Google+ continues to grow as a serious social media marketing platform for SMBs. At last count, Google’s social network had reached over 400 million users.

Putting your business on Google+ offers a number of benefits, including increased exposure in search, integration of the +1 button to showcase social endorsements, and the Direct Connect feature. Use these five Google+ features to maximize your time spent in social media marketing and get your brand in front of more relevant users from your local area or target market.

Sharing Other Users’ Content

Michael Dell - share content on Google+ to reach a greater audience.

Sharing is one of the more important, yet overlooked, aspects of a solid social media marketing strategy. If your brand’s social style is that of a broadcaster, regularly posting your own content or information, consider the missed opportunities to connect and build relationships.

When you share a post from another user, that person is notified of the activity. It also takes away some of the burden of having to create your own unique content each day; you can still put relevant, interesting information in front of your audience without having to generate it from scratch each time. Sharing content from influencers, publishers, news sources and others is a great way to get your brand in front of them and show your willingness to participate in the greater conversation around your industry or niche.

Tagging

Use “+” mentions to tag other users in posts, where relevant. Typing the + sign into your message, followed by the first few letters of an individual or Page name, brings up a list of users in your Circles.  For example, if your Google+ post is a link to your blog post about a study conducted by a large analyst in your industry, why not let them know you covered their study? This increases the chance they may share your coverage with their network. Again, this puts your brand on the radar of influencers who may be handy to have as social contacts.

Do not overuse this feature, as users receive a notification when mentioned. Tagging people you are not yet connected with may be seen as spam.

Photos

Use images on Google+ to increase engagement.

As Google says, people love visual media and brands see greater engagement using images and video. The Google+ platform showcases images and photos in a big way, so users can see visual content clearly even on smaller tablet or smartphone screens. This is an asset for brands, whose followers may be connecting from a mobile from some point in the purchase cycle.

Invest in a good camera or, if budget allows, hire a professional photographer. Use a variety of images: people using your product or service, close up shots that show great detail, or pictures of your team at events.

Circles

Google+ Circles offer a simple way to segment and target particular groups of people. In addition, they are a useful listening tool; filter your activity stream by Circles to catch the conversations that matter most to your company.

Circles can be used to follow groups of customers, brand advocates, industry influencers, thought leaders, or employees. To start using Circles, see our How to Create and Use Google+ Circles for Business guide.

Google+ Bar

Use the black Google+ bar to receive notifications and share content from around the web.

As long as you are signed in to your Google account, the black Google+ bar is available on any Google property page you have open. This includes many popular services, like Google Search, YouTube, Gmail, and Blogger.

This bar displays notifications of new activity on your Google+ page, such as +1s or Shares by fans. It also allows you to easily share content from around the web while you’re browsing.

Individually, the features available to brands on Google+ are cool and fun, but you don’t need any more fun toys.  Used together, these features make Google+ a powerful social media marketing network, where businesses can connect in a meaningful way and build lasting relationships with customers.

Which Google+ feature is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments!