5 Steps To Get Your Business Ready For Mastering Google+

B2B companies have traditionally been laggards in social media, unlike their quick-adopting consumer counterparts. One reason is that B2B doesn’t facilitate the instant easy connections with customers or prospects that B2C can do so well. Consumers, for instance, frequently define themselves by a brand. You have only to think of Apple’s cultural litmus test ads: I’m a Mac, I’m a PC. Can you imagine a business customer waxing ecstatic about Company X and its latest process-management software? Not exactly the stuff of the latest viral hit.Then there’s the issue of how B2B companies sell.As digital company White Horse noted in a 2010 report of B2B companies’ use of social media, "B2B companies remain fundamentally ‘handshake’ businesses, reliant on one-to-one connections between sales reps and customers," and haven’t perceived social media to be fertile ground for lead generation.In other words, B2B is still firmly grounded in a more traditional meet-and-greet, sales-driven culture.Yet, social media contains within it the seeds to evolve, if not transform, the way B2B companies do business. Think about it for a minute. B2B selling, as the White Horse report notes, is all about building relationships. For B2B companies, the sticking point in social media has been that the current kingpins—Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn—haven’t made engaging in the type of slow courtship preliminary to a B2B sale easy.That, however, will likely change with the recent launch of Google+, the search giant’s latest foray into social media. Indeed, I strongly believe Google+ has the potential to transform the way B2B companies engage online.The business platform for Google+ is not expected to launch for another few months, and businesses, for the most part, have been restricted from posting business profiles. That doesn’t prevent individuals from a company from participating, though, and in fact, that’s a great way to kick the virtual tires of Google+ before the business side goes live.To better understand the potential of Google+ for B2B companies, I recently spoke with two of the savviest social media minds I know about the opportunities for B2B companies on Google+, Aaron Strout, Director, Interactive, WCG, and Steve Rubel, EVP/Global Strategy and Insights, Edeleman. "The potential for businesses to use Google+ is unlimited," said Strout. "It really brings the best of LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook together. And it should be very business friendly to boot."Google’s secret sauce for Strout is the potential integration of all its products within Google+. "Think of all the tools that Google has provided us (many for free)," he says. "Google Maps, Docs, Analytics, Picassa. Right now those are inherently unsocial. But with Google+, you can now invite people from your network to view, engage and collaborate. That should help businesses become more productive because they can more seamlessly connect the dots."Rubel is placing his bets on Google+ Hangouts and the role they can play in corporate communications."Hangouts will allow companies to create robust thought-leadership programs that either are broadcast far and wide or just shared with a small, engaged group," Rubel says. "The technology is nascent right now. But once it gets going it will be a terrific complement to other services like Slideshare and YouTube. The key difference maker, however, are Circles and how these can be constructed to build optimal relationships." Circles are Google+’s way to effortlessly follow, target and engage people.Rubel provides an example of what makes hangouts so powerful."Last month I hosted a 'Hang 10' hangout with Mike Elgan (a tech reporter and Google+ maven)," Rubel said. "We rotated people in and out of the room—10 at a time or so—to give people a chance to ask Mike questions. One of our attendees was a YouTube video partner. He was able to instantly broadcast out the Hangout on YouTube Live—which exposed the content to a much broader audience. That experience was truly an eye-opener, yet rare right now."Listen to Rubel’s analogy of hangouts and you’ll get a sense of his enthusiasm."Google+ is a social network that sits on top of charcoal—the Gmail and Google Apps address book—and Hangouts are a match," he says. "We at Edelman are excited about the forthcoming business profile launch and in particular the role that Hangouts can play in corporate communications."If you’re still on the Google+ sidelines, or gingerly testing the waters, here’s some advice from Strout to get you ready for the advent of the business platform:Pay close attention to publications like (hey, why not Fast Company and its Twitter feed?) to see when Google+ officially opens up for businesses to joinWhile you wait, keep a close eye on what Ford Motor Company, which has a test account on the site, is doing on Google+. While Ford is neither B2B nor small, the company is good at innovating and understanding how to best use new social media channels.The day Google+ opens up to businesses, be sure to claim your business/name so that you don't get boxed out down the road. Remember when people didn't think Twitter would stick in 2006? And now many businesses are having to choose clunky Twitter handles because someone else got the obvious ones. Keep a close eye on other small businesses (particularly in your industry) that take the plunge early. Take notes on what they are doing well/not so well and use those to formulate your strategy. When you are ready, either hire a person (or a consultant or agency) to help you manage Google+. If you already have someone on staff who does Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, etc., you can consider asking them to take this on, but make sure it doesn't add too much to their plate. Managing a social media channel correctly takes time.For a totally unscientific look at Google+, I’m taking a poll on LinkedIn on "Whether Google+ will eventually overtake Twitter." While it’s a close race, so far Twitter has the lead, by a hair, a smaller group saying they’ll be equally important. Click here to take my poll. How are you using Google+? Click here to connect with me and let me know!Wendy Marx, B2B PR and Marketing Specialist, Marx Communications

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  • Wendy Marx

    Maria, thank you for your thoughts and you make a good point that people like yourself are hesitant to embrace another social network after all the work put into developing followers on other networks. The article, however, was not focused on individuals, but on B2B companies. In my experience, many 

    B2B companies in particular, are not getting the value they can from social media. I believe (and of course the jury is still out) that Google+ will help them do so. The poll didn't discriminate between individuals or companies and most people, and rightly so, answered as individuals. 
    Again, I appreciate your taking the time to comment. It will certainly be interesting to see how things transpire.

  • byron

    Wendy, I'd also like to chime in, here. I'm not sure you did your due diligence. Did you speak to anyone at Google before writing this?  Did you speak with anyone at Google who has worked on the Google +  project?  I spoke with Timothy Jordan, Developer Advocate on the Google + project and he made it explictly clear that Google + was not yet ready for businesses to take advantage of. You can watch my interview with Timothy at the Googleplex here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... 
    I don't think speaking to a "google maven" is sufficient in knowing exactly how google plans to develop Google +

    Yes, Google + is all the "rage" right now but it's still invite only and while I know you can see the potential for BtoB, I'm not sure there is a need to join the Google + media bandwagon just yet. I think your post, while it does suggest the benefits of integrating various apps into Google +, is suggestive of something that is "not quite ready" for primetime, in particular for businesses.

  • maria rodgers

    Please, Fast Company, do your due diligence on your reporters!  I read through the linkedIn poll on this reporter posted subject; it seems like a lot of selective listening on the feedback.  I read through the poll comments and many who responded were not convinced Google+ was convenient or relevant.  I read this article above hoping for the real nuggets on what I'm missing in this platform--- and I was again disappointed.  There is really no substantial information or insight to this article. 
    I feel like there is almost a propaganda in the works touting Google+ as the be all end all to social media. To me, while Google was taking its time putting its platform together, those of us in using social for business have been arranging our networks and followers as necessary. Now, I'm to re-do these in circles?  Seems like a huge time suck--I don't need Google+ asking me to rearrange & dictate that. Nor do I think the integration with the free tools is the clincher. I have never worked with one large company that does not have its own enterprise software.  Google tools are an add on. Thank you JDA- for the comment- i hope more  balanced assessments prevail.

  • Wendy Marx

    Appreciate your comment and you raise a good point that social media today is not necessarily a big sales tool especially in the B2B area. I do believe that Google+ with its linkage with all of Google's other productivity tools and its ability to easily target may have the missing ingredient. Add the potential ability to instantly do multi-channel marketing (mobile, email, video, display, social) and you have a very powerful paradigm. Of course, the jury is still out and the proof of course will be in the pudding..

  • JDA

    So much emphasis being put on social media to drive sales, business, awareness... some warranted, some colossally over exaggerated! Paying for an agency to curate your google + is just absurd. Recent and very creditable studies are indicated that social media is not having anywhere close the expected nor desired conversion rates. This is not surprising, there is so much out there to take in at once.. twitter a prime example, you can navigate through literally thousands of businesses in one day, it's difficult for one to take precedence over another. It's going to take time for twitter and facebook to refine all 'the junk' out there, refine more explicitly who the influencers are and why. Improved execution of mapping these sites will be pivotal in how they define their role in B2B markets and likewise with consumer markets. Google has had a lot of failures, they champion failures, will google+ emerge as one of the few winners? alongside search, adsense and analytics? I'm skeptical... for many good reasons. It's taken twitter a long time to get to where it is, to suggest google+ can walk straight in and compete is naive... they're experiencing a honeymoon period given their branding and clout, i think it'll wear thin quickly. More importantly, do we NEED another social media platform? succinctly? no. They're too late to the race in my opinion... even Gmail is still struggling along, googlers will adopt a + account, but will they convert others? doubtful.