When it comes to managing a Google+ Brand Page, my tool of choice is HootSuite. The fact is, there’s only so much you can do within the Google+ Dashboard itself. You can certainly craft a post and respond to notifications and comments, and view statistics. But you can’t schedule activity, and you can’t save searches and you can’t source content for sharing.
With HootSuite, I can connect one or more Brand Pages and do all of those things, and more! Today I’m going to walk you through everything that you can do with HootSuite to make your Google+ Page an active and vibrant community for your brand followers and connections.
Sharing Great Content
The first purpose that most people think of when they think about HootSuite is using it to share posts to social networks, and without a doubt, that’s the most common usage of the tool. And HootSuite does have full support for Google+ Pages (not personal profiles), and even multiple Pages and Google+ Local Pages.
If you haven’t already connected your Google+ account and set up one or more Pages, log into your HootSuite Dashboard and click on the button with your name in the upper left corner to view your Organizations and Social Profiles. Click on Add a Social Network to open the add network dialogue box. Select Google+, authenticate your account, and you will be presented with a list of any Pages you are the manager of. Select any you wish to connect and then click Finished Importing. You’ll now see that profile’s pic in your list of available social profiles, with a small Google+ overlay image so you’ll know which platform it’s for.
You can now open the Compose dialogue box and craft social media messages like you normally would, and include your Google+ Page. We’ll talk about Styling and Scheduling posts in a moment, but all of the HootSuite basic principles and techniques apply here. You can shorten links, select up to 5 social profiles, pull in templated messages to share or create a post from scratch. And you can use the Hootlet Chrome Extension (which I love) to easily share any webpage or article you stumble across to your Google+ Page.
Note that the Hootlet is a fantastic option in this instance, even if the article itself has a Google+ sharing widget, since the widgets don’t give you the option of sharing to a brand Page. If you find something you want to share with your business audience, using the Hootlet will save you from having to copy and paste URLs into Page status update boxes, and you get the full benefit of HootSuite shortened links, scheduling and more.
But for me, what I really enjoy is using the HootSuite Syndicator to bring in RSS feeds from my favorite blogs and news sources. I have a tab set up called RSS that I can click on at any time within my HootSuite Dashboard. Once it refreshes, I’ll see the latest articles from a dozen or more sites that I’ve curated, and with one click, I can begin crafting a post for my Google+ Page.
This saves me a tremendous amount of time, both for myself and for my clients who want to share interesting articles, industry news, and other viewpoints on a specific topic or topics.
Regardless of how you’ve found a post that you want to share, the next step is to decide what else you’re going to say, and how you want it to look on Google+.
One of the great features that differentiates Google+ from other platforms is the ability to style and format posts. You can choose to share a link preview or an image, and within your text you can insert paragraph breaks, shortened links, and even make text bold and italic.
Here’s an example:
And the good news is that HootSuite fully supports this level of formatting! That post was crafted entirely within HootSuite.
There are a few caveats.
First, start by composing your post like you normally would within the HootSuite dashboard. And just as though you were on Google+ itself, hit Enter for paragraph breaks and use the * and _ for basic formatting. (For more specific suggestions on formatting Google+ posts for maximum impact, read more here.)
If you want to share an image, you’ll need to select at least one Twitter account to share the post to. Don’t worry, you can unselect it later – that’s just one of the quirks of HootSuite. Once you have a Twitter account selected and your Google+ Page, drag your image into the Compose dialogue box. HootSuite will upload it and add a shortened link for the image. Note that there’s a checkbox now under your Compose field asking whether or not you want include that link when sharing to Facebook or Google+, and I would generally leave that checked. That will share the full image, and omit the link to the image from the description.
Sharing Images to Google+ or any social profile does require HootSuite Pro.
Hashtags will also work perfectly, including having your first three displayed in the upper right corner of the post.
Mentions, unfortunately, do not yet work, so bear that in mind. You can edit a post later to include a mention link to someone’s profile, but bear in mind that mentioning someone on a post that has already gone live will not result in a notification for that person. This is because your Google+ name doesn’t have to be unique, so when you start to +Mention someone, a list of possible matches comes up. If you’re on a third-party platform like HootSuite, there’s no such list.
And one final note: when crafting a post like this, it should only be used for Google+ Pages. While you can share an image to both Google+ Pages and Facebook Pages and even Tweets, Twitter and Facebook will limit how much text you can include, and the styling of text to make it bold or italic is not supported on other networks. This technique is best used only for Google+ Pages, particularly if you want to schedule the post to be shared later. I have also noted on occasion that the Google+ share will end up only displaying a shortened URL instead of the image or link preview, so avoid combining Google+ with other platforms when sharing.
Which brings us to the next benefit of using HootSuite for Google+ Page Management: Scheduling. Within HootSuite, you have a number of options when it comes to sharing a post:
1. Share Now
4. Bulk Schedule
Share Now is a great option when you have content within HootSuite already that you want to share (like from RSS feeds discussed a moment ago), or are using the HootSuite Hootlet, and don’t want to take the time to open and log into your Google+ Page or Pages.
AutoSchedule is one of my favorite little tools within HootSuite. At any time, if you want to share something using HootSuite but do not want or need it to go out right away, clicking AutoSchedule will allow HootSuite to automatically choose a time to share that post, typically within the next few hours, when HootSuite thinks it will be most likely to be seen. If you know you want something to go out today or tomorrow at the latest, but have no other specific requirements, this is the option to choose. Not only will it stagger posts to your Google+ Page, it will ask stagger among any other social networks you’re sharing to, so if you have a post you want to share to a few profiles they all won’t go out at exactly the same time.
Once a post has been AutoScheduled, you can click on the Publisher screen, view the scheduled activity, and edit them if needed.
Schedule is your option to choose a specific date and time for your post. For businesses running a Google+ Page, this is a great option for Holiday messages, timed announcements, and messages that need to be communicated on a weekly basis (like specials, etc.). Schedule is also the option to use if you want to set up several days worth of posts, as AutoSchedule may only put an hour or two between them.
Bulk Schedule is an interesting option where you can upload a spreadsheet full of messages and links and specific time and dates for each message. While Bulk Schedule would support formatting and hashtags, it would not support sharing images (only links with link previews), so it’s generally not the ideal tool for creating social activity on Google+. It is, however, a great option for businesses that want to share preset messages, like holiday hours. You could create your spreadsheet on January 1, upload it, and have your holiday greetings and messages scheduled for the entire year in advance.
Whichever method you choose should be based on when you think your audience and your message will be most likely to connect. For some that may mean during “peak usage” times, while for others you may want to avoid peak usage times and catch your audience when there’s less competition for their attention. As well as being mindful of timezones and geographic differences. And then continue to test and measure and revise so that over time, you’ll learn which methods and time and approaches work the best for your business and achieve the results you’re looking for.
Posting and schedule posts to Google+ Pages is great, but that’s only the beginning of a successful social media strategy. To truly be effective, brands and businesses must be listening to what’s being said on Google+, and HootSuite is great for that. The typical reasons for listening include Prospecting, Brand Monitoring and Customer Service, but the following technique can be used for all manner of purposes.
From within any Tab (typically a tab dedicated to your Google+ presence or specifically for monitoring), click on Add Stream and select the Search tab. Make sure that your Google+ Page is selected and then type in whatever search term(s) you want. You can search for your brand name or specific products to monitor when people are having conversations around your business, or you can put in more topical keywords to keep an eye out for people to follow or discussions to join.
You can have up to 10 streams saved within a tab at a time, so feel free to create several streams and see which ones bear the most fruit. The technique itself is easy – the art is in determining how you want to use it and the most appropriate keywords to be searching for.
At any time, you can share a specific post that appears within a stream, or even an entire stream, with your other HootSuite Team Members.
You can leave comments on Google+ posts from within HootSuite.
While you cannot +1 or Share posts yet, you can click on the timestamp for a specific post and open it within a new tab and then take additional actions from there.
But if other people have already +1’d or commented on a post, you can see the numbers for that post at the bottom of the post and click on them to see that post’s activity.
Finally, one of the really cool aspects of Google+ Page monitoring within HootSuite is that as you set up circles of people on Google+, you can create streams within HootSuite for any of those circles.
Adding such a stream works the same as adding any other new stream: click on Add Stream, make sure your Google+ Page is selected, choose Circles and then select whichever one you want.
Businesses who are taking full advantage of the power of Google+ Circles can do so much with this!
– Businesses can follow their clients and listen to what they’re talking about, watching for opportunities to help and support them.
– Businesses can follow vendors and industry news Pages and pay attention to the latest developments in their niche.
– Businesses can follow influencers in their industry and cull relationships by participating in discussions and sharing updates.
– Businesses can follow competitors.
– Businesses can follow people who have engaged with them in the past and continue to grow those relationships.
– Businesses can follow other Pages and People within the Team and help cross-promote activity.
So make sure that you’re getting the most out of both your Google+ Page and your HootSuite Dashboard by connecting them and following some of these best practices.
– Share Great Content
– Format Posts for Optimum Engagement
– Schedule Posts to Reach a Larger Audience
– Listen to What’s Being Said
– Monitor and Engage with Circles
If you have more questions about Google+ or HootSuite, or are looking for more help managing your online community, let us know.