I’ll be the first to admit that I was skeptical about the social media platform, Google+ – and may have referred to it “the red-headed stepchild of social media channels” (sorry Larry Page). But, by golly, was I wrong. 

Three years after it entered social space, Google+ has established itself as the second-largest social media site in the world with a monthly active user base of 235 million. Google+’s main apps, Communities and Hangouts, set the channel apart from other social networks by connecting your brand with influencers you might not engage with elsewhere, and by diversifying and building your unique social content.

If that doesn’t sell you: Google+ places a heavy emphasis on SEO. Sharing content on Google+ and encouraging others to +1 your content can even improve your search ranking on Google.

For many organizations focusing on expanding their social reach and improving their SEO, Google+ remains uncharted territory. But, if you have the capacity to add and actively post to another social media network, Google+ can benefit your brand. If you’re a Google+ beginner, here are a few things you need to know:

  • Circles: Like Twitter, you’ll be prompted to add people you know or want to follow and see all the activity that he or she publishes publicly. You can divide your contacts into “Circles,” which essentially act as filter for the content you publish. Using Circles, you can decide who sees what content and even create audience-specific content.
  • Communities: As I mentioned above, Communities are where users search for specific topics and engage with other users who are just as interested in these topics. After requesting to join, you can post to the Community directly – that post will also show up on your profile page and will be visible to other users who navigate to your page.
  • Hangouts: Hangouts are probably the most visible value-add of Google+. Hangouts allow you to directly communicate with users in real time. There are three types of Hangouts: the text chat version that has essentially replaced Gchat, private Hangouts (private) and Hangouts On Air (public). Hangout and Hangout On Air are hosted video chats for up to ten users, and can help brands do everything from directly communicating their message to demonstrating a new service (Google Hangout press conference, anyone?).