With new social networks popping up everyday, it can be hard to figure out which ones deserve your business's time and efforts. However, when Google creates a full-fledged network, not just a social service like Wave or Buzz, it's time to take notice.
Currently Google+ is an invite-only social network, and they're openly discouraging businesses from creating accounts. They do have a form you can fill out for your business, which will put you on an alert when they roll out features for businesses, but no one is sure how exactly that's going to pan out. One thing that's very obvious to the early adopters and a lucky few, including myself, who have been on Google+ for over a week, is that it's very social and very tightly-knit. With that social mentality comes the ability to band together against or completely ignore someone for overly promoting themselves or their business. From comments I've seen, many early users were anticipating the rush from marketers and businesses trying to leverage the service, and most responses were negative. However, with the birth of a new network comes a huge opportunity to talk to people, be engaging and start building relationships with people you may never have otherwise had access to.
Business owners should be utilizing their employees who are social media savvy and passionate about the company. They are the ones that will be relatable and able to build meaningful relationships on Google+. Use them as touch- points and allow them to post content about your business. This will also mean that, when it comes time for the "business features" of Google+ to be released, you'll have employees that understand the etiquette and environment of the network, which will be key in connecting with people.
Speaking of the crowd, Google+ organizes your crowd with a feature called "Circles." This is a unique blend of a Facebook friend list and a Twitter following. You put people in Circles and you can customize and establish permissions for them. When you want to share a video, post a photo or talk about your cat, you can choose to do it publicly (all your Circles) or only share it with certain people. Like Twitter, people can add you to their Circles (follow you) and you don't have to add them or worry about their messages showing up in your stream.
This is a great way to organize people in different industries and sort your stream by placing different priorities on certain flows of content.
One of the best and most important features for a business owner on Google+ is the Hangout. Hangouts are multiple person video chats (up to 10) where you can click a button and let anyone in your Circles come video chat with you. Conversations had by text, email, tweets, etc. are great, but when you can see someone's face and interact directly with them it's 100 times better.
In just one week I've already been in Google Hangouts with people I've never seen in person, but have connected with on other networks. As a result, those same people are already in way more of my conversations outside of Google+, which is something that never would have happened organically. Imagine unveiling or launching a new product and offering customer service through real-time video? That's powerful.
I'm not worried about whether Google+ will replace any other network; I'm excited for it being it's own entity and helping to unify my social experience online. I think the value for business owners at this point is to explore the space with everyone else and start to understand the possibilities.
Follow Jason Sadler on Twitter: www.twitter.com/iwearyourshirt