Google+Are you using Google+ yet? Since its launch in January 2012, Google+ has attracted in excess of 300 million users – it sounds impressive but it’s still lagging way behind Facebook, which can boast over a billion users. Maybe the slowness to adopt Google+ can be attributed to confusion over its actual purpose- it’s a bit like Facebook, but it’s also a bit like Twitter – is it any wonder that so many of us are scratching our heads and wondering whether to make the jump or add it to our already bulging social media collection!

So, in an attempt to reveal Google+ in all its glory, here’s a whistle-stop tour of how you can make it work for you and your small business:

Create circles

Not unlike your Facebook friends function, Circles enables you to categorise your Google+ contacts into groups, a very useful feature if you like to keep work contacts and social friends separate. You can create as many groups as you want and can even include contacts in more than one group. This then becomes very useful in terms of sharing relevant content across your groups – you may have several groups that will want to see business-related content, but definitely won’t be interested in photos of the picnic you enjoyed on the weekend with your family.

You can also join Google+ Communities, circles in which you may find likely business prospects – you could think of these public circles rather like joining groups on LinkedIn.

Become an author

If you’re a blogger, adding your name to Google Authorship is a must. Any content you write on certain sites will be picked up by Google, strengthening your reputation as an author.

Google+ is able to leverage its close relationship with Google and influence search results. Content on Google+ is prioritised and, with Google’s increased emphasis on authorship and relevant content, blogs will naturally move up the search rankings if content is shared on Google+. And the more attention you receive – and the more authority you gain – the more traffic will be driven to your site.

Add photos

If you create albums on Facebook, you’ll find this just as easy. A really good feature is that you can specify which images to share with your various Circles, again making it easy to separate business from pleasure. This is an advantage over Facebook if you want to share discreet information with different groups – business versus friends for example. I only use Facebook for personal use for this reason to keep business and pleasure separate.

Hangout and huddle

Two good ways to interact with other people in your Circles, you can Hangout with any amount of others using video chat, or you can Huddle and enjoy a group chat via your mobile (Android only at present).

Personally, I think the biggest attraction of Google+ is the ability to create circles to enable discreet sharing of content, along with the fact that every single post has its own URL and can therefore be indexed. And the level to which Google+ aims to provide a highly personalised search experience makes a very compelling case for small businesses to start using Google+, particularly if you operate within a specific location or deliver your services locally.

What is your experience of Google+? If you were an early adopter and have had Google+ in your bag of marketing tricks for some time, I’d love to hear how it’s impacted on your business.