Circles are one of the features that make Google+ a truly unique social network. They allow bloggers and marketers to segment people into specific groups, to be used for targeted updates and discovery. With Circles, you get to selectively choose who sees what and when. It’s a marketers dream come true! Before I go any further, here’s a MAJOR disclosure:
Google+ Circles can be used to build your brand, but keep in mind that it’s not about selling or constantly pushing your own updates, content, events and so on. There needs to be a thoughtful balance between posting about your brand or blog and sharing third-party relevant information and updates.
Quick 101 on How to Create Circles on Google
To get started, place your cursor in the top left corner of the Google+ main menu. Click People. For those of you who haven’t created Circles before, Google+ will give you the options of finding people you may know or seeing who has already added you. Four Circles have been created for you: Friends, Family, Acquaintances and Following. These are self-explanatory; however, let me make a recommendation. Don’t add people to the Acquaintances and Following Circles who could be added to more valuable, niche Circles. For example, let’s say you met the CEO of a publishing company at a recent event. He’s an acquaintance, sure. But he’s also a prospect for your ink supply business or someone you’d love to interview for your blog. See where I’m going with this? Take the time to build meaningful Circles.
To create new Circles, simply click the circle with the big plus sign (+).
You can also create new Circles on the fly through the drop down menu.
Adding People to Google+ Circles
Beyond what Google has presented, there are a variety of ways to add people to your Circles. You can search for people in specific industries or by using certain keywords with the Google+ search tool. Just click the red G+or home icon on the left menu. Either will bring you to the home page of your Google+ account where you can search for people.
Another option for quickly building your network is to add Circles that people have shared on Google+, appropriately called Shared Circles. To find these Circles, you can again perform a search. In the Google+ search bar type in “shared a circle with you” (leave this in quotation marks). The search will bring up some of the Circles that Google+ users shared publicly. To find niche Shared Circles, type in “shared a circle with you” AND the “relevant keyword” (changing relevant keyword to something like lawyers, doctors and so on and keeping both search terms in quotations). This will bring up any niche Circles that have been shared.
Anywhere you see Google+ activity, you can add people and pages to Circles – even from Google’s traditional search results page!
Using Circles to Build Your Brand (or Blog)
Here are some key ways to use Google+ Circles to build your brand:
Using Circles as Invite Lists: You can use your Circles to invite specific groups of people to Google+ Hangouts or to other events that you promote through Google+. They are also ideal for inviting people to new or existing Google+ Communities that you manage.
Targeting Special Offers to Specific Groups: If you have various types of customers or need to target customers in a particular region, those who speak a certain language and so on, you can set up Circles based on those different parameters. Once set up, your messaging only reaches those it was intended for. Just be careful that you are not using Google+ solely to market or promote your products or services.
Better Connecting with Thought Leaders or Power Players in Your Industry: Some of the greatest minds and heaviest hitters are hardcore users of Google+. You can add them to specific Circles and tailor your updates and messages to reach them in a thoughtful manner.
TIP: Use Ripples to add influencers to your Circles. Ripples are a little-known feature of Google+ that identify people who shared a public post, as well as how large an audience they have. To view Ripples for a public post in your stream, just click the dropdown arrow at the top of the post you’re curious about and click View Ripples.
Generating Leads and Reaching Potential Customers: Whenever you add someone to your Circles, they receive an mail. Adding someone to your Circles is a non-intrusive way to say “Hi, I’m so-and-so and here is what I do or offer.” If they add you back, they’ll get your updates, which will begin to build a relationship.
Making Connections with Members of the Media: Is part of your marketing strategy focused on generating PR? Circles is an ideal way to start connecting with members of the media and news outlets. Start by commenting on news stories, which can build relationships. Look for interview requests from the media.
Sending Mini-Newsletters to Existing Clients: Google+ allows wordy updates. In fact, Google+ posts that receive the most comments are resource-type articles with a lot of links. Take advantage of this space by creating Circles of your existing clients and sending mini-newsletters to them. You can also use these Circles to send them content that they will find useful or interesting.
I’m only touching the surface of what can be done with Google+ Circles. What are some of the ways you have been using this innovative feature?