Google+ is still a new social channel, and consequently, there is a relative dearth of guidance on how to successfully navigate and stand out on the network. Mistakes will happen, and in fact, may even be probable.
I should know.
You see, my employer’s Google+ Page — the one I created and continue to manage — was recently suspended, forcing me to dig deeper into Google+ and learn some of its nuances. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I’ve learned a lot from the experience, and have decided to share some of the lessons learned here in hopes that others will benefit from the process.
Here then, are some trial-by-fire lessons that I hope prove useful:
1. Leverage both Google+ Direct Connect, and the Google+ Page Verification Process.
Google+ Direct Connect accomplishes a couple of important things. First, it connects Google+ Pages to brand websites via a snippet of code. This code produces a badge to embed on an official website to add a measure of authenticity for a Page. Second, Direct Connect creates a shorthand search operator (“+brandname” — such as “+Angry Birds” or “+Dell“) to enable quick searches of official brand pages — both within Google+ search and via Google’s main search engine. The + shorthand operator even provides a mechanism for re-claiming a brand name that has been high-jacked by clever SEO techniques, as this article points out using Rick Santorum’s Google problem as an example. In combination with Google’s verification process for Google+ Pages, these steps signal to Google that a G+ Page is an official brand account.
Key takeaway: Take the time to send the proper signals to Google that your page is legitimate. This will save you time, effort and possible embarrassment later on.
2. Don’t Fret about Brand Impersonations. These Fears are Overblown.
Almost immediately after Google+ launched Pages for brands, fake profiles — such as this Bank of America spoof– sprung up. This sparked fears among large organizations that Google+ would become a problematic platform that would, (a) require significant monitoring, and (b) place a heavy burden on community managers.
In response, Google pledged that it would monitor Google+, spot fake brand Pages, and suspend them until steps were completed to verify the authenticity of suspect Pages. This approach is what affected my employer’s page.
As a member of the Google+ team explained to me by email, “We do some impersonation sweeps regularly… The best thing you can do to make sure it’s all correct in the future is connect your page to your site,” so that Google “can see a bi-directional link between the two… [which] ensures that you also have control over that website. That tells us it’s the authoritative page for that site.”
Key takeaway: Don’t let fears of “brandjacking” cause you to jump into Google+ before you’re ready. It’s a great idea to get started with Google+ while nearly everyone is a novice and the repercussions of mistakes are minimal. But understand that you have ample time to outline a clear plan for Google+. Nobody is going to steal your brand name.
3. The Google+ Community is Awesome. Leverage Them, and Give Back.
Shortly after learning of our Page suspension, I posted a plea to members of the Google+ community to help identify members of the G+ team who could help expedite the process of reinstating the Page. After a short time, Denis Labelle (whom I’d mistakenly placed into a Circle of Google employees — he now resides in my Most Awesome People in the World Circle), responded with an offer to help share my plight. Denis — along with a handful of other Google+ members — re-shared my post, which quickly caught the attention of the Google+ team and led to a speedy resolution.
The G+ team had also picked up on my original plea for help and was busy working through internal channels to resolve the issue. But Denis’ offer to help was the true catalyst toward quick resolution of the issue. Members of the Google+ community saw Denis’ post, voiced their support, and helped build awareness of the issue.
Key takeaway: The early adopters of Google+ are passionate about the current and future prospects of the network and are extremely engaged and helpful. Now is the time to get engaged on Google+, learn from the community, give back to it, and build an invaluable network that will continue to grow in exciting new directions.
Key takeaway, part two: Denis Labelle is pure awesome. He is not only helpful, but he posts interesting and helpful content to Google+ every day. You should pause right now and go Circle him. I also owe thanks to Chris Vennard, Oscar Fuentes, Raphael Polanco, Yan Tseytlin, Harp Grewal, Kamal Singh and others for their help.
4. Tap Into the Power of Shared Circles.
Google+ makes it easy to share the Circles that you’ve created with friends and other G+ connections. This feature is helpful for sharing Circles of subject matter experts or photographers, for example. It’s also useful for curating a list of customer support representatives for your brand, or from brands that you follow. Google+ is a great vehicle for building a list (or even several specially-targeted lists) that can be shared with current and potential customers, partners and suppliers. Stakeholders can then post queries to these support Circles in order to reach several customer support members at once.
A shared Circle, in fact, is what led me to Denis Labelle and the other Google+ members who jumped in to help resolve our Page suspension. Another Google+ member had created and shared a “Members of the Google+ Team” Circle, which I found and added to my own Circles. While Denis and a handful of other members of the Circle were incorrectly identified as Google employees, the Circle did help alert several Googlers to our Page suspension.
Key takeaway: Consider using Shared Circles to make it easy for your target audiences to connect with groups from your organization. It’s also a good idea to seek out Shared Circles that will prove useful to you in a time of crisis. A good starting point is the list of Shared Circles on G+. It’s also advisable to Circle Google+ Your Business. It provides up-to-date information related to G+ that is targeted to brands and Page owners.
Google+ may be the fastest-growing social network in history. And yet, it’s still far from being a mainstream channel for brands and individuals. There are few established paths to success on Google+, and mistakes are inevitable. Use the guidance that I’ve provided above to help your brand to not only avoid a suspension, but to also overcome obstacles that could impede success.
Do you have any Google+ tips? If so, let me know with a comment below!