Is Google+ Right For Your Practice?
Just a few years ago, the idea of keeping in touch with colleagues, clients and friends on a single software platform was, at best, an intriguing concept. Today, the outreach that’s possible through online relationships is very real, and only continues to grow as more and more companies enter the social networking arena. Take Google, for example.
The world’s most popular search engine now has own social network, Google+. Great, but the number one answer accounting firms and professionals want to know is whether they should get on Google+, similar to the way they adopted LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. At the heart of the conversation is the investment of time; after all, Google+ is free, so when an accountant wants to know more about the benefits of participating in social media, the discussion is more around the time commitment. Yet, at the end of the day, there’s a larger question: Will Google+ bring me more business?
Is Google+ Right for Me and My Practice?
Many accountants already recognize that social networking is a great way to do business because it becomes another way to network and prospect for clients. A number of surveys within the industry show a correlation between high performance and technology adoption; providing access to social networking tools such as Google+ may indeed become essential if a firm wants to compete with other firms.
A recent survey conducted by Bay Street Group LLC on top technology strategies found that practitioners consider “reputation” to be critical to an accountant’s success. Key to becoming more widely recognized as an expert/thought leader in the industry is the ability to establish an online presence on social networking sites. Although Google+ may not be top of the mind when it comes to creating an online presence, it should be.
The Pluses of Google+
Google+ is free and easy to set up. As with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, within just a few minutes, even the non-technical accountant can register his or her account, create a branded page and start communicating. Once you create your Google+ profile, you have a front door or entry point for your Google+ activities and account. From here, you can build a community using unique features, including “circles” and “hangouts.”
Just like Facebook, Google+ offers individual accounts and, in November 2011, began offering corporate pages. You can choose to do one or both; most everyone begins with an individual account and then builds a corporate page some time down the road.
One of the main differences between Google+ and the three other social networking sites is the ability to more closely target your messages. Google+ Circles helps you organize your contacts and followers into specific categories you name yourself — for example, you might create categories such as fellow finance friends, accounting experts or association colleagues. Use circles to segment your colleagues, followers (fans) and even team members to share the information with the people you want, and follow content posted by people you find interesting. For example, you might see a post from the circle you created for your local CPA chapter buddies about a recent article on an industry expert you admire and follow.
Other unique components include Hangouts that enable you to video-chat and upload, collaborate, or share documents quickly. This is a useful tool for keeping in touch with colleagues who are on the move because it allows team members to work remotely on shared files in real time.
More information about available features and helpful tips can be found in the Google+ Quick Guide, but it’s worth noting that you can customize your personal profile information to fit your exact needs. For example, you might make your contact details, location and relationship information visible to your fellow finance friends circle, while your employment history and education would be visible only to your association colleagues circle. As a result, you form more targeted audiences with which to connect and message.
Widen Your Circle of Influence
If you are still determining whether Google+ is right for you, consider this: Because more than 1 billion people use Google’s search engine every month, Google+ allows them to start tapping into that traffic, because Google+ pages are now showing up in search results. Your clients and others who have personal Google+ profiles can, therefore, recommend you or your practice with a “+1” and bring more traffic to your Google+ site. A +1 can help improve a Google search, too, because people can see which pages your social connections recommend right beneath search results and ads.
Client recruitment and retention should be tops on your list year-round, not just during busy season. We know social networking works, so when you are ready to widen your circle of influence, it might be wise to consider Google+. Remember, however, just as with any other social networking site, the more you put in, the more you get out. Said differently, if you only open an account and do nothing else with Google+ in terms of adding people to circles and sharing information, you’re back at square one.