By the end of 2012, analysts predict that Google+ will reach 400 million users. In its first 88 days the social platform’s growth rate outpaced Facebook and every other social network. Impressive, but, is it worth a small business owner’s time and energy to learn yet another social network? While Google+ is still just a fraction of the size of Facebook, its uses are already becoming apparent. Because of this, developing an understanding of the unique qualities of Google+ can help give your business a competitive edge on a new and expanding platform.
Start with a clear understanding of the features that make Google+ different from other social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Open a Google+ account and try it out. I recommend starting with a personal account before you create a business brand page. Chances are, you are already one of the 800 million active Facebook users. But, the choice between Facebook and Google+ is not mutually exclusive—you can do both. Of course, a natural overlap will exist between Facebook and Google+ users, just as the majority of my Twitter followers also use Facebook.
You can be assured that your customers and prospects are debating over similar choices. More and more people will adopt Google+ because of its unique benefits. Also, since your competition may not have established a presence on Google+ yet, doing so now can pay dividends later.
What are the Strengths of Google+ for Small Business?
A few unique advantages to this new social platform are highlighted below:
- Low Production Costs and High Reach Potential: Do some quick best practice research and visit these ten great examples of creative Google+ brand pages. Of particular note is the Burberry’s brand page’s creative use of animation. Google+ allows you to make your brand page visually stunning—helping to drive interest and visits—with relative ease.
- Google+ is More than a Social Network: According to Brian Solis, “Google+ will become a platform that connects all Google products, essentially creating a personal or social operating system for each individual.” Google+ is a strategic addition to the range of products many of us already depend on such as Gmail, Documents, Google Apps, Reader, and Calendar. All of these components are parts of a carefully orchestrated strategy to make Google indispensible to the everyday user. All wrapped in a very clean, easy to use interface.
- Google+ Circles: this just may be the killer feature of G+ that enables you to narrowcast messages for different groups. Such a feature creates strong marketing implications and offers you the ability to segment or micro-target your messages to different audiences. Circles are based on the fact that you may not want to share all messages with everyone. For example, let’s say you are an accountant looking to expand your business among not only firms of various sizes but individuals as well. Your biggest challenge is to identify more cost-effective ways to market your services. Using Circles, you can create and segment based on your definitions. For example: loyalty, high value, new customers, prospects, small businesses, etc. The Circles feature allows you to customize offers, deals, events, and various types of information. And, as a blogger, you can also share content on Google+ based on interests. Your goal is to become a trusted resource in your online community, a person or business known for publishing valuable content. Circles will enable you to share the right information with the right audience at the right time.
- Hangouts: This unique feature enables you to host online video chats with up to 10 people at a time. With only a webcam you are ready to invite anyone in your Circles to join in. The opportunity to show off your product (and yourself) is a big plus. Using short videos is a great way to involve your audience. It is also an engaging way to hold a meeting, brainstorm or conduct market research—and keep the travel costs down. Using Hangouts effectively shows off your personality and humanizes your brand.
Helpful Links to More Information
To read more about the benefits of using Google+ for your small business, read the links below:
- Why your business should have a Google+ brand page
- 13 Cool examples of Google+ brand pages
- How to Create a Google+ Business Page in 5 Simple Steps (Hub Spot)
- How Small Businesses Can Use Google+
- The Official Google+ Blog & Google+ Pages
- Google+ Forum & Support
Dell: One of the Early Google+ Brand Page Pioneers
Take a look at Dell’s Google+ page. Dell was involved in the June, 2011, Google+ beta test, making the company a pioneer in the brand page space. The Official Dell Corporate Blog describes Dell’s Google+ brand page as a “centralized place to get updates from all of Dell across all our businesses.” The page provides something of value whether “you are a home user, an owner of a small or medium business, or someone who is responsible for implementing technology in a global corporation.” Observing how major brands use their brand page is a great way to give you ideas for your own page. In this way, Google+ helps level the playing field for brands of all sizes.
Small Businesses’ Top New Year’s Resolution
According to the latest Intuit Small Business Survey [November, 2011] reported in the Huffington Post, “More than half (57 percent) of small businesses’ top New Year’s resolution is to expand marketing to attract more customers. Intuit created this Infographic with some of the survey results.
My recommendation is to establish your Google+ brand presence now. As this new social network grows, more and more of your customers and prospects will join. Experimentation will give your small business a leg up on your competition and help energize your small business marketing initiatives in 2012.
The marketing and advertising world is constantly changing, and so is the way you advance through it.
Recently my business partner and I met with some human resources folks to talk about how our people are faring on the job. Sure, we spent time on performance evaluation, but the real purpose is people development. Nothing enthuses me more than seeing everyone perform up to their full level of potential.
We used to develop people by making them into great specialists, i.e., great advertising people. This meant we taught them to know the client’s business, their competition, their consumer, and of course the ins and outs of how to develop great advertising.
These days the conversation is less about how to make people better specialists, and more about how to make them better generalists. You still have to know the client’s business, but also the ins and outs of advertising, retail and digital.
Put another way, advancement is not so much a straight line through one discipline, but tacking like a sailboat across various disciplines. We will always need specialists, but it’s the generalists who will advance the farthest in agencies of the future.
Some people embrace this approach naturally, teaching themselves about shopper marketing or social media; others purposely change jobs to gain experience. Sadly, some people put their heads in the sand and ignore or even criticize different channels.
My own perspective is that I’d be bored doing the same thing, the same way, for more than a couple of years. I’m grateful that my current job brings new challenges every day, and the chance to try a new way of marketing my clients’ products and services.
The course to growth and advancement
These are some of the buoys in the water that can mark your path to growth and advancement:
Advertising. Yes, advertising. Companies still spend billions of dollars on it. Television is still the fastest way to build awareness of a message, and it’s adapting to a digital world with time-shifting, pre-roll and on-demand programming. A good agency executive gets familiar with all of it.
Retail. Most agency people don’t take the time to understand Retail, whether it’s promotion or shopper marketing. You will perish for lack of knowledge because retailers are gaining so much of your clients’ marketing budgets and this discipline has become much more strategic in the past decade.
Digital. For all the industry trade press coverage of “digital”, the people with practical experience are still a narrow subculture. Your agency may have hired some brand-name experts but you only benefit if you’re working on a digital assignment. You can study Digital but there’s no substitute for experience.
Channel planning. You can only be a true generalist if you know how to combine everything in a way that will drive your client’s business. This seems obvious but it amazes me how seldom it actually gets done, and even then it is not usually done from a true consumer perspective. Just a few years ago, the easy, almost lazy thing to do was draw up a spider chart and “surround the consumer” with as many “touchpoints” as possible. That never really worked.
How to Get Ahead in Advertising
You’ve become a generalist. You understand Advertising, Retail, Digital and Channel Planning. In one of these you’re a specialist. This is how you get ahead in advertising.
Where you work is also part of the equation. Your agency or consultancy may be held back by a traditional view, antiquated organizational structure, lack of capability in specific disciplines, or the lack of a media department that years ago was spun off into a separate agency. The biggest restraint, however, is when an agency loses its ability to know the client’s business, their competition, their consumer, and how to provide business solutions.
The “agency” only loses its ability to the extent its employees lose it. You can control your own development. Familiarize yourself with other disciplines, be a great generalist, but never lose sight of the need to be able to solve a client’s business problems. The path onward and upward isn’t a straight line anymore. You’ll have to be patient and continually improve yourself.
While listening to the radio one morning, the talk show host posed a question to the listeners; “Which situation is more difficult? Being a stay-at-home mom or being a career mom?”
I had to think long and hard about that question. Then I thought about entrepreneur moms. Do we have a larger workload than career moms in Corporate America? What about entrepreneur moms who work from home? Are they subjected to more stress in trying to grow a business while nurturing a family at the same time?
I decided to survey a handful of impressive entrepreneur moms for their “secret sauce” on how they balance career and family. Since I received such great responses, I’ve decided to break them up into a few posts. To start, here are four fabulous shares (including one from me) that may help bring sanity to the life of an entrepreneurial mom.
GET HELP. ACCEPT HELP. HIRE HELP.
That’s what Ivette Lemons, President of Cadtek Design Studio, says. Her company is WBENC Certified and is a spectacular full-service commercial interior design firm that thrives at “solving the puzzle” in making space function to meet the unique needs of its occupants. Who better to offer advice than a detail-oriented person like Ivette?
As a mother of two, her most important tip is to “get help, accept help, hire help”. She admits that this is something she is constantly working on herself and adds, “Accept help when offered. Whether you have to ask for help or hire help—do it. We all take great pride in being the super entrepreneur mom, doing it all. But at some point we would hit a wall and experience complete burn out, so before that happens, bring people into your life to help. Allow them to help you balance personal life and work, whether it’s hiring someone to clean the house or accepting a friend’s offer to pick up the kids for a play date. Our time is precious!”
BE IN THE MOMENT
Laurette Rondenet-Smith has ten children in her blended family, but now manages five. She is the CEO and President of Edlong Dairy Flavors, a WBENC Certified family owned business that is a leader in supplying superior tasting dairy flavors that improve a consumer’s eating experience.
Laurette shares some insight on her schedule and advice. “People often say ‘I don’t know how you do it…having five kids and running a business’ and ‘you seem so calm’. This really couldn’t be further from the truth. I may appear calm on the outside, but inside, my head is racing, always trying to be one step ahead. I tend to think that if I plan really well, I can cram two lives into one! My mom often says that I have amazingly accomplished to live both her life and my fathers, simultaneously.“
She adds, “For all my best intentions, the planning really is a curse because it stops me from being in the moment. I’m always thinking when I get one more chore done, one more task done, then I can sit and play with the children with a clear head. It is delayed gratification at its finest. But, it never works, because as we all know, it is impossible to ever get it ALL done. And it really hinders being in the moment with all your loved ones when your mind is constantly ten steps ahead. What our children really want from us is our most valuable asset…our energy. I have to constantly remind myself to remain conscious and in the moment and turn my work brain off and soak up the light of being around the people I hold most precious in my life.”
INSTILL FAMILY VALUES AND TRADITIONS
Lori Hilson Cioromski, President of TH Hilson Company, also has a blended family of six children. While managing a busy home life, her company is a successful chemical distributor that provides specialty raw materials and innovative solutions to their clients in a variety of markets.
Lori gave me three great tips, but the one that caught the most attention was the importance of quality time spent with family. Lori states, “Another vital rule I live by is having a family meal together at the dining room table during the week as much as possible. I find creative short cuts with the evening meal and, while it’s not always perfect, the most important thing about our evening meal is that we are together as a family. Since we have a blended family with teenagers and a toddler, it is the only time of the day where we can talk and be together for a few moments without a computer or TV. I hope that when our children have families of their own, they will remember the good times we spent together during our evening meal.”
NO COMMITMENT WEEKENDS
As the co-owner of Desert Rose Design and managing an overly busy toddler, my favorite piece of advice is to make it a habit of scheduling a “no commitment weekend”. My husband, a spirits importer and entrepreneur, has a schedule that is just as demanding as mine. We are a blended family of two children with a large age gap—toddler to teenager. With travel and the demands that our businesses place on us, it’s difficult to maintain schedules and quality time; therefore, we have implemented a “no commitment weekend” rule.
This means that once a month, we pick a weekend and commit to absolutely nothing. No agenda. No work. No running errands. No house chores. No entertaining guests. It could be as simple as gardening together, site seeing the city as if we were tourists, or a movie and pizza night. We just spend the whole weekend with each other doing what we love most, being together.
There is no perfect balance in managing career and family, but if you can find one takeaway from these tips, I’ve done my job with this post.
Feel free to add your best piece of advice for entrepreneur moms to view and share with others.