It is time to re-consider Google+ ?

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If not quite against all the odds, but certainly running counter to a number of dire predictions, Google+ turned five this year. It has not exactly taken off as a credible rival to Facebook, as Google perhaps hoped, but it is still there. And since it’s still there, here’s why you might want to consider it as part of your professional social media presence.

Google continues to try to build and improve the platform. Last year, for example, the company announced that it was separating Photos and Streams, and explained that people were using those elements very differently. Hangouts is also clearly seen as a separate product. It therefore seems likely that more good will emerge, especially if Google is planning to focus a bit harder on Google+ now.

Circles means that you can split your audience into groups, and choose who you share with. For personal social media use, that’s not so important. After all, you probably don’t want to segregate your friends very often. But for professional use, this function is much more useful. It means that you can target posts towards those who will be most interested in them, personalising the messages to the audience.

Google+ actually has an impact on search results. Not all search results, it’s true, but personalised ones. It’s a subtle but important distinction. What it means is that if someone follows you, or follows someone who shares your content, that content shows up higher in their search results. So anyone who is interested in you or your content will see it sooner if you post it to Google+.

Google+ posts also show up in search results quicker than other content. It follows, really. Google wants to promote its own social network, so its bots crawl Google+ more often than other social networks. Content posted there seems to appear in search results much faster than from other sites, where you can wait days, if not weeks.

Google+ posts can be formatted, so you can make them look nicer and easier to read. This may not sound like a very big deal, but at least two top influencers rank it among their favourite aspects of Google+. It means that you can add your own style, and also highlight the important points to your followers. Google+ also has fewer ads than many other social networks, which is a big advantage, and the content length is variable, making it a lot more flexible.

Google+ is interest-focused, which makes it easier to find the right audience. Unlike, say, Facebook, which is driven by your friendship network, Google+ is interest-driven. This makes it much easier to find and connect with others with similar interests, and also group them together. When you connect with people, you know that you already have things in common, which means relationship-building is easier.

You can now connect a Google+ account to BufferAgain, this may not sound like a big deal, but it means that you can do all your social media sharing in one place. For anyone who uses Buffer to manage their social media professionally or personally, this is good news, because it has just made your life significantly easier. And we all know that easy is much more likely to become a habit.

Google+ is linked to Gmail. Google has always been good at linking its apps together, and Google+ is no exception. If you are on Google+ and you email someone who uses gmail, they will see a little icon beside the email that will take them through to your Google+ profile. As a side point, this means it’s well worth making sure that your Google+ profile is complete.

Google+ may be where your target audience is. It is difficult to identify the number of genuine Google+ users, because every new gmail account also generates a Google+ account, plus a large number of people are probably using it only for photos. But of the active users, around three quarters are male, the majority in the US, 29% are engineers and 17% developers. If this is your audience, it could be a very good way to reach them.

Google+ Communities are a powerful way to reach people if you don’t yet have a large following. Communities are interest groups, and mini-social networks. If you join a community, you can post to it. This is a good way to build relationships with like-minded people without having to generate your own following straight away, and increases the visibility of your content.

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