More and more people are clicking on Google’s “+ 1” button, the equivalent of Facebook’s “Like” button. Paul Allen, founder of Ancestry.com, estimates that Google+ has more than 62 million users, with about 635,000 new accounts each day. Chitika, a data analytics company, reports the new social media phenomenon saw a whopping 118 percent growth spurt just from September to November last year. With good reason: Google+ trims the fat from functions like unwanted status updates, event invites and game requests, and it puts everything into a nice, clean interface. It’s straight to the point and offers a quicker look into what you want to know. Entrepreneurs can use it to start, promote or grow their business. Professionals can use it as a business card.
Google+ has five main components: Profile, Messenger, Circles, Stream and Photos. Profile includes your default picture, contact information and a quick summary of posts and photos. The absolute greatest thing about Google+ is the ability to hangout, a function located within Messenger. If you have a smartphone with a front-facing camera, this is the group-chat app to have. You can host up to nine people in a group video chat. If you are using a computer, you can see the other eight people at the same time. If you’re using a smartphone, the app toggles each person’s picture. If you want to address a particular person only in the chat, simply stop on the person’s picture and the person will know that you are speaking to him or her alone.
Circles keep your contacts organized and help when deciding what you wish to share — such as photos, links and articles — and with whom you want to share them. You can have as many circles as you like and you can be very specific about what you want to share with each one. Some common circles are “friends,” “acquaintances,” “co-workers” and “family.” Stream is your timeline, where you can share such categories as videos, photos and status updates. Like the Twitter stream but unlike Facebook, you choose what you want to show. You can also follow different subject categories, such as fashion, technology or current news updates. The Photos section is similar to your Facebook account in that you can create albums, tag photos and choose the circles with whom you would like to share those pictures.
Business owners and professionals
To use Google+ as a business tool, entrepreneurs should first organize their circles in order to control who sees which posts. Examples of business-related circles are “employees,” “customers,” “vendors,” “accounts payable” and “accounts receivable.” If you want to run a promotional deal for your best customers, you can select the appropriate circle and post directly to those in it. What if you had to call an emergency meeting on a holiday? Instead of dragging everyone into the office, instruct your team to hangout, then engage the videoconference function. Are you a distributor? Google’s +1 button allows you to let people know about products without annoying gimmicks like Internet pop-up ads. From your Google+ page you can share a direct link to the product and assign the circles you want to see that product.
What if the product is your expertise? I know of real estate agents and personal shoppers who host their own professional “Profile” Google+ page. It’s like a digital business card. It has your name, contact information, picture and a short bio that explains how you can help. Those interested in your expertise can Google you and add you to their circles. They will always know where to find you.
Whatever your profession or business, definitely consider using Google+ as an enhancement. If you already have a dot-com site, you can add the Google+ badge to it. According to Google, adding the badge to your page will increase your followers by 38 percent. You will grow your business just by having a profile and having people subscribe to your RSS feeds.