The Biggest Mistake Business Owners Make on Google+

If you have been paying any attention to the clash of the social media titans, you’ve probably heard about the explosive growth Google’s newish social network, Google+, has been enjoying- especially over the past year or so. While many in cyberspace have been quick to criticize for Google for practically force feeding G+ to the masses, there’s a growing movement of people who are starting to realize that there is an important trend silently playing itself out.

Google PlusWith it’s introduction and continued development of G+, Google is really ushering in a new era in the creation, exchange, and consumption of digital information- one that will increasingly rely on multi-media platforms and be influenced by your online profile as well as those in your network. It’s what is commonly known as the “social web.”

The key take away here is that Google+ is not just another social network; it’s just one part of a bigger user experience, and because of this, business owners in particular cannot afford to ignore it.

Many people already know the power and influence of having an optimized local search presence. These days, that means if you run a brick and mortar business, you need a Google+ business page, or your visibility online will be extremely impaired.

But, there’s more. Google+ has a number of amazing features, specifically, it’s searchability, and it’s Hangouts On Air, which offers a pretty seamless user experience across several platform’s and mediums. Plus, did you know that you can actually embed a Google hangout within a sales page? Imagine the potential over there…

That said, the biggest mistake small business owners make with their G+ accounts is that they don’t optimize them, and use them, or at least, they don’t use them enough. Whatever you think about Google, it almost doesn’t matter. There is a reality to doing and/or advertising a business online, and if you’re not going to subscribe to Google’s way of doing things, then soon it will just be somewhere else, like say Yahoo!.

Even if you don’t have so much time to put into G+, you should definitely make it a point to completely fill out your business profile and include in it important keywords. You should connect it to your business website and any other sites where you contribute content. You should also update it every now and then with fresh content. That little bit of effort will already put you several steps ahead of countless small business owners who have avoided G+ completely.

And if you have a bit of time, explore some of the new features, like Google+ Communities. Even if your peers aren’t on G+, there’s nothing to stop you from bringing them there. In many cases, you may even have a richer experience than you would on other platforms, such as Facebook.

So, the bottom line is, whether you like it or not, Google+ needs to be a part of your online marketing mix, and hey, you may just find it to be a pretty useful place once you get there.

Do Shoppable Hangouts Spell a New Era in Ecommerce?

A few weeks ago, four top fashion designers announced that they had agreed to host live shoppable video hangouts using Google+ Hangouts on Air. As those who attended the events relate their experiences, it’s very clear that ecommerce will look very different a few years down the road then what it does today.

Shoppable Hangouts on AirDuring each event, hangout participants from around the world were able watch their favorite designers talk about their products and hear about upcoming fashion trends. As the designers spoke, the featured items were available for shoppers to browse and purchase along the right side of the screen. There was even the option to add items to the Google Shopping Shortlist for those who weren’t yet ready to buy. The hangout also featured a Q&A session with the designers at the end.

Putting aside my personal opinions about what this is going to do to our off-line existence (why go to the store when you can have such a personalized experience from the comfort of your own home?) it’s very easy to see why consumers will be so attracted to this form of online shopping.

This goes way beyond the online shopping experience to be had on, say, Amazon.com where customers receive personalized product recommendations. As Belle Letz of IPG Mediabrands put it on Twitter, it’s the “Home Shopping Network for the digital age.”

I certainly won’t argue on that one.

The announcement of shoppable Hangouts instantly reminded me of another Google initiative that’s not officially open for business just yet: Google Helpouts. With Helpouts Google wants to connect experts via live video to those who are willing to pay for their advice or assistance. It’s a different service, but the idea behind it is the same: instant, personalized, “face-to-face” online commerce, and it promises to bring a “small business feel” to even the biggest of online retailers.

In short, Google’s Shoppable Hangouts will allow retailers, experts, and other influencers to communicate directly with customers and help to increase brand loyalty as a result. Whatever your personal feelings are about this new trend, if you are running a small business, it’s something definitely worth paying attention to.

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10 Good Online Groups and Communities for Small Business Owners

Knowing where to turn to for advice and support in your business, can really make all the difference between success and failure. I know that may sound a bit strong if you are looking at this statement from the outside. But as small business owners, we see our fair share of ups and downs, questions, set-backs, and high learning curves. It’s the stuff that scares many aspiring entrepreneurs away. The minute they stick their toes in the water and it feels a bit chilly, they’re out in a flash.

In order to maintain some sense of balance, as small business owners, we need a place to ask questions, receive support, and get some much-needed feedback.

teamwork-1-1254520-mIronically, though the Internet is seen as a super connector, bringing individuals together across tremendous physical and cultural divides, it can sure feel lonely if you don’t know where to put yourself. There are all these conversations going on, yet it may be hard to find them or even know where to jump in once you do.

That said, the following are some great online groups and communities for small business owners to check out:

LinkedIn Groups

Many business owners may have some vague idea that Linkedin is a place where business connections happen, but they may not realize the full potential of LinkedIn for business knowledge, support, and advice. This is where LinkedIn Groups comes in. While there are many great groups to choose from, the following three provide a consistent flow of quality posts and discussion:

Small Business Accelerator– This is a great networking and information sharing group for entrepreneurs. You have to apply to join.

Small Business Online Community– An engaged online group for small business owners. Like the group above, you have to apply to join this group.

Social Media Marketing Networking Club– This group originally got it’s start on Social Media Examiner and has since moved over to LinkedIn. It’s one of the best LinkedIn groups there is for small business owners and has a very helpful, supportive community.

Google+ Groups

Google groups are a relatively recent addition to Google’s G+ social network. But, they are all abuzz if you know where to look. Here are my top three picks for small business owners:

Building a Company– Content and discussions around the nitty-gritty of building a business.

Entrepreneurs, Self-Employed, and Small Business– An active community for new and upcoming small business owners

Social Media Strategy– Active discussion on social media for small businesses and non-profits

Notable Forums

Compared to the fast-paced flow of information and constant changes that have come to characterize social media, forums may seem like an old school tactic that has past its time. Not so! There are plenty of vibrant forums to turn to for advice and support. Here are my two top picks:

Open Forum– This well-known online community and forum is hosted by American Express. Ask and receive advice and keep up to date on the latest in small business news.

Small Business Brief– This forum has been around for a few years, and it still supports an active community

Business Blogs and Social Bookmarking

We can’t leave out business blogging communities and social bookmarking sites from this list. Many niche sites have an active and helpful following. The two best in my opinion are:

Firepole Marketing– “Marketing that works!” This blog has a very active, loyal, and cohesive following. It definitely pays to spend some time there not only to absorb the insights, but to learn from and connect with the other readers.

BizSugar– This is a social bookmarking site for small business news run by the same people behind Smallbiztrends.com, and it supports a pretty active community.

Last, but not least, one other option that I didn’t mention above is Facebook groups. The reason I’m not including examples here is due to the fact that you’ll be better off finding a smallish group on Facebook that is specifically targeted to your niche or interest. There offer a lot of potential engagement, though, so it pays to search around for something relevant and not spammy.

Now it’s your turn. Where do you hang out online for inspiration, support, and advice?

Why Google+ Works Great for Recruiting

Most people know Google+ as another social network for individuals to connect with friends and companies to connect with customers. However, many colleges and universities know Google+ to work well in a different way—a great tool for recruiting.

 

The website Mashable recently found that many universities are using the networking tool as an opportunity to create an entire page based upon what their school can do for a particular student. This therefore works in the favor of the students just the same because it will save them time. Considering where you want to go to school for four years is a tough decision, so it’s nice to be able to go to one place and get all the answers. While some may argue that this is the job of a school website, I think many would agree that young people today feel comfortable using social networks. They are already on Google+ with their friends, so they will be more apt to check out a college or university while they’re there.

This led me to wonder: Should businesses be doing the same thing with Google+? While Facebook and Twitter are great places to promote deals and connect with potential customers, they are rarely dedicated to recruitment. Being that Google+ is so new, should businesses use it as a recruiting tool? It has worked for over 150 colleges and universities, so this may be something your business wants to consider.

Below lists a few ways your company can follow the model of these colleges and universities Google+ pages to recruit the best talent possible:

Follow By Example

  • Highlight the achievements of former employees and current employees.

This is a great way for a small business to grab new talent. If some of your former employees went on to have great careers, even if it wasn’t with your company, you could sway some of those young graduates your way. While you likely highlight your achievements on your current social platforms, they can be hard to find through all of the other announcements going up on your “wall.”

  • Let prospective employees know where your company is headed.

This works great for companies who are growing. Most people want to work for a company that has the potential to grow, so if you’re company fits into this category it is important to make it known. Consider posting videos or speeches that discuss where your company plans to be in the next five years and how it plans to get there. This could sway anyone looking to get in on the ground floor. For example, if you’re a company in the business of selling paper you may want to let others know that soon you will also be selling business phone systems and printers (The Office fans anyone?).

  • Give those interested a look into the day to day routine of your current employees.

Colleges and universities use the site to showcase the campus lifestyle, and your company can to the same. Some things never change—if you are thinking about going to a school, you want to know what it’s really like each and every day; if you’re thinking about taking a job, you want to know the daily routine.

  • Let prospective candidates know where their hard work will lead

Use Google+ to let everyone know why your company is worthwhile. What do you do to help the public and/or the community? Are you just a telemarketing company, or a telemarking company with something to say? You will want to highlight what you have to offer an individual who works for you, but also let people know what you have to offer others.

Google+ has worked great for colleges and universities, and there is no reason it shouldn’t work just as well for companies. You already have your Facebook page to promote deals and your Twitter account to connect with customers, so consider using Google+ as a place for recruiting.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to postage meters. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including credit card processing to small businesses and entrepreneurs for the leading b2b lead generation resource, Resource Nation.

Want to Add the Google+ Button to Your Small Business Website? Not So Fast!

With all the buzz being generated around Google’s new social networking and information sharing tool, Google+, you could be planning to add this service to your web content in the form of the Google+ button (if you haven’t already). But, as the title to this post suggests, you may want to wait it out a bit.

 

Google+ is Google’s latest and, as many argue, perhaps its greatest, most solid attempt at building a social network. Several of the service’s early users who have been invited to try out the new tool have been quick to point out its amazing content sharing capabilities… and potential. Then there are those nifty social circles and the video chat “hangouts,” two features which seem both useful and, well, natural at the same time.

All very compelling… But before you jump on the Google+ bandwagon, keep the following points in mind:

  • Google is still working out the kinks. Officially, Google+ is still in beta mode, and that means there are plenty of wrinkles to iron out while the service is being tested. Some of the issues that have come up include: a temperamental blocking feature that sometimes works… and sometimes doesn’t; a significant slow down to a site’s load time when the Google+1 button is added; and finally a male-dominated trial group. Though Google says it is working hard to fix the performance issues, and eventually the service will be open to all Google users, it may certainly pay to wait for those things to happen.

 

  • Leave some time for the new network to “catch on.” Before the full potential of Google+ can be realized there has to be a critical mass of followers/users. Though the number of users of the service promises to explode once it is open to the general public, as of yet it is only in a limited trial run with a trial group that may not be representative of the eventual user pool.

 

  • Have you asked yourself: “Do I need to use this?” If you plan on doing more than merely adding the +1 button to your site, then realize that like any social network, the benefits of being on Google+ will be a function of the amount of time and energy you invest into it. Do you have that time and energy available? Though Google has said that it will roll out a business sites function that will be integrated into the network, you need to determine if it will be worth your while.

 

All in all, Google+ shows a lot of potential as a business networking and collaboration tool in a way that outdoes several of the current top dog social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. But, it definitely pays to wait a bit till both the service and your business are ready.

The Salary of a Billionaire

Do you want to try and guess the salary of Google CEO Eric Schmidt?

I’ll give you a hint: he doesn’t have a six or seven figure salary. He doesn’t even have a five figure salary. The fact is, he gets just $1/year.

When he was originally hired in 2001, Eric Schmidt was offered $250,000 plus a performance bonus. In 2005, along with the two co-founders Brin and Page, he lowered his salary to $1.

Whats the deal? Schmidt owns 9.5 million shares of Google. If he makes Google do well, then his net worth increases a lot more than any salary would give him. If he does his job poorly, then his net worth decreases.

In 2007, he actually lost money working for Google. For his sake, I hope he does a better job in 2008.