A long time ago, Chris Brogan coined the phrase "be there before the sale" with regard to social media. Google takes that yet another step further with the revelation of "Ask on Google+" to search results. Here's the scenario: you search Google along your line of inquiry and don't find anything super helpful. When you don't, you see at the bottom of page 1 results a link asking if you want to ask your friends on Google+. Click it, the box appears, and you ask your network.
Think about the implications of this as a marketer. Why bother going to Page 2 of the results if you can ask your friends at the end of Page 1? The impact of this change is twofold:
1. Pages 2 and on are immediately less valuable as people are encouraged to ask their network first before changing pages.
2. If your customers have circled you on Google+, then when any of them use that link to ask their networks, you can effectively be the first to know about a product or service inquiry, before your competitors. Think about it: if a potential or current customer asks Google+ about, say, coffee, and you are a coffee roaster who they have circled, you will see their inquiry before they even get to a competitor's website to fill out a contact form. If you're fast on the draw, you'll intercept that social search query and answer it, nabbing the business in the process.
So what must you do to take advantage of this latest social twist?
First, make sure you're promoting your Google+ brand page in your standard communications. Let people know where it is on your site, in your emails, etc. Encourage people to circle you, and don't be shy about it.
Second, provide ridiculous value on your Google+ page so that people stay connected to you and have a reason to share you with their networks as a company or person worth following.
Third, listen very carefully so that you intercept those requests faster than your competitors, then respond as quickly as possible with valuable help so that your prospective and current customers have no need to inquire elsewhere.
People are asking for your help right now. The question is, are you able to listen and respond as effectively as possible?
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