Many small businesses don’t know what to think about Google+, Google’s social network.  They realize that social networking is no longer just the domain of college students.  Facebook and Twitter have more than 845 million and 140 million users respectively, and many small businesses already leverage these channels to foster relationships with customers.  But every month, there seems to be a new social network “opportunity” for small businesses, and many small businesses already have a difficult time just keeping up with Facebook.  Google+ is steadily gaining users and Google is heavily promoting it, but reviews to this point have been mixed and the Google+ user community is still relatively small.  Many small businesses have questioned why they need “another Facebook” and are wondering why they should invest in a Google+ presence.

A quick Google+ review

Generally speaking, Google+ is Google’s version of Facebook, but it is much smaller. Like Facebook, Google+ is a social networking platform that allows small businesses to communicate with customers and gain feedback. Google+ launched in June 2011 and its number of users has grown consistently since that time.  Larry Page, Google’s CEO recently reported that Google+ has grown to over 100 million active users worldwide.  The big question though is what active means.  The actual amount of time that users spend on Google+ is still low by most accounts.  Google is forcing new Gmail and YouTube users to create a Google+ profile, so the number of Google+ users is probably misleading and many Google+ users may just be testing it out.

Google+ for small businesses

While Google+ does not have the same community size or engagement level that Facebook does, it may someday.   Despite the fact that its support for many past products was half-hearted at best, Google appears fully committed to Google+.  Google has integrated Google+ into the Google community (Gmail, YouTube, etc) and Google+ will continue to grow in importance.  Creating a Google+ business page now may give you a head start over your competition.

The future aside, Google+ is still a nice social platform today for engaging customers.  Google+ offers a good user experience. Sharing content is relatively straightforward. Site navigation is more logical than Facebook.  Google+ is also tailor made for segment marketing.  In particular, its easy to segment your community and send send different communications to different groups of users (Google calls these groups circles).  For example, a scuba diving retailer could have one circle for contacts who are interested in LED dive lights, another circle for contacts who are interested in all scuba diving equipment, and a third circle for contacts who are interested in anything related to scuba diving.

As compelling as these reasons are, the strongest reason for small businesses to engage on Google+ may actually be better organic search results.  Recently, it’s become clear that Google+ information is impacting Google search results.  Small businesses with an active, relevant Google+ business page will likely have an advantage in organic Google search engine rankings relative to businesses that do not.

Board the Google+ train

Does every small business need to be on Google+ at this point?  Maybe not, but all small businesses can benefit from stronger customer relationships and greater customer feedback.   In addition, small businesses that sell directly to consumers (B2C) or depend upon organic search traffic from Google are already at a competitive disadvantage if they’re not riding the Google+ train.  Creating a Google+ page is quick and easy, so start now and set up a Google+ page.

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Mike Ketcham is the founder of Dive Lights Direct, an e-commerce retailer of dive lights for recreational, technical and photo/video divers.   As you might expect, you can find Dive Lights Direct on Google+.

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