Now that Google+ has been around for a few years, the benefits have come into sharper focus.  Most notably, this rapidly-growing social network is proving to be a popular, integrated platform for small business.  The brilliance of Google+ lies in the variety of engagement opportunities it offers.  With tools like Communities, Hangouts, and Circles, small business owners can simultaneously build broad networks while engaging customers and prospects directly.

Let’s take a look at some of these features, and how brands of any size can unleash their power.

Boosting your presence with Google+ Communities

The objective behind Communities was to create a platform within Google+ where individuals, organizations, and businesses could meet and engage based on shared interests and passions.  The 235 million active users on Google+ have quickly shown an affinity for the Communities platform, using it to discuss topics of all kinds—from hobbies to pop culture, politics to business, and everything in between.  This video perfectly demonstrates its ability to connect large groups around common interests.

Communities is ideally suited as a virtual space for meeting and engaging customers and prospects.  Aside from offering an accessible front-facing platform where you can join in dynamic conversations with your client base, Communities makes it easy to share multimedia content as well.  Sharing a new video tutorial about your products or how your brand is positioned in the industry has never been easier.

Of course, the other great benefit of Communities is that it offers users a two-way street for engagement.  The most proactive small businesses will take advantage of this knowledge by asking questions, creating polls, and finding other innovative ways to get their community members off of the bench and into the game.

Narrowing your focus with Hangouts

While Communities are excellent for facilitating public exchange, sharing ideas over a broad network, and meeting new prospects, Hangouts is more of an invitation-only gathering.  As such, Hangouts allows small business owners the opportunity to make more direct, customer-specific contact.  With this feature, your brand can host online video chats with as many as 10 people. This tool is invaluable for hosting meetings with associates, clients, or prospects spread across the globe, and it’s easy to set up.  Just get your webcam ready and pick your participants from your Circles.  If Communities is the best place for a business meet-and-greet, Hangouts is where deals get done.

Targeting your content with Circles

No platform makes narrowcasting as easy and part of the experience as Google+.  Let’s face it: social platforms have become busy, crowded places.  While it’s important for you to get your message out, it’s equally important not to intrude.  By targeting your posts to specific Circles, you avoid crowding others’ newsfeeds with useless information.  Circles perfectly demonstrate the new maxim that one-size-fits-all marketing simply doesn’t have a place in social media.  By segmenting your message to prospects and clients at different levels of the buying cycle, you will sustain a higher level of interest in your brand by always presenting the right kinds of content to the right kinds of people at the right time.

Please share your experience using Google+.  Are you using Communities, Hangouts, and Circles to connect with your customers?

This post was originally published on AT&T’s Networking Exchange Blog.

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