Google Plus

Despite the fact that it's the fastest-growing social networking site around – and the one that might have the biggest potential going forward because of the support it gets from the world's most popular search engine – a lot of business owners, executives, and marketers just don't understand Google+ (also known as Google Plus or G+) as well as they would like to. In fact, many are a lot less familiar with Google+, and its features, than they are social sites like Facebook and Twitter that could have, arguably, less online marketing power.

In one sense, this is only natural. Google+ is still the newest of these sites, and its features and buzzwords change more rapidly than the others do. Still, if you're serious about generating leads from your business website, there isn't any excuse for failing to put together a comprehensive social media marketing plan, Google+ included.

With that in mind, here are some great tips for making the most of your Google+ profile:

Fill in the blanks.

This is good advice for any social media platform, but especially one that's growing as quickly as Google+ is. Make sure you've filled out all the important sections, with a current photo and searchable keywords to match.

Make the most of your hovercard.

This is the "snapshot" people will see about you and your work when they mouse over your identity. For that reason it should have a quick, compelling bio matched with a professional, inviting photo. This might be your one and only chance to get someone to follow you, so put your best virtual foot forward.

Turn your profile into an introduction.

The best Google+ profiles aren't the ones that read like bland corporate descriptions. Instead, they have all of the basic facts, but also hint at a bit of expertise, and maybe even a little bit of passion. Post the kind of profile that would make others want to meet you, not just one that shares the basics.

Make your Google+ page easy to find.

Your website, blog post, and other forms of content should all have links and invitations that point to your Google+ page. Over time, the right people will figure out exactly where to find you.

Let your ideas come full circle.

Circles are a great forum for sharing thoughts and ideas. Don't just join circles relevant to your business or industry, invite others that you would like to connect with to participate in them, too.

Know the contacts you're trying to meet.

We've written a lot about marketing personas lately, but it's worth bringing them up again with relation to Google+. When you know what kinds of customers you want to meet, you can put together your content and updates in a way that appeals to them.

Join relevant discussions and hangouts.

As with LinkedIn, a lot of the real action on Google+ doesn't take place near your profile, but in relevant discussion groups and hangouts. Join these and be active, but concentrate on sharing ideas rather than marketing pitches – if people want to know more about your work, they'll connect with you and ask.

Promote other content and offers.

As your Google+ following grows, you can use your profile to promote blog posts, content, and offers from your website. Just be sure you don't go overboard and blanket your contacts with solicitations.

In essence, the best way to use Google+ is the same way you would any other social media platform. But, before you can do that, you have to understand how things like circles, hovercards, and hangouts work, which takes a little bit of time and effort.

If you feel like you can't make the time to master Google+ and make it part of your online strategy, just remember that more and more of your potential customers are flocking to the site… and if they aren't finding you there, you can be sure they're running into some of your competitors.

Photo Credit: Google Plus/shutterstock/istockphoto

By Randy Milanovic