At first glance, Google+ is the black sheep of social media. There was a ton of buzz surrounding Google+ before it opened to the public and then all that excitement just kind of… vanished. How many times have you heard someone say, “Who even uses Google+?” Well, as it turns out, a lot of people do! A quick search tells us that as of March 2015 there are 300 million active Google+ users. That’s a huge opportunity to reach a new audience and it shouldn’t go to waste.

Domain.com has a Google+ page and we admit that when we started we weren’t the savviest page on the platform. Over the past few months, we have been attempting to utilize Google+ in the same way we use Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, Google+ can feel very foreign compared to its counterparts and we quickly figured out that Google+ involved a learning curve. Part of the learning process is a lot of research, testing, and exploring to see what works. The result is this list of surprising and useful features that are valuable to any Google+ beginner.

  1. Titles are encouraged on posts. This was a weird concept for us at first. Titles on social media posts seem counterintuitive. On Google+, though, we learned that this is a key aspect of building your online presence. Google considers every post made on Google+ to be a web page. The “web page’s” content is determined by the first sentence of your post. Further, this web page status means every post is eligible to appear as a result in a Google search. Google uses the first sentence of your post as the headline that customers will see in a search. By making that first sentence a title, you’re providing Google the information it needs for accurate SEO. Long story short: always make your first sentence a title and make that title effective!
  2. Google+ allows you to format posts! This is particularly useful for those titles we were just talking about above. Use *asterisks* to bold, _underscores_ to italicize, and -hyphens- to create strikethroughs. Use formatting to highlight certain information or to organize the text in your posts. Formatting your post on Google+ will help your page appear professional and easy to navigate.
  3. Hashtags are used on Google+. Same as other social media networks, hashtags help categorize posts and clicking on a hashtag brings you to all related content. To assist with brand consistency, use the same hashtags you currently use on Facebook and Twitter.
  4. Circles are kind of confusing at first glance but they help immensely with targeting on Google+. With the ability to sort followers into customized Circles, you can always be sure the right message goes out to the right people. Simply select which audiences you want to target while publishing a post. If a Circle is small enough, you can even choose to send posts directly to followers’ email inboxes. Don’t underestimate the power Circles provides to a small business. Have a sale aimed at loyal customers? Identify and create a “loyal customers” Circle and, boom, you have an instant targeting strategy. How you choose to group your followers is completely up to you and your small business.
  5. Followers are more than an arbitrary number on Google+. We all know more followers on other platforms means more impressions for your business page, but followers take on a whole new meaning on Google+. The more followers you have, the more legitimacy you have with Google, and the higher your search ranking with them.
  6. Google+ users are all about the communities. Join some communities that are relevant to you and your business. No matter your interest, industry, or location, there is bound to be a Google+ community for you. Domain.com mostly follows small business and technology-based communities. We leverage these communities by sharing many of our blog posts with them. In return, we have access to a constant stream of articles, blogs, and information posted by others in the community. Need advice? Ask a question and members are sure to chime in. Grow your network and your knowledge by being active within Google+ communities.

If you’re not currently on Google+, we suggest getting started today. Don’t let the potential of 300 million active users go to waste. With these six tips and features, you have a solid foundation to build your business page. From there you will be able to determine what works best for you and your audience. Need some inspiration? Check out Domain.com’s Google+ page to see what we’re doing.