target audience, participate in discussions, and share useful, relevant information. A company can also start its own community and invite followers and prospects to join. It’s important to share relevant content with the community on a regular basis – both your own content and material you’ve curated from other sources.
Anyone with a Google account can participate in a public Community, so make sure you promote your Community on your website, in your blog posts and to your email subscribers. Let them know that the Community is a place where they can interact with your business and other interested people about a certain topic. Communities can also be useful as a customer service tool.
Google+ Pages have undergone a transformation since they were first launched. They can +1 other pages on the social networking site, although they still can’t +1 other content on the web. Only Google+ profiles can do that. Pages can also follow other people, without being included in a circle first.
Post Useful Content to Google+ Page
While Hangouts and Communities are effective tools, the most organic way to use Google+ for lead generation is to post compelling content updates to your page that include links back to your website. That content can include, but is not limited to:
- Blog posts
- Ebooks & White Papers
- Special Reports
Sharing this type of content on your company page will help to generate discussions, and invite your followers to visit your website where they can read or view the entire resource.
How often should you post? As with other social channels, it’s best to space out your content. Don’t post more than 2-3 times a day, and spread those posts out by several hours. Testing is key. Experiment with different times, and different types of content, to see what gets the best response from your followers.
Another smart strategy when posting is to tag other Google+ users, by including the + sign before their name. The added benefit here is that when you mention another user and page in your posts, your page will appear in the search results on Google+.
Google+ is a great visual medium, so take advantage of it. Share exclusive photos and videos with your followers, and include landing page links in the descriptions of these items. The goal is to encourage users to click the links, so they will visit your website, and then you can focus on lead conversion.
Circles Segment Target Audience
One of the more unique features that Google+ has to offer is the ability to segment your followers into Circles. This makes it easy for you to send different information, offers, etc. to different groups. You can put all of your customers into one circle, all of your prospects into another, and industry thought leaders into a third circle, for example. When you post, you can select which circle(s) should receive your update.
Another advantage of Google+ is that when you share an update with a specific Circle, you also have the option of sending an email notification to the members of that Circle. In order to prevent spamming, Google+ limits the number of members who can be notified via email to 100. But this strategy can be effective, especially if you are promoting something that is time-sensitive, such as a special offer or event.
These are just a few ways that Google+ can be used to generate leads for your business. What strategies have you tried that have been successful?