You’ve probably heard the joke by now that the only people who use Google+ (particularly in South Africa), are employed by Google. Apparently this is a huge misconception – according to our source at Google there are 2,2 million active* Google+ users in South Africa alone.

While at the Google South Africa HQ earlier this week, we found out a few other interesting bits about Google+, and why brands should be using this social platform to improve their visibility and search engine rankings.

The Knowledge Panel

I’ll admit, it’s a little ridiculous how excited I am about this. What’s even worse is how few local companies make use of this. This is the Knowledge Panel – an information blog that is displayed on the right-hand side of Google search results.

In order to qualify for a Knowledge Panel, your brand needs to have a verified Google+ page (you will be required to embed some code, which Google will supply, somewhere on your website), and at least 100 followers. The little tick mark next to your company’s website address confirms that it has been verified.

Not only is this a very visible bit of information about your company, it also pulls through your latest Google+ update to the Google search results page. I found two local companies that had Knowledge Panels, but not a single post or update on their Google+ pages. It seems like such a waste if you go through the effort of getting your page verified, and a drive to gain followers, then not doing anything with that.

Google+ not a passing fad

Yes, the remarkable initial growth was short-lived, and people talk about the platform with disdain, but the fact that all Google products integrate seamlessly with each other to cause improved results for the companies that use them, means your brand can simply not afford to be complacent about Google+.

An easy strategy to get your brand started, is to simply cross-post content you are sharing to Facebook to Google+ too – the latter has much less clutter, makes it easier to organise your connections, and allows for easy sharing from YouTube and other Google tools.

The platform also intelligently identifies relevant hashtags in every update you post, making your content even more searchable.

And about that ginormous cover image…

Google claims there is method in their madness: the larger dimensions of the cover image make viewing a Google+ page on a mobile device a work of art, and since more people are moving toward mobile, it is important to ensure you look good on the go too.

You can follow That’s It on Google+ and tell us about your favourite Google+ feature.

*Users who log in to Google+ at least once a week.