Even the most social media literate people do not know much about Google+ (or as it styles itself, Google+), let alone its potential benefits. But most companies will have a profile on there, whether they like it or not. We have gathered some of the reasons why those interested in healthcare marketing should consider being on Google+, together with basic good practices. This should help you and your business seize the possibilities for the platform.

According to Hootsuite, Google+ has been named the second largest active social network in the world, just behind Facebook. In March 2014 the platform already had over 540 million members, including 359 million monthly active users.

Google+ is different to other social media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter. It allows for social media interactions, which often creates the confusion of comparing it to Facebook. But the idea of Google+ is actually to bring people together to use many of Google’s services, such as Hangouts or Circles. Your profile is created when you create you Google account – which many people do when they create a YouTube account, for example, or for Google Analytics. It is a new social layer that only some are beginning to understand.

The size of Google+ is impressive; it has a quarter of Facebook’s users – more than Twitter, Instagram, and Skype. It also is used by 54% of marketers making it the sixth most used platform after Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging and YouTube. Yet while an average Facebook user spends seven hours per month on the platform, an average Google+ user only spends seven minutes.

What makes Google+ a better tool than other social media platforms in creating opportunities to have deeper engagement, increased marketing performance and better discovery across the web, and a measurable impact?

For brand engagement, Google+ gets great results, creating nearly as much engagement per follower as Facebook posts and nearly twice as much as Twitter posts. Also, everything you post on Google+ is automatically indexed by Google, significantly boosting your search engine results without any extra work. And it is not the ‘ghost town’ that some people believe; rather, it is a targeted social network that supports interaction across teams. It’s not going to list your friend’s relationship problems; but it might enable you to talk to them online and talk about those problems.

Here are a few tips to get you started and get all those benefits.

Build a proper Google+ page

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It is crucial that you start by building a proper, fully equipped Google+ page listing all the information about your business. Of course, you must complete your profile by providing the name of the company, location, telephone numbers, image and link to the official website. The introduction should briefly sum up what the business does and the areas of expertise, the tagline should be brief and precise. But the work does not end there.

It is good to put a Google+ badge on your official website, clearly showing our presence on the platform. If you do not want a full-sized badge, make sure you add a G+ button next to you Twitter and Facebook links.

If your business has a blog, you can also add a +1 button to the blog posts, allowing your readers to ‘like’ it the same way they do on Facebook and add value to the content, therefore letting it reach a wider audience.

You can also set up a custom Google+ URL for your company’s profile. This makes it easier for your audiences to find you on the platform and connect with your business.

Use Circles, Hangouts and Communities
Google+ allows you to create circles to group the people or companies you would like to follow. You can create custom circles, like Customers, Colleagues, Friends, Competitors, etc. without them having to ‘follow you back’. This will help you avoid sharing irrelevant content with people and tailor content you share to specific groups.

On Google+ you can also host a community which is focused around a common topic. This is a great way to build your bond with existing customers and grow your customer base through common ground, or even work together on a specific project.

Something that puts Google+ ahead of its social media competition are Google+ Hangouts. These allow easy creation of video conferences with multiple users, such as friends or customers. Hangouts are great for engagement, putting a face on the brand and bringing it closer to the customers, and can be used for various creative purposes.

Engage and measure outcomes
When you are posting your content onto Twitter or Facebook, don’t forget about Google+. Post interesting things on your profile page to raise your company’s profile, share links of your blogs and encourage your customers to share their views about your business. Try posting interesting content – such as links, photos or videos – at least once a day, and between 10am to 1pm.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, you can actually customise how your post would look like on Google+. Make use of the font options available, such as the following: “_text_ = Text”, “*Text* = Text”, or “*_ Text_* = Text”.

Google+ allows you to easily see the outcomes of your actions on the platform. Using a tool call Ripples, Google+ shows you how your content is shared in an easy-to navigate manner. You can see who your influencers are and how they are impacting the effectiveness of your content efforts.

Google+ allows you to use Circles, Hangouts and Ripples. You can also write blogs, build communities, and use social analytics. You can share and read content, and use hashtags as on other channels, Customers will often post reviews on your Google+ page, and you might not even register it happening.

Google+ has a lot of potential to support healthcare marketers. We leave you with these tips on best basic practice on a social media platform with endless possibilities, an extensive infographic on using Google+, and another comparing Google+ and Facebook; and good luck out there.

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