Google Plus. Everyone's heard of it, but how many people do you know actually use it?
Depending on your circle of friends, possibly not many, which means there's every chance you've had no particular urge to join either.
The seemingly slow acceptance of Google's social networking service, however, is the very reason you should get involved now.
Think back to when you finally embraced Facebook and Twitter as a viable business tool. Was it one, two, or three years after launch? Or longer? Even one year post-launch means you were probably playing catch up.
It's a matter of 'early adoption'. Whatever business you're in, a good operator keeps informed and watches for the emergence of popular apps, and takes them up before they reach critical mass.
“People who are ignoring it are falling behind,” says social marketing strategist Linda Sherman in a recent article on Forbes.com. According to Sherman, “you can leap ahead” by signing up now, just as early Twitter users gained substantial followings as more people discovered it.
Sherman says there are two “killer apps” contained in Google Plus - “Communities” and “Hangouts” - that almost guarantee its eventual widespread adoption.
Google Plus Communities are interest groups based on a particular theme, where, according to Google, you can “talk about the stuff you’re into with people who love it too”. Within the Communities app you can create private groups or join public ones, as well as invite customers and business associates to join.
Hangouts is essentially an in-built messaging service that allows for live video calls between up to 10 people, regardless of whether they're using a computer, or Android or Apple devices.
Perhaps the real deal breaker for small business owners is the free Google Plus Business app, which allows you to create your own business page that shows up on Google searches, just as standard websites do, as well as Google Maps.
Your business page will also climb search rankings according to the amount of interaction it achieves, something which is impossible via Facebook or Twitter (which don't allow Google access to their data).
“Google Search treats Google Plus profile and pages just like 'regular' websites, so they have PageRank and can be just as powerful as other websites in terms of ranking,” explains blogger and marketing expert Pam Dyer in an article on the SocialMediaToday website. “Google Plus places a heavy emphasis on search engine optimization, which differentiates it from other social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.”
“Sharing things on Google Plus and encouraging others to 'plus one' your content works essentially the same way as Facebook 'likes', but the impact is more pronounced because Google Search favours sites that have received more social credibility from others.”
So, why wait? To establish a business page it's as simple as clicking here. In the weeks and months to come, as more and more of your competitors and potential customers jump on, you'll already be established on the platform and well on your way to having mastered its use.