Google+ as a Business Research Tool
Why should you seriously consider Google+ as a business research tool? You mean… apart from the fact that Google is still the number one search engine?
There are many factors that make Google+ a platform to add to your business research toolbox:
- Google Hangouts on Air – if you use them, you will not only be searchable in Google+ but automatically in YouTube too
- Automatic title tags – Google+ treats the first sentence of your post as a Title. This gives it extra power in general Google search results, as well as in Google+.
- You can keyword-optimize your posts – This increases targeting and focus in searches – both your own (for brand monitoring) and others
- You can search posts, people and pages
- You can search Google+ communities
You can also use tools and features that other social networks don’t have – such as Google+ Ripples…
Step 1. Using Ripples
Surprisingly, not many people are aware of this handy little feature.
To view “ripples” for any post:
- Click the down arrow in the post top-right corner
- From the drop-down menu, select “View Ripples”
This will immediately give you information on the sharing history of that particular post:
- The number of public shares (Note: It doesn’t show private ones)
- The spread of the post over time
You will also be able to view a list of actual posts shared on the right-hand side of the page.
Sometimes post behavior may surprise you – especially if you see a post by one of your top industry influencers and assume that it must have gained many shares. Ripples show you whether or not public shares were high or low.
The comment list at the right can show you whether or not the comments were of value (the ones in the example above were not: They were “empty” comments.) Seeing top posters and the type of feedback they received can give you much more accurate and valuable feedback when you are researching niches, audiences or competitors.
Step 2. Google+ Hashtags 101
Another advantage of using Google+: Hashtags – which some reviewers think to work better than Facebook hashtags.
- Using Hashtags
One of the best things about Google+ hashtags is the way they appear in search results. Say you search Google+ posts for a specific keyword: Within your results, if someone has used a hashtag, it will immediately display it.
Glancing through post search results, it is easy to get a feel for hashtags that are popular by the number of times they repeat in your search results – and you can also research exactly who uses them. Are they in alignment with your marketing audience? Are they used by top Google+ or industry/niche influencers?
Analyzing data such as this can help you focus your Google+ hashtag use more effectively and accurately.
You can also find and follow hashtag accounts by simply typing “hashtags” in the Google+ search bar.
Using Hashtags for Brand Monitoring:
Create your hashtags to help monitor your brand. For example, if you created the hashtag “#lemondropjewelry” and inserted it at the end of each post about your Lemon Drop jewelry line, you could easily run a search later to see:
- Who is sharing your posts – and who is the top sharer
- Which posts were shared the most – and which is the top post
- What questions people are asking
- Whether or not your hashtag is trending
And just about any result, you care to measure for that hashtag.
To Create your Hashtag:
- Type “#” (without the quotes)
- Type your word or a keyword phrase (without any spaces)
- END WITH SPACE OR TAB KEY
This last step is different from Twitter or Facebook – so be sure to keep it in mind.
Q: Is there a Hashtags.org equivalent third-party site for Google+ hashtags?
A: Some Google+ users seem to be using RiteTag. If you’d like to check it out, jump on it now, because RiteTag is currently in beta – and they are hinting that soon they will be charging for some features; which is not the case at the time of writing.
- Searching Hashtags
Hashtag searches are easy, using Google+. You can enter any hashtag in Google’s search bar to get instant, up-to-the-minute results on all Google+ activity around that particular hashtag.
You can also search any of the categories in your vertical, left-hand and top, horizontal menu bars, including:
- Best of
- Most recent
Hashtags also now work in “Comments” – a recent functionality change.
Don’t just stop when you’ve located posts containing hashtags, however – click on the hashtag in the post to run further searches on it.
To Narrow your Hashtag Search:
- Run your search using the hashtag of your choice
- Add a filter, such as the “From You”, “To You” or “From your circles” category
- Save your search, if desired, to return to it again.
Step 3. Using the Google+ Search Function
The Google+ search function offers powerful advantages that other social platform search engines simply can’t compete with. For example, Memeburn had this to say about Google+ search…
(And if you’ve been shaking your head and saying, “I have a WordPress blog. I can’t verify my site with a rel=“author” tag” – WordPress seems to have fixed this problem with its latest version, making plugins and other workarounds unnecessary.)
Google wrote the book on search engines, so it’s no big surprise that it functions miles above the rest. And, like Twitter, it presents live-stream feeds as part of your results.
In addition to searching “everything”, you can also speed up and narrow down your searches by selecting specific categories to search, including:
- People and pages
- Google+ posts
- Hangouts (top horizontal menu
- Hangouts on Air (LH vertical menu)
- “From your circles”
- “From you”
- “To you”
- “What’s Hot”
You can also save your searches.
One other point you might like to know: Instead of it’s previous “best of” results for search strings, Google+ now displays “most recent” – and lets you be the judge of which posts are “best”. (You can also click on any trending topic to automatically launch a search string.)
No other social network has such powerful and easy to access search functions.
Step 4. How to Use Trending Topics
If you select the “What’s Hot” category from your left-hand vertical menu, you will instantly see a list of trending topics and hashtags.
Unlike Twitter, Google+’s Trending window usually seems to contain at least two or three hashtags or suggestions (and dozens of live streaming posts) that business researchers can use or check out.
And simply running a search for the keyword “trending” can bring you the latest on who is talking about trends.
Add a specific industry keyword to that, and you can narrow your results.
Remember that hashtags alone won’t do all the work – they are search parameters and filters. And – as with Twitter – don’t overuse them! One to three should be the maximum you should consider: And more than one only if your extra hashtags are highly relevant and related to your topic.
Always begin your post with a powerful first sentence, remembering that Google treats it as a Title in all search results.
Step 5. Six Other Ways to do Business Research on Google+
- Ask your followers focused questions and make notes from the answers
- Pay attention to questions asked by your target audience or potential clients
- Get a discussion going within your community
- Count the number (and quality) of comments on your posts – and on others’
- Join a community closely aligned to your profession and help yourself to tips
- Read what works for similar professionals – and what doesn’t
Finally, remember that Google+ has so many other features, functions, and platforms that integrate with it.
Google+ functions are effective and versatile. Get into the habit of using them today for all your business research.