google-plus-for-business-by-leapdog-marketingIn fact, according to Google, Google+ has 500 million users, of which 235 million are active. So even if Google is inflating the numbers, cut them in half and you still have more than 117 million active users.

And that search engine everyone talks about so much? Everything you post on Google+ is indexed by Google’s search engine. So when you post about how your soup is the best soup in all of [insert big-name city here], your ranking gets a boost whenever someone googles “what’s the best soup in [insert big-name city here].”

Even better for Google+ business users: Google is now giving more weight to links posted on social media than it gives to links from other websites. That means the pillar of search engine optimization for the last 10 years is changing.

“Businesses have utterly held back,” said Chris Broganwho wrote the book Google+ for Business: How Google’s Social Network Changes Everything, adding that only about half of small businesses have embraced the new social media. “There’s a malaise about the product. But Google Local is deeply embedded in Google+, so if you’re not involved, you’re saying, ‘I would like to not show up in search rankings.’ ”

So it’s settled, then: You’re getting on Google+.

Click here to read Google’s how-to for businesses, and if you want the basic guide to using it, check this one out.

Done with that? Now read on to see how Google+ can grow your business.

If you bought a brand new refrigerator and opened it up, would you be upset that there’s no broccoli?

That’s the question posed by Brogan about businesses finding they’re not having a big network of friends on Google+. So here’s three tips to get you started:

  • People surfing: Find people — remember, Google+ has a search function — and give them the old +1 follow.
  • Search surfing: Sell widgets? Search for widgets and widget accessories. Then give them the old +1 follow.
  • Community surfing: There’s a widget and widget accessory community in your area, guaranteed. These are potential customers. So get in there, post, share knowledge and interact any way you can.

Need help? There are third-party apps — Brogan swears by — that can help you scrape the information barrel to find customers.

If and Barack Obama jumped off a cliff, would you jump off it, too?

Oh, right. Yeah, me too, now that you mention it.

The POTUS and the coolest man anyone knows have hosted video chats on Google+ hangouts. So that’s your cue to get on board.

Hangouts allow 10 people to interact at one time, and you can also broadcast it live on Youtube, where the archive will end up.

And while you’re not going to have the built-in audience of the president, what you do have is a particular set of skills. You’re a business. Chances are, no matter what you do, you can talk into a camera about it, offer some expertise and people will want to watch it.

After all, theoretically you do something so well people pay you to do it.

“It gives business a free broadcast tower in the middle of a crowd sourcing platforming,” said Sarah Hill, a longtime broadcaster who works for Veterans United and has 2.5 million followers on Google+.

Have you ever connected with a profile on Linkedin that didn’t have a photo next to the name?

Of course not. You wouldn’t trust your own mother’s profile without a photo.

One of the key things about Google+ is the visual nature of it. Uploading pictures of you, your business and your cat will help. When someone googles your company, next to the normal results, your Google+ page will pop up in addition to what you’re doing.

The pictures not only add a layer of legitimacy, they will actually boost your ranking.

“Having your picture on there is a visual trigger,” said Michael David, founder of Austin, Texas-based Tasty Placement, which figured out a year ago that using Google+ will boost your ranking faster than other social media. “It increases and raises verification to see if you’re a trusted author. There are more eyeballs on Facebook, but it’s not a fair fight. Sorry, Facebook. Google has the engine.”

Sarah Hill likes my tie, the silver shiny one that’s striped.

That may mean nothing to you, but ask yourself this: When was the last time you sent out a text message or tweet only to later realize the person who read it didn’t understand the smiley face at the end means you’re not mad.

That happens for a simple reason. Your text-based communication is lacking voice, tone, inflection, facial cues and non-verbal body language. All those things change a text message from “I’m not mad” (a simple statement that no, the person is, in fact, not mad) to “I’m not mad” (said in way that means the person actually is mad).

Google+ hangouts aren’t doing anything Skype hasn’t been doing for a decade. But it does with a key twist of social networking.

All that’s to say this: The next time your customers are angry, why not meet them on Hangout to hash it out? Your satisfaction scores will get better, because when they say, “I’m not mad,” you’re not going to go mad figuring out whether they are, in fact, mad.

“You can understand their situation better,” Hill — who coined the term human media — said. “Because in the future, it’s going to be highly important to not just have a relationship, but a close relationship.”

  • Use Google+ hangouts to create how to videos and interact with customers.
  • If the normal tips aren’t working to build a following — searching, following and interacting, etc. — there are third-party apps to help.
  • Get the analytics. Google+ has actionable information and analytics to help see what’s working and spot trends.
  • Use communities to your advantage. If you sell widgets, there’s a widget community. Get involved and play.
  • Be wary of experts. Google+ is new and sexy, and anyone who does marketing at all would be a fool to say they know nothing about it.