Getting started with Google+ for pet businesses.

If you watch and participate in social media with your pet business, you've undoubtedly heard about the launch of Google+.

What is Google+? It's a new social media site from Google that allows you to interact, share, and participate in conversations online with others that you follow and follow you. Sound a little like Facebook? Well, it is a lot like Facebook, but with some twists.

Google+ is currently only available to limited users, those that have been invited by others who are presently participating, or those who have received advanced invites from Google. But the site will be available publicly in the next 4-6 weeks, we understand.

So why participate in Google+ now? We believe it is going to be another great way to (eventually) connect with pet lovers online, connect with them and share information that brings value to their lives and, of course, a way to further market your pet business.

Even though Google+ is very new and in it's infant stage, it could be a good time to get involved, to learn about the system, grow with it, and be an early adopter. I learned that it can be very beneficial to be an early adopter when my dog, JohannTheDog, joined Twitter not too long after it's launch.

Twitter in it's early days, was a great place to closely connect with like minded individuals, and quickly became a great way to promote my other business,, form some exciting business relationships that have lasted over these past few years. Twitter is still a great way to do that, it's just become larger and busier; and sometimes makes it more difficult to closely connect.

Being on Google+ now reminds me of those early days of Twitter. It's currently a very tight community of forward thinking individuals and technology enthusiasts. And yet I have also connected with some of my closest pet loving individuals and pet businesses who have also joined the social media site as an early adopter.

So how do you get involved with Google+? Right now until the sites is available publicly you will need an invitation sent from someone who is already participating on the site.

I've had a lot of questions from pet business individuals to write a post on how to utilize Google+, once you've been sent an invitation, and a little about how Google+ 'works.' So let's get started...

Signing Up

Once you have received an email invitation from a current Google+ participant, you can click on the link and sign up for the social media site.

If you already have a Google Profile, then all of the information (About, +1's, Buzz, Photos, Links and more) will populate into your Google+ profile provided you sign into Google+ with your current Google sign in. Note: Once you sign up for Google+ and it imports your information from your Google Profile, Google+ will then become your Google Profile.

Completing your Google+ Profile

Once you've signed in, Google will ask if you want to connect your Picassa albums, the Flickr version from Google. Since I have uploaded 1000's of photos to Picassa through my blogs, I elected not to connect my albums, but you may want to if you believe these photos are relevant to your Google+.

The first thing you will want to do is complete your profile and make sure you upload a photo to represent yourself on Google+. When completing your profile you can add information such as a tagline, your occupation, employment, education, location, email, gender, etc. You can also set some privacy settings here. Don't worry all the information you complete here can be altered by clicking on 'Edit Profile' from your Profile tab.

Here's a screen shot of my Google+ About Page (you can click on it to enlarge the image).

Once you have completed this information click on 'Continue to Profile' and view your profile. Here you will see your public profile and can edit the information as necessary.

Navigating Google+

Notice the red highlighted area in the image above - listing Posts, About, Photos, Videos, & +1's, we're going to go through these one by one:

Posts - This is the location where you can view all the posts that you share, whether they be links, status updates, photos and more. (More below on how to share these items). These items will be seen by those that are in your Circles (More below on Circles as well) or publicly.

About - The About tab shows your profile information and links, this is also the location where you can edit this page.

Photos - This is the location where you can view all the photos you've uploaded, albums, and also where you can add more photos.

Videos - Like the Photos tab, this is where you can view videos you have uploaded and also another location where you can upload videos.

+1's - +1's are like 'Likes' on Facebook. As you surf the web, and visit websites and blogs, you may see an opportunity to +1 the site or pages. When you +1 a site, it will show up here, as well as in your stream to share with others in your Circles.

Buzz - if you are signed up with Google Buzz, you will also see your Buzz items in this tab location.

Once you are on your profile you will see what the public will see (as long as you haven't edited your profile sections to be exclusive). Notice the marked navigation areas in the above image, we'll be going through each one.

Home - (little house) this is the button that you click to see your Stream (or as they call it in Facebook, News Feed). You posts, status updates, photos, videos, etc., as well as those items from those in your Circles will appear here.

You will see navigation on the left of middle section of this page with links to Circles that you've created, where when clicked you can and see only status updates from those in particular Circles. The chat button is also located on the left.

To the right you will see suggestions of others to add to your Circles, as well as buttons for going mobile and inviting others to Google+.

Photos - Click this link and you will see photos from those in your Circles, as well as your photos. You can also upload photos from this location.

Profile - this tab shows your profile, your shared items, as well as those in your Circles. You can also edit your profile from this location.

Circles - What are Circles? These are one of the best parts of Google+ in my opinion. You can segment all of your 'followers' and those you follow into Circles. I've categorized mine into Pet Business, Clients, Media, Marketing Experts, Personal Friends and more. The best part about Circles is that when you share information through the Home tab, you can select who specifically you want to share your information with, whether it be an individual, or a Circle. Then that shared information is only available to them. Others can't see your Circles, your Circle names or who you have added to your Circles (so don't worry about offending anyone).

One last navigation section is at the very top in the black bar area, you can see the highlighted areas on the above image.

Clicking your name brings down a drop down menu that includes Profile, Circles, Account settings and Privacy.

In this area you can change your password, edit your email, select your privacy and visibility settings, manage your Circles, set notification preferences, back up your content, and select which accounts you would like to connect (Linked In, Facebook, Blogs, Twitter, etc.).

There is also a little box right next to your name which will alert you to notifications such as; new comments, individuals that have add you to their Circles, etc.

Tips and Tricks

Now that you have a quick tour of the site, here are some tips and tricks that I've learned so far. I'm not only sure I will discover more, but am also sure that Google has a lot of development in store for the site. So stay tuned...

Tagging - you can tag specific individuals just like you can in Facebook by adding a + or @ in front of their name when sharing in the status box (from the Home tab). When you tag an individual they will see that post or message.

Hangouts -You can connect with people via video by clicking on the Start A Hangout button on the right navigation of your Home tab. Here is a quick video of the Hangouts feature on Google+ for more information. To utilize this feature you will need a webcam and also sign up for Google Voice and Google Video Plugins.

Sparks - A feature of Google+ that allows you to access a feed from a variety of websites on any topics you choose. Just click Sparks and search for a term of your interest. Sparks are accessed from the Home page on the left navigation.

Extensions - If you use Google Chrome as a browser, individuals have already begun to build Google+ extensions that are helpful, including ones that allow you to share your Google+ posts on Facebook and Twitter. I am sure there will be many more coming along to help make it easier to manage multiple social media networks.

Sharing - When a post is marked Public (green) that means it will be shared with the entire World. So choose and select who you want to share information with carefully. If you want to share with specific people or circles, just click on the x on the Public button (it will disappear), then you can select a Circle or Circles, or you can type + or @(individuals name) to share with just one (or several) individuals through 'tagging.'

Shortcuts - here are a few keyboard shortcuts courtesy of
  • Space = Scroll down
  • Shift and Space = Scroll up
  • J = scroll down one post
  • K = scroll up one post
  • Q = jump directly to chat
  • Return = Start Comment
  • Tab and Return = End Comment
Keep private, private and editing - If you want a message to be private, here is a tip. Type the message as usual in your status box, tag them by adding a @ or + in front of their name. Then send the message. To be certain your message stays private you can then click on the little down arrow to the right side of that message and select 'disable reshare.' In addition you can select this arrow and edit your post or message (thank you Google!).

PermaLink - To find a permanent link to individual posts, just click on the time of that post and it will pull up just that post, for sharing, or bookmarking.

Finding Friends - There are several ways to find can do a name search in the search box, or you can click on those in your Circles and find like minded individuals in their Circles to add to yours. You can also Click on the Circles tab and do a search through your Yahoo and Hotmail contacts.

Facebook Migration - If you've invested a lot of time in Facebook and are interested in learning some tips to help you migrate photos, videos and even exporting your contacts and loading them into Google+, check out this post.

Business Profiles - We understand that Google has asked business to refrain from creating profiles at this time, as they are planning profiles specific for businesses. We'll keep you posted.

That's it for now...stay tuned for updates.

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