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April 17, 2015

The one social media platform every business MUST be on!

Social Media Logos

There are sooooooooooo many social media platforms these days! Makes it almost impossible to keep up, isn’t it?

Not only that, it seems like a new one is popping up every single week!

For example, have you ever heard of Tsu?

It’s a new (and rather controversial) social network which aims to be kind of like Facebook but with the big difference that they promise to share with you the revenue they generate from advertising in return for you sharing content and generally being active on the platform.

The big emphasis is on promise as they are yet to deliver any actual cash to people’s bank accounts.

What about these five so called ‘up and coming’ new social media platforms?

Bottom line:

Social media has become a 'jungle'! Click To Tweet

Not only is it extremely hard to figure out for small business owners but it also puts a huge pressure on their (and everyone’s) most precious resource: TIME!

After all, time is probably the only thing none of us can buy or borrow more of!

Let me ask you this: can you really afford to spend an hour every day posting and commenting on Facebook?

If you are active on Facebook at the moment, are you seeing good results from the time you spend on it?

For a business, the only results that matter are $$$ (or what’s often referred to as Return on Investment – ROI)!

Are you seeing good ROI from the time you invest in social? Click To Tweet

If you are one of the few small business owners who are able to make Facebook work for them (and by ‘work’ I mean that you can quantify how many actual $$$ your time there adds to your bank balance) then by all means go crazy.

However, if like the majority of small business owners, you spend a lot of time on it and see very little results, I humbly suggest you stop now!

More and more businesses are starting to realise that Facebook is simply not worth their effort. Some of these business are extremely Internet savvy and are absolute leaders in their industries.

For example, one of the biggest Internet Marketing Blogs on the Internet have recently decided to completely delete their Facebook page (which had more than 38,000 fans)!

These are people who teach Internet Marketing for a living! If they have made such a drastic decision, what does it mean to you?

Look, there are effective ways to get quantifiable and measurable results from Facebook but they don’t involve posting and commenting on the platform or even maintaining a Facebook page at all but that’s a discussion for another time…

If you are a small business owner that hasn’t jumped on the ‘Facebook bandwagon’ yet, I humbly suggest that you don’t bother! You can still use it and make money from it but you don’t need to maintain an ‘official’ Facebook presence for your business in the form of a Facebook page.

There is, however, one social media platform that every single business MUST have a presence on and maintain a page for their business. No exceptions!

When I say “have a presence” I don’t mean you have to go on it regularly and post stuff (even though it definitely helps!). I just mean that you literally need to be present on it in the form of a page for your business (whether you have a physical shop or business premises or not!).

Actually no, I tell a lie…

If getting visitors to your website from Google is not that important to you or if you don’t care whether people find your business when they search on Google Maps, you don’t need to bother with this particular social media platform as well.

You can stop reading this now and move on with your day.

Oh, you’re still here? Ok then, let’s keep going. 😉

So what is this platform everyone MUST be on? Is it LinkedIn?

That’s actually not a bad guess. LinkedIn can be an extremely powerful platform for acquiring clients and leads and also building your personal brand as an expert in your field.

For businesses in certain industries (and in these industries only), LinkedIn can be an absolute gold mine! If you are in these industries and are not already active on LinkedIn, you are leaving a lot of money on the table that your competitors who are on it are only too willing to take instead of you.

So you say that LinkedIn is only valuable to people in certain industries? Didn’t you just say that this is a social media platform that EVERY business must be on?

I sure did and I stand by my previous statement.

The reason for that is that the social media platform I’m referring to is not LinkedIn, It’s Google+ !

Every single business MUST be on Google+, no exceptions Click To Tweet

What is Google+?

While it is true that Google+ is a social network in its ‘traditional’ sense (you can share stuff, upload photos and connect with other people and companies), it is actually a lot more than this!

Google themselves often describe Google+ as the “social layer” of their services.

Google+ is the social layer of @Google and establishes your identity across their services Click To Tweet

What this means in simple terms is that Google uses Google+ to firstly make sure you are a real person or business (to prevent the creation of fake accounts by automatic tools that are then often used to generate spam or even worse) and secondly to learn more about you so that it can serve you more relevant content and better search results, and most importantly ads, as you use their services.

After all, showing you ads on various websites as you browse across the net is how Google makes almost all their money!

Google revenue breakdown

 

Here is a short video explaining the concept of the “social layer and identity service” in a little bit more detail.

For a less serious look at Google+ which also gives a good overview of some of its features, you can check out this pretty cool 2 minute music clip.

 

So why is Google+ so important to ME as a small business owner?

Remember how I previously said that Google+ is not just a social media platform but is also used by Google as a “social layer” and “identity service” for all their other services?

What does it mean exactly?

Well, to be perfectly honest with you, these are quite complex concepts to explain to complete beginners, especially if you have never used Google+ before or more broadly, never used Gmail or had a user account with Google.

However, I’ll try to do my best to walk you through it step by step in a way that will be easy for you to understand (hopefully).

Personalised Search results

Before we get into the ‘nitty gritty’ of it, let me ask you this:

What has made @Google the undisputed king of search engines? Click To Tweet

When two Ph.D. students from Stanford university first created what is now Google all the way back in 1995, there were already search engines around and they were pretty good as well.

The two biggest and most popular search engines at the time were something called Alta Vista and a company which still exists today – Yahoo (who actually purchased Alta Visa in the early 2000s).

Back then Yahoo was basically what is Google today – the undisputed ‘king’ of the Internet!

So how was Google able to ‘dethrone’ Yahoo and take its place?

To put it in a single sentence: they were able to provide a better user experience than Yahoo!

Better user experience when it comes to search engines is not just more relevant, accurate and up-to-date search results but also a search engine that is easier to use and that has a better user interface.

When you go to Google’s homepage today, it still looks pretty much the same as it did when they first launched: a logo, a big search box and two buttons on a simple white background. That’s it!

But these two things alone would not have been enough for Google to stay ahead of their ‘arch nemesis’ Yahoo forever.

In order to leave Yahoo far behind for good and cement their position as the one search engine to rule them all, Google had to take it up a notch by getting into their users heads in a sense.

One of Google’s co-founders famously said in their early days that:

Our search engine needs to know exactly what users are looking for even if they don’t

In order to do that, Google have employed some of the smartest people in the world to help them design a search engine that is smarter than anything ever made before.

The other thing they did is to constantly try to learn as much as possible about their users and what interests them.

Because Google knows so much about you, they are able to show you search results that are better than any of their competitors and also show you the ads that are most relevant to you (which is how they make most of their money to this day!).

This is something that Google is constantly trying to do even today and the main reason why they offer you so many free services such as Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Maps.

They know that by you using these services, they will be able to learn a whole lot of stuff about you and will be able to target search results and ads even better.

That’s why back in 2005, Google first launched personalised search results.

Personalised search results meant that every person searching on Google will start seeing different results based on what other stuff they searched for previously.

This has obviously worked very well for Google so in 2009 they announced that the personalised search results will be expanded significantly and that now they will keep a history of your searches in the last 6 months and record that even when you are not logged into your Google account.

Here is a short video Google made at the time explaining how this works

You might say at this stage:

That’s all well and good and even maybe kinda interesting but what does that have to do with Google+? I didn’t sign up for a history lesson you know…

Well, the next stage in the evolution of Google’s personalised search results is where Google+ makes its appearance.

In early 2012, Google announced the next big leap forward in their personalised search results project. They gave it the name “Search, plus your world”.

Have you noticed all the links in the search results in that video that start with “plus.google.com”?

Well, these are all Google+ Posts appearing directly on the first page of the personalised search results for users who are searching while being logged into their Google account.

These posts appear there because they were made on Google+ by either people or businesses that particular user is connected to on Google+ and contain information related to the particular search that user was doing at the time!

The reasoning behind why Google does that is because they feel that if they highlight relevant information posted by people you are already connected to, this information will be more valuable to you and therefore give you, as a user, a better user experience on Google!

Social media platforms like Facebook also employ similar technologies to personalise your news feed and also when you search for something on Facebook.

There is however, one very big difference between when such a mechanism is used on Facebook and when it’s done on Google+:

Facebook is just a social media platform. It is a single website. When you’re not on Facebook, what you see or don’t see on the Internet is completely outside their control.

Google+ on the other hand is owned an operated by Google, the most popular search engine in the world.

If you are not on Google+, you are very likely to be searching for something online. if you are, what do you use to do that and who has total control over the results you are getting?

Are you getting this? Do you fully understand the enormous implications of this and how does that relate to having a presence on Google+?

Remember:

Google are effectively the gatekeepers of the Internet. They control all the doors and hold all the keys! Click To Tweet

If it’s not quite sinking in yet, I suggest you watch the 7 minute video below.

Please don’t be fooled by the casual and quirky attitude of the guy in that video. His name is Rand Fishkin and he is probably the number 1 expert in the world on Google’s search engine outside Google’s own employees such as Matt Cutts.

Every word he says is worth its weight in gold so listen carefully!

 

If you want to see a bigger version of Rand’s whiteboard, you can get that here.

If you want to do some more independent research into this as you are not yet entirely convinced of the importance of Google+ with regards to its impact on personalised search results, you can read this and this (but I have to warn you that it does get a bit ‘dry’ and technical).

If you want some more examples of how personalised search results work in ‘real life’, here are some screenshots I’ve made for you:

Example_of_a_personalised_SERP

A Google+ post of mine talking about health insurance appears in the first page of the search results for me and very likely also for many of my 4000+ followers on Google+

 

A post by a business page I am following appears on the first page of the search results when I'm searching for a "prepaid mobile plan"

A post by a business page I am following appears on the first page of the search results when I’m searching for a “prepaid mobile plan”

I do a Google search for a business I follow on Google+ and look what happens!

I do a Google search for a business I follow on Google+ and look what happens!

Are you starting to understand how extremely powerful Google+ can be for your business and why you MUST be on it and preferably actively posting?

Ok ok. This is all nice and good but these ‘tricks’ only work when people are logged into their Google account and get served personalised search results. How often do people search Google while logged in?

That’s a GREAT question!

The simple answer is (assuming they have a Google account): between extremely often and always.

Let me explain:

If people are searching on their own computer and use Gmail, they are almost certainly logged into their account all the time. After all, they want to be able to check their email whenever they want and as it is a computer they own, it is quite likely they don’t bother logging out at all.

If you are using Google’s own web browser Chrome (which is currently the second most popular web browser in the world), then it is pretty much guaranteed that you are logged into a Google account as without that, your bookmarks, settings and extensions won’t sync across the different computers you use.

Can you relate to that?

When it comes to Smartphones and Tablets, it gets even better!

Anyone who uses a smartphone or tablet that runs on Android must ALWAYS be logged into their Google account as Android is a Google product and you can’t use most of its features without having a Google account and being logged into it.

If you are part of the ‘iCrowd’ or the ‘Apple cult’ (and that is not meant in any way as an offence to you 🙂 ) then you might not be logged into a Google account on your iPhone or iPad but you are still as likely to be logged into a Google account on your Mac as someone using a Windows PC (especially if you are using Chrome).

Google Maps & Google My Business

Do you have a physical shop front or business premises where your clients come to in order to spend money with you?

Is it kind of important that both your existing and prospective customers are able to find your most up-to-date address and contact details easily whenever they want and regardless of where they are?

Do you still remember the days people looked in the Yellow Pages to find local businesses?

When was the last time you personally opened one of those or even went to their website?

My guess is that it has been awhile.

Hardly anyone these days turn to the Yellow Pages when they are looking for a business in their local area or somewhere they are travelling through.

There is a much easier, more accessible and more reliable way to find local businesses nowadays and most people, not surprisingly, choose to use that instead.

That way is either by doing a Google search or by looking for a specific business on Google Maps.

Despite fierce competition from Apple who recently decided to launch their own mapping service for iPhone and iPad users, Google Maps still remains the most popular mapping service on Earth (when looking at the number of overall users) and obviously when it comes to search, Google still is the undisputed ‘king’.

The feature of Google listing local businesses in the search results and on Google Maps used to be called (somewhat unsurprisingly) Google Local Business.

However, the service has recently been renamed to “Google My Business” and with this name change came another huge change which is a much bigger deal than just a name change:

Complete and MANDATORY integration with Google+

Basically, in order for your business to appear on Google Maps and be served in the search results when people search for local businesses, you now MUST have a Google+ page for your business.

Every business now MUST have a Google+ page in order to appear on Google Maps! Click To Tweet

Have I got your full attention now? 😉

Check out this promotional video from Google for their re-branded ‘My Business’ service. Can you spot all the Google+ elements that are now an integral and mandatory part of this service?

So what does this all mean in practical terms?

Let me just show you:

When people search for a local business on Google, this is what they get now.

When people search for a local business on Google, this is what they get now.

 

This is how businesses now look on Google Maps. You'll need a Google+ account to update details and upload photos as well as to submit reviews.

This is how businesses now look on Google Maps. You’ll need a Google+ account to update details and upload photos as well as to submit reviews.

 

So how do I set it all up? Is it complicated? What do I need to do?

Well, luckily for you, you don’t actually need to do anything! 🙂

If you have a local business, I will make sure you are set up in the right way on Google My Business , that your details are all up-to-date and that the listing properly links to your website.

This is all an integral part of my services.

The thing that you can do yourself right now though without needing my help (and which will save us both lots of time when we start working together) is to make sure you have a personal profile on Google+.

If you use Gmail, then you already have a Google account and the basic setup of your Google+ profile has already been done for you automatically.

Just head to Google+ now, upload a profile photo and make sure your name appears correctly on your profile.

If you don’t use Gmail and are not logged into a Google account right now, Google will prompt you to login or create a Google account first before you can access  Google+.

Once you completed the initial setup of your personal profile on Google+, you can start following people.

If you want, you are very welcome to follow me there and I will be more than happy to point you out to several great resources for Google+ ‘newbies’ so that you can get used to how this platform works.

You’ll find that some things are quite similar to what you know from Facebook (if you’re a current user) but others are quite different.

Just click on the follow button below while logged into your Google account.