By Francesca James, Social Media Manager At Fresh Business Thinking

Google's online social networking service "Google Plus" has recently reached the 90 million user mark since it’s unveiling in June last year. Google+ , often shortened to G+ is a social networking and identity service, operated by Google.

The Google+ blog says that ‘among the most basic of human needs is the need to connect with others. With a smile, a laugh, a whisper or a cheer, we connect with others every single day'. Today, the connections between people increasingly happen online. Yet the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions are lost in the rigidness of our online tools.

Google say that the current way of ‘online sharing is awkward, even broken.’ They go on to say that in an effort to bring ‘the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software’, the Google+ project began.

Originally, Google+ was exclusively for humans and businesses didn’t get a look in. Despite the ban on businesses, many tried and created profile for organizations through personal accounts although these were often short-lived and closed down by Google. Google did however promise that formal business pages would come – and that they’d be worth waiting for. And in November they came.

Who can set up a page?

The signup process for Google+ Pages is split into five categories: Local Business or Place; Product or Brand; Company, Institution or Organisation; Arts, Entertainment or Sports; and Other.

The categories are, as I’m sure you’ll agree, broad enough to house pretty much any business type imaginable therefore it seems any business can at least attempt to harness the potential of the search giant’s latest offering.

Is it worth the effort?

I love social media, but even I felt a bit overwhelmed when another social network was added to the ever growing portfolio of networks that businesses ‘should’ be on, so I needed a little persuasion.

In a quest to find some, I visited the Google+ your business page. Google say that ‘creating a page brings you closer to your customers, fans and followers’ and that the network allows you to:

- Start real face-to-face conversations with Hangouts

- Create circles to share the right message with the right people.

- Help people recommend you on Google Search and ads with the +1 button

Not being a page owner myself…yet, my opinion was staunchly on the fence so I took to Twitter (my current network of choice), Facebook and my personal G+ to ask:

@Alexandramarr was the first to get back to me; she said that her business has a Google + business page although she’s perhaps not as active on it as she should be. One of the reasons she gives for this is because only one person can access it.

This is because G+ business pages are bound to one personal G+ account only. Therefore, before you get too click happy and set one up, it’s vital to consider who will own the business page. Once created, there is no leeway (at least at the moment) to transfer or share ownership.

Alexandra also said that a reason for her lack of activity on the network is due to the fact that you can't send updates from Tweetdeck, which supports what I would call the other ‘big 3’ — Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

I agree that for the time-hungry, the option for one post to perform multiple duties is appealing although from my limited experience of G+, I can see that it is different and perhaps should be kept that way. Its introduction to a multi-posting application like Tweetdeck would probably mean that it would start to churn out the same cloned information that is already clogging up our Twitter and Facebook feeds. Personally, if I visit a brand or company page in a different (albeit virtual) location, I want to see something different.

It’s not all bad though, I received some great comments about G+ pages — namely the fact that, as Malcolm Graham told me ‘It’s important for getting traffic to your site'. Online shopping site @shopstyleUK also tweeted me to let me know that they use it because ‘It's good for SEO’ (Search Engine Optimisation).

@LynseySweales from Norfolk based SocialB says that although G+ is still very new, ‘it’s obvious due to it being Google’s own social media network that it will have and is already having an impact in the SEO world.’

So what can you do as a business to make sure you don’t miss out on this SEO opportunity? Lynsy says that a business should ‘complete the ‘About Us’ section — and think about keywords, trying to link them to your website, blog, other social media platforms and then start to promote your Google+ page on your website and your other social media accounts. By promoting the page you will get more people adding your page to their ‘circle’

Becky Yardley, SEO Marketer for Appliances Online added that ‘businesses that create fresh, unique content that people will share on Google + will see an increase their ranking within search results because Google takes into account the level of engagement with your site through how many people have 1+ a piece of your content (similar to a Facebook Like)'.

So other than acting as a SEO power pill, what are the other benefits? As I said, I’m not professing to be a Google+ expert, so feel free to challenge me on these, but from what I see, here are some more reasons why G+ is here to stay:

- As I mentioned earlier, the audience is already huge, 90 million and growing — how many of those could be potential fans or customers?

- The circles function is a great way to target specific groups of people. You can post updates that will only be seen by certain smaller audiences, for example a special promotion that you want to keep exclusive.

- It’s Google — it looks great. It’s simple and clean and user friendly.

I think it’s clear, even from this introduction that Google+ has the potential to change the game. I also think that, knowing Google, the G+ project will evolve and in time it will become a vital component of any marketing plan.

Google+ probably isn’t for everyone, it may not be for your business but you’ll never know if you don’t try. Businesses who embrace new ways of communicating and engaging with their network are much more likely to find right platforms for them.

Ready to get your business set up on Google+ Pages? Head to the Google+ registration page to get started.

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