We all know that Google has some pretty nifty tools that are useful for our businesses. Using these tools help us show up higher in search results, especially local listings. And for that, we can always be grateful. But let’s be honest, sometimes Google moves in mysterious ways that can leave even the most savvy of businesses scratching their heads.

Google has been all over the place during the last year with changes to how businesses are ranked in local listings, Maps and Google Plus, and it’s still a mess.

Originally, a local business could list themselves on Google Maps using Google Places. After the launch of Google Plus, Google went the social networking route giving us the option to create social pages for businesses on Google Plus, called Google Plus for businesses.

Next, Google had the idea to combine the map listings aspects of Google Places with the social aspects of Google Plus. But the process wasn’t quite ready. What we got was a new look and feel to our Google Places pages, and a new name too: Google Plus Local.

Are you still with me? Confused? I was. But don’t worry, we’ll untangle it together.

What’s the Difference Anyway?

Google Plus for Business

Think of this page as a Facebook business page. As previously mentioned, your Google Plus for Businesses page has all the features of a social networking site. To get started, you will first need to set up a personal Google Plus account. For a guide on setting up and managing your Google Plus account, check out Getting Started with Google Plus.

For your business account, keep these tips in mind:

  • Give as much information as possible. Your business name, address, and phone number are obviously important to include. But including your hours, a description of your business, and photos is helpful. Also remember to fill out your business category for proper indexing.

  • Make sure it all matches! This one is very important. Make sure your address and phone numbers display the same way on your Google pages and your website. Google will rank you higher the more your address is on the web.  It is also very important that the name you use for your businesses matches on what is on your website and on signs outside your business. Google moderators have been known to double check addresses and phone numbers to make sure everything matches.

  • No P.O. Boxes or UPS Stores. Google may delete pages without real addresses. If you must use a P.O. Box, check out Google’s guidelines about the issue.

  • Go public. Setting your profile to “public” allows for increased visibility which is always a good thing.

  • Remember, like any social page, make sure you keep this page updated as frequently as possible.

Google Places for Businesses aka Google Plus Local

Think of this page as your Google Maps listing. Listing your business on Google Places is one of the simplest ways to get your business ranked in Google Search. Getting started is easy.

  • Start here and the rest is pretty simple. Fill in the details (remember: make sure everything matches!) and add your business.

  • Next, you’ll be asked to verify your business. You’ll need to verify by mail so Google knows that you’re business really is where you say it is. You’ll receive a postcard with a PIN number that you’ll need to complete the verification process. You can either do this right away or skip it and come back, but you will have to verify eventually.

  • Finally, you will need to fill out information about your listing. In this final section, there are several parts. You’ll navigate using the options on the sidebar and start filling information in.

  • Multiple locations? No problem. You can set up additional locations under the same Google account.

Combining Google Places and Google Plus

Ok, you have your Google Places page all set up, and you’re rockin’ and rollin’ with your Google Plus account. If you don’t feel like managing both, Google has kindly given us the option to combine our pages. But before you go off and start linking them it’s important to note that you do not have to combine your pages. Doing so won’t necessarily improve your ranking, but it doesn’t make managing accounts easier.

Keep in mind that you have to have a Google Plus Business page first before you can start the process of combining it with Google Places. However– it may be best to combine them so you can forget the whole mess of trying to keep it all straight! And that way, you’re ready for whatever they throw at us next!

 

You’ve heard of Instagram. Maybe you have an account and you share pictures of your dog or your brunch with the perfect filter on a daily basis. But did you know that fortune 500 companies are using it too?

Huge companies like Nike, Starbucks, Foot Locker, Apple, Walt Disney, and Target are all on Instagram. They have hundreds of thousands, even millions, of followers they’re sharing marketing photos with. And it’s working for them.

People are consistently engaging with content on Instagram. A study done by TrackMaven, a competitive analysis firm, aimed to find what drives Instagram, and how big brands are using it. They searched for correlations in effective filters, timing of posts, and other interactions. And what they found was quite interesting.

Timing Counts

The study found that on average, a post to Instagram can be just as effective any day of the week. However, there was a slightly higher frequency in user activities on Mondays during mid-day. Secrets out! We’re all scrolling through Instagram when we have a case of the Mondays.

Thinking about posting a video? The study found that videos get more engagement in the off hours. Why? Videos require audio, and we’re less likely to watch those while we’re perusing Instagram during the workday.

Filters

Can we all just agree that the perfect filter really makes and Instagram photo? I think we can. Filters can add flair, contrast, and really set the mood of an image.

However, this study found that most Fortune 500 companies upload unedited photos, #nofilter. But, when a company did use a filter, Mayfair seemed to perform best, Inkwell was a distant second.

 

It’s our opinion that sticking to a certain filter can give your photos a sense of brand recognition as well.


Hashtags

Hashtags are a very effective marketing tool, and Fortune 500 companies are jumping on the bandwagon. TrackMaven found that there is a “correlation between the number of hashtags used and the effectiveness up to 5 hashtags which has the highest average at 21.21 interactions per 1,000 followers.”

As we’ve discussed before, hashtags are a great way to catalog content and bring someone into a topic or conversation. Simply clicking on a hashtag on Instagram will open a realm of content on which others have used the same tag. On this note, TrackMaven went on to say, “most important, we found a strong correlation between the number of hashtags that brands use on their content and the effectiveness of their content, underscoring that Instagram is a discovery platform. Brands must plan their content to be promoting discovery from previously unengaged users.” In otherwords, #hashtagsgetitdone.

Are you convinced? Instagram looks like it’s here to stay, folks. So if you aren’t using it already, you might want to give it a try. If nothing else, you’ll at least see some pretty amazing dog photos, or someone’s tasty brunch. And most of all, you’ll have fun!

 

On January 24, 2013, Twitter’s new social media mobile app Vine was born. On Vine, users can create and share 6-second looping videos using their smartphones, no editing required. Creating a video is as easy as holding a button down while filming and hitting another to upload the video to your Vine profile. This simple yet fast-paced nature of Vine made it a quick success, leading to a huge following and thousands of videos uploaded within the first few weeks. By June, after just 5 short months, Vine had 13 million iPhone users (the app was only available for iOS in Apple’s App Store) before the app was released in the Android market, further sparking the fire.

Vine videos run the gamut from comedic sketches, beatboxing, DIY tutorials, and singing and dancing. In fact, certain “Viners” have even become “Vine famous” for the pranks they play, their singing abilities, or whatever sort of entertainment they provide. These users boast thousands, some even millions, of followers earning their Vine videos thousands of “likes” and and shares, or “revines”, within minutes of posting. Sometimes the Vines tell a story, sometimes they are just visually appealing, but most of all, they are always fun!

With this kind of success for the seemingly average Vine user, it would make sense for brands and businesses to see the potential for using Vine as a marketing tool. Vine presents a new and exciting way to reach and engage with a younger, mobile audience. Brands like Gap, Lowe’s, and Urban Outfitters to name a few, are already using Vine and are seeing a positive response. Check out some examples of marketing on Vine below.

https://vine.co/v/bU61aqq2YOp (Lowe’s)
With this Vine campaign, Lowe’s helps you fix it quick. Using their hashtag #lowesfixinsix the company has uploaded a series of Vines giving you how-to tutorials in 6 quick seconds, ranging from working with a stripped screw, keeping paint cans clean, and keeping your plants watered while on vacation . These Vines have attracted the attention of thousands of Vine users, resulting in a large following for Lowe’s.

https://vine.co/v/bDY9O7xTllv (GE)
General Electric found a way to make science fun with their #6secondscience campaign.


https://vine.co/v/btYdHIwl6Q6 (Urban Outfitters)
Urban Outfitters has teamed up with clothing retailer Converse to start a Vine contest asking users Where Do Your Chucks Go? Users are invited to upload videos of their Chucks in action and use the hashtag #yourchucks. Winners will receive prizes including pairs of converse sneakers and $1500 in Urban Outfitters gift cards. I probably don’t have to tell you that this campaign has been hugely successful, but if you don’t believe me, check out these submissions.

So, for some companies, Vine seems to be working well for marketing. They’re hitting their target audiences in fun and fresh new ways. It’s also taken a lot of added stress out of creating ads. Shooting full fledged videos can be quite demanding for marketer– from hauling and using technical equipment to nailing a location, getting the perfect lighting, and spending the time shooting the video. With Vine, all a marketer needs is an idea and a smartphone.

After only 8 months, it might still be too early to tell if Vine is just having their 15 minutes…er, 6 seconds of fame. Will it be a successful marketing tool for everyone? No one knows quite yet. But I think it’s safe to say that Vine is one social network to definitely be aware of.

Want to get started? Simply download the app for your smartphone and start filming! Check back with us soon for tips for creating Vine videos.