I hear it in the conversations I have every week, with business owners from all walks of life and in many different verticals - what is Google+ all about - especially when it comes to lead generation? Two years after launch, it seems that many still fail to see the justification for being on "yet another social platform", and that there's no differentiation, on the face of it, with the other more well-established behemoths of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Let's start with some figures. Google+ launched in mid-2011 with a "scarcity tactic" that allowed only GMail users to use the site, and to send their own allocation of 150 invitations (some scarcity, huh?!) to their most trusted contacts. The results was 20 Million user registrations in just 28 days - a feat that took both Facebook and Twitter 3 years to accomplish. Today, Google+ has somewhere in the region of 600 Million registered, and more than 250 Million active users.
So with such numbers on board, and a growing diversity of user profiles, backgrounds and demographics to connect with, where are the gains to be made?
Your profile is where your Google+ journey has to start. As with all social profiles, focus on completion and optimisation first. Keep your brand (professional or personal) consistent by using the same profile picture, for fast recognition, and be sure to use keywords associated with your area of expertise in your "About" section. There are SEO benefits, too, in haveing a well-oiled, and well-connected profile. Google's Authorship programme ensures that you're credited with author status for the blogs and articles you create regularly on the sites you manage.
Your Company Page on Google+, much like the equivalent property on Facebook, is the place to talk business. There's an added benefit here, in terms of time-saving, as your company page is manageable via Hootsuite - handy for scheduling company news and posts in advance. In terms of the benefits to your business, the more likely wins come from the links to local SEO and your "Places" listing - something that has been of more benefit, historically, to High Street businesses who rely on footfall, as well as the "trades"; plumbers, electricians and the like. As a traffic generator, you'll need to create and maintain an active and attractive presence on your company page - posting valuable content and links - to make the inroads you seek.
In our opinion, this is where the real lead generation "juice" is right now. On the face of it, the Communities area of Google+ is in its infancy. Comparing a community on G+ with a Facebook Group on the same topic will likely reveal a stark contrast in member numbers, favouring the Zuckerberg camp. However, the improved topic focus, coupled with the notifications inherent on Google+ (more disruptive to the user), means that interested parties are more likely to see your content. Provided you're grabbing attention, and introducing a compelling piece of content to this common-interest audience, you're more likely to get a positive response here than in many Facebook groups (we've tested it).
We're all for making digital marketing more manageable and sustainable, so hopefully we've added some justification into the mix, sufficient for you to at least test Plus's ability to generate leads in your niche. Let us know your experience, and any big wins, in the comments below.