Google+ just opened its doors to the world by enabling open signups and moving to the beta, testing phase. The nascent social network is still thin on features and ways for businesses to properly use it, but its minimalist approach has gained Google+ millions of users in a very short period.
If you've tried it out for yourself, you'll know that making your way around Google+ is a simplistic, uncluttered experience compared to that of Facebook.
Back in July, Google promised that business profiles and features would be coming later, and as we get a little closer to when they are supposed to be announced later in 2011, it's time to position your business to take advantage in advance.
What's Coming for Business in Google+?
Google is preparing Google+ for businesses, as Christian Oestlien, Product Manager for Google+, explains in the video below. Rich analytics and the ability to connect to AdWords will be among those features.
Advertising will likely happen when Google rolls out business features, as Oestlien has stated that AdWords will play a part in the new business features. The ability to extend an existing advertising campaign into Google+ where you can target your client's interests will be invaluable. This will also extend Google's ability to advertise to local users for businesses that only offer services within a specific geographic area, exactly as you can on Facebook.
Stake Your Claim on Google+
Google has asked businesses to hold off on claiming user profiles for their businesses on Google+ until it rolls out certain features. This means that companies will likely have their own pages as they currently do on Facebook. As soon as Google+ business features are announced, you'll want to claim your company's home on Google+ by tasking someone in your company to watch for the announcement and setting up your Google+ business profile as soon as it comes.
You'll also want to stick with your company's real name. While it will be tempting to grab other names, such as keywords related to your business or misspelled versions of your company name, I suspect this practice will very likely be against Google policy. In addition to being your home on Google+, your business profile will be a valuable back-link for search engine optimization purposes.
If you've logged on and noticed that someone has taken your company name, don't panic. What they have created is not a business profile, and those are likely to be a little harder to establish than a user profile. This person is likely not from Coca-Cola, for example. Google has been actively cracking down on people who aren't using accounts for personal use only, and you can expect to be shut down if you try.
Prepare a list of influential people in your industry that you can apply later to your Google+ business profile.
What Edge Will Google+ Have Over Facebook?
Google+ will have a hard slog against Facebook. It will directly compete with the social network that has consistently gotten it right, especially when it comes to business use. Facebook's recently launched business portal is a great all-in-one tool for businesses to manage their presence on Facebook.
Google's biggest ally against Facebook is Facebook itself. Facebook users have been getting ornery about its massive makeover rolled out this week, to the point where many may look at Google+ as a viable, pared-down alternative. The new Facebook Timeline should be a big concern for all of those new hires in the marketplace who may not want their frat-party status updates resurrected for co-workers on Facebook to see.
There is also the issue of demographics. Google+ is young-adult rich. This is the golden demographic that most marketers want to reach, and being able to reach it through a campaign that can be tracked through Google Analytics is a very attractive value proposition. In addition, there are other tie-in services Google could build into its features for business, which we have covered here.
How Can I Prepare My Ad Campaigns?
You can start researching targeted ad campaigns and the keywords you'll need to use so that when Google+ for business is launched, all you'll need to do is push a button. The first businesses to get on the more competitive keywords on Google+ will likely reap some rich rewards.
Prepare Content for Your Profile
A Google+ business profile is likely to follow the model of the current Google+ user profile. Have a concise, one paragraph description of your company ready, as well as any company logos and product photos that you would want to add. Make sure that your "About" paragraph contains relevant keywords for your business, just like your website copy does.
If we follow the model of the current user profile, videos will be an option as well. If you don't already have a product or company video, consider shooting one, since this can set you apart from your competitors in Google+.
Get Comfortable With Hangouts and Huddles
Google+ Hangouts and Huddles appear extremely useful for videoconferencing and cloud collaboration, and as a webcast platform. While they aren't a replacement for services like GoToMeeting yet, they do a great basic job and may be expanded on in the future.
While we can't say exactly when the new business features will be announced, they're promised for later in 2011, which could mean anytime between now and the end of the year. Prepare your company to hop on as soon as you can.
Angela West dreams of opening a Fallout-themed pub featuring wait staff with Pip-Boys. She's written for big insurance companies, small wildlife control businesses, gourmet food chains, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @angelawest.