Posted on April 8, 2013 by Webfor by Chelsea Terris “I’m an independent contractor with tons of contacts and no way to organize them for optimal social sharing.” “I’m a business looking for a social network that allows me to unite my Google Places listing with my share page.” “I upload tons of pictures and want them to rank.” If you have uttered a phrase like any of the above, you are SO ready to get hooked on the behemoth of a social share site that is Google +. Far more than just the new social network in town, Google + has taken the web by storm. So what is it about this site that caused Raven’s SEO Jon Henshaw to proclaim, “I can’t go to sleep. I’m obsessed with G+ right now. This is crazy!”? Circles Chances are, you’ve got many “friends” with whom you would like to socially share. Those may include colleagues, industry peers, as well as actual meet-on- the-weekend friends and your family. Because your target audience for social shares varies, circles allow you to categorize your connections and share with only specific users. Contacts are organized into “circles,” both with general titles like “friends” and more specific titles that you create, like “ Plumber buddies.” Found an article that is relevant to your colleagues? Share it with “Office Mates.” Posting recipes for an upcoming potluck? Share with your Family circle. Best of all, you can include contacts in more than one circle. If you started a business with your high school best friend or are buddies with your co-worker, Google + encourages those relationships. Recently, I have seen a few of my freelancer friends create separate Facebook pages just to help them organize their business and personal contacts. No need with Google +. Just sign up, organize your peeps in circles, and speak directly to targeted audiences without a second thought. Hangout at work AND at play Back in college, hanging out with friends was a way to share experiences, such as concerts, parties, and even relaxed study sessions. You connected with people, shared parts of yourself and learned more about your buddies, with ease. Google + hangouts are designed to promote the same level of comfortable sharing by allowing you to video chat with one or many of your contacts from your circles. How does it work? When you invite someone to hang with you, a post appears in their stream notifying them that its go time and they are invited. If you begin a hangout when one is already happening in your circles, you receive a notification and have the option to join in on the one currently happening. To add to the addiction factor, hangouts are not closed events, so a member of a hangout can invite a friend. Think of it as an online Meetup. Learn-from-my-mistake-moment: If you are recording a hangout for the purpose of presenting information to others (a great use of this feature, by the way), remember that the person who is speaking or making any kind of noise gets filmed. That means that if you are in a hangout with your boss, and you are rustling papers to review your notes while he is speaking, the view will shift to you. Makes for some AFV-worthy editing, but not a great hangout. Our First Webfor Hangout = #EPICFAIL #DONTDOTHIS: Photos In the photo arena, circles continue to work hard for you. Once uploaded in the same way you do it on Facebook, Google + allows you to share those photos with selected circles. This way, your industry peers don’t have to put up with your “Happy Monday” pics of baby bunnies nestled in ski hats, and your family can get images of your kids and your trip to Spain, not links to your next networking event. Also like Facebook, all uploaded photos can be tagged and included as “pictures of you.” Photo comments come up as speech bubbles to the right of the picture. You can create albums, add uploaded pics to older albums, and personalize your profile photo and background “cover” for a look that’s all yours. Finally, SEOs like Lisa Meyer are betting that soon images will rank highly in Google image searches, and we are inclined to agree. Google + Business Page Want your business easily found online? Second to the “Circles” feature, what makes Google + a standout social platform is that it allows you to create a business page that shows up in Google searches and provides users with relevant posts, photos, or videos from your Google + profile page. If you already have a Google + Local Listing and a Google + page, you can merge the two. However, beware: if your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) are not completely clean across 100’s of online sites, or if your business has multiple locations, hold off. Merging your listing on Google + is still a new feature and some people have reported it causing issues. If you want to clean up your NAP, consider contracting a good SEO company to help make your search results bright and shiny! Mobile photo uploads are instant! Google + is one with your mobile device. Automatically uploading photos from your phone to a private album on your profile, Google + gives you the option to share those photos with your circles, when and how you wish. Get sparked If you like the internet feeding you content that’s tailored to your interests, Google + sparks is definitely for you. You tell “Sparks” your interests and it pulls videos, images, and articles that relate to your industry and passions. If you are someone who, like me, finds new music through YouTube suggestions and the randomness of Pandora, Sparks is for you. If you’d rather not fill up your feed with a lot of content that may distract you from the task at hand, skip it. Either way, its a fun option and an excellent addition to the Google + user experience. What’s the big whoop? What make Google + different (and, dare I say, more useful to local SEO?) from Facebook is that it allows you to categorize your contacts and merge your Google places account with your page. Small businesses will get found in searches easier by establishing a Google + presence, and individuals in all industries can benefit from the targeted content available without the need to edit a daily feed. Already hooked or totally over it? Leave us a comment!