January 17, 2014 in Business

Small business owners turning to Google Plus

Social layer allows firms to share their thoughts and content
Virginia Bridges McClatchy-Tribune
 

Dr. Isaac Porter does an eye examination on Neville Wood at his clinic in Raleigh, N.C., on Jan. 9. The Lowry Porter Opthalmology practice uses Google Plus to communicate with patients.
(Full-size photo)

Features

Communities: A message board in which various parties contribute to a conversation on one specific topic.

Hangouts: Enable conversations via text and video over the Internet with up to nine people.

Helpouts: Allow users to get and give help over live video.

Authorship: Allows users to link their Google Plus profile, and a photograph, with content that they produce.

Dr. Isaac Porter is using his Google Plus profile page to build his brand, one post at a time.

“The whole key of it is just building my personal brand, our reputation, putting it out there when people are looking, if they see some of these signals, profiles online, it can help them trust us more,” said Porter, 35, owner and practicing physician at Lowry Porter Ophthalmology in Raleigh, N.C.

A Google Plus user since early 2012, Porter also has Facebook and Twitter pages, but Google Plus is his business and brand development headquarters.

Porter uses Google Plus Communities to discuss challenges and new procedures with other eye doctors and to learn about health care marketing. He turns to Authorship to link his face and blue shirt and tie with his business results on a Google Search. And he uses Hangouts to make videos, interview a patient in England, and talk to other experts across the U.S.

“One of the things that is good about Google Plus is every time you make a new post, that creates a new Web page just for that post,” he said. “And there’s a possibility that that page itself will show up in Google Search results.”

Google Plus is a social layer of Google that the company is weaving into all of its services, said Jesse Wojdylo, a copywriter, Google Plus expert and owner of Wojdylo Social Media and Content Writing in Chapel Hill, N.C.

“In essence, it is a way for people to share their thoughts, feeling and content across all Google products,” Wojdylo said, which range from YouTube and analytics to Gmail and paid advertising options.

Launched in 2011, Google Plus has more than 300 million active monthly users, compared to 540 million active monthly users of Google services, according to statistics released last fall. Over the years, Google Plus users have evolved from tech geeks and social media marketers, to brands building their own Google Plus empires, according to Mark Traphagen, senior director of online marketing at Internet marketing firm Stone Temple Consulting.

“While networks like Facebook work better for keeping in touch with your existing customers, Google Plus provides unique opportunities to reach out to prospects who never would find you there,” Traphagen wrote in an email. “And businesses should not ignore the power of Google Plus to influence Google Search, where their potential customers are looking for what they have to offer.”

Google Plus is particularly beneficial for businesses, such as dentists, doctors and landscapers, who are on a constant quest to elevate their brand and search ranking in a competitive environment, Wojdylo said.

A few of the features and products available with Google Plus:

• Communities: Wojdylo likened Google Communities to a message board in which various parties contribute to a conversation on one specific topic.

Researching, connecting and commenting in meaningful Communities will help brands and owners increase their presence in other peoples’ circles, Google’s version of following someone, Wojdylo said.

• Hangouts: Hangouts enable conversations via text and video.

Hangouts allow users to schedule “Hangouts on Air” and have video conversations over the Internet with up to nine people.

The live video can be promoted on a dedicated page and will become a sharable YouTube video.

• Helpouts: In November, Google rolled out Helpouts, which allows users to get and give help over live video.

Owners can use Helpouts for a quick answer to a question on topics like fixing a garage or removing a computer virus.


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