By Lucy Reeves, Co-Founder of www.muddymatches.co.uk

When it comes to promoting your business through social networking, your thoughts probably turn to Facebook or Twitter. However, if you’re looking to improve your Google ranking or to link your social networking with other aspects of your business, your best bet is to focus on Google+.

Where do I start?
The best place to start is to set up a basic profile in the same way you would a Facebook account. Try to include as many details about your business as possible and any keywords that you would like to be known for. For example, as a countryside dating website, we have included ‘rural online dating’ and ‘country-minded people’ within our introduction as these are key phrases that sum up our business.

What are the advantages of using Google+?
It combines familiar functions — If you’re used to using Facebook and LinkedIn, then Google+ will seem familiar. The layout is similar to Facebook (with photos, posts and an equivalent of ‘likes’) and many of the functions fit in with a professional image, like LinkedIn.

It can boost your Google ranking - The art of search engine optimization is constantly changing, but SEO experts seem to agree that a strong level of interaction on Google+ has a positive effect on your Google rankings.

It’s easy to search for information - For a company famed for their search engine; it’s no wonder that Google+ has one of the most user-friendly search functions of any social networking site. You can search within your own network or look for posts on a particular topic from across the Google+ network. This can be very handy if you are looking to connect with complementarybusinesses, looking for business advice or looking to connect with customers.

You can create ’circles’ — In the same way you might have your phonebook divided into family, friends and work, you can group together your contacts on Google+ and treat each group differently. For example, you might wish to share your holiday snaps with your friends, but not with your family.

You can join groups — If you’re a fan of joining groups on LinkedIn, then you will like the ‘community’ function of Google+, which allows you to set up and join groups based on your particular interests. If you post a comment within a discussion you will also be notified if you receive a reply.

The video chat is free — When we asked the question ‘What do you like best about Google+?’ to friends on our social networking sites, the most common answer was Google Hangouts (which is Google’s equivalent of Skype). The free video conferences allow up to 10 people to interact at one time and if you want to share your message with a wider audience you can also publically air your conference online.

What are the disadvantages?
In the world of social networking Google+ is the party that everyone tells you is going to be amazing, but none of your friends are going to. In our experience Google+ isn’t as popular as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and many people say that they don’t want to have to manage another social networking site.

It may be slow to gain popularity, but by inviting friends, family and colleagues to join you will be able to grow your network and to make the most of the functionality together.