Lately, it seems like all of our social media platforms are shaking up their formulas. Facebook has changed its algorithm to favor personal connections over brand pages.

Lately, it seems like all of our social media platforms are shaking up their formulas. Facebook has changed its algorithm to favor personal connections over brand pages.

Twitter doubled its character count. Snapchat moved everyone’s cheese, inspiring over 1.2 million users to petition for a rollback. Even Google Plus has made its new layout a permanent shift.

As is the case with many of its competitors, the Google Plus platform has evolved over time, and in its current iteration, it’s arguably more useful than ever before.

Users can stay up to date with just a glance, while marketers can leverage their profiles for an SEO boost.

The new layout, which looks like a cross between Pinterest and a Google search result page, also makes lots of sense.

The platform has also long since done away with automatically creating a profile for every Google account (possibly because most profiles weren’t ever posting anything) and built a focus around communities.

So who is still using Google Plus, and what does the current landscape mean for selling real estate? Read on for my take.

Who still uses Google Plus?

Photographers, businesses and people who are really passionate about certain topics make up the bulk of Google Plus users.

The first two of these categories are par for pretty much any social network these days, but while Facebook scrambles to enhance the experience of its groups feature, “Communities” (as Google Plus calls it) are the one aspect the platform seems to have really nailed.

These groups range in size from a few dozen participants all the way up seven-digit membership rosters, with most of the larger ones, predictably, revolving around general topics such as beauty, landscape photography and gaming.

Users don’t hop on to Google Plus for the same reasons as the more popular social media platforms.

Whereas Facebook is largely about seeing what your friends are doing, thinking and consuming, and Twitter is kind of the same thing for your enemies, Google Plus users log on largely to discover what’s new and be inspired in their work and hobbies.

How does it help sell real estate?

Ever heard the phrase, “Niches make riches”? Look for communities that specifically limit membership to your market area, and become a source of valuable local information.

Whether you write directly in community posts, drop in links to your personal or professional blog or simply share relevant and timely articles about the area, the rules are the same as anywhere else: give value first, be friendly and professional, and don’t spam your listings.

Of course, you want people to be aware that you work in real estate and consider you the resident expert on such matters, but try to be subtle, and most importantly, relevant about it.

If it’s not a community made for active homebuyers or investors, nobody cares about your fabulous new listing. However, a Google Plus “community” about gardening in the Midwest may be very interested in those unique raised vegetable beds in the backyard and indirectly send an extra hundred clicks to your listing photos.

If it makes business sense for you to engage with people outside of your area as well, get in with communities that reach a wide geography but focus on a narrow topic.

Larger groups can also be a great way to keep up with trends and discover articles you can then share elsewhere, keeping the community momentum going.

Make it a part of your social sharing habit

You might be thinking, “That sounds like extra work, I’m not doing that.”

OK, I hear you. Between all of the social media outlets, blogging, maintaining a website, email marketing and keeping up with your personal sphere, how are you supposed to actually serve your clients?

But here’s the thing: You’re already creating content and putting it out into the world, so why not bring as much attention to it as possible?

When dropping a link into one social profile, it’s only a few more clicks to paste it into the others. You can even automate the process using services such as IFTTT or Zapier to connect accounts and set up chain reactions of posting.

Just put out a great blog entry and want to get it into search results? Drop the link into your Google Plus profile.

Posting a new YouTube video? Click that little box under the privacy settings to add it to your Google Plus feed.

I’m often shocked at how many small business owners ask me for tips on ranking higher in Google search results, only to reveal later in the conversation that they’re not using any Google platforms.

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise, but when someone searches for a real estate professional in their area, showing up above that first fold can be largely influenced by your brand’s YouTube channel (you have one of those, right?), Google My Business profile (please tell me you have one of those) and Google Plus account.

All you need to gain that extra SEO bump is to make sure your Google Plus profile (the one connected to your brand account) is filled out completely, optimized with keywords and setup to automatically repost your content from the platforms that you actually pay attention to.

Are you using Google Plus, either personally or professionally, at the moment? Have you used it in the past and abandoned it?

If so, are you willing to give it another chance now that its purpose is more clearly defined? Let me know in the comments.

Jon Starwalt is the director of technology with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Star Homes in the Chicago area. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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