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How to set up Google+ for your business or brand

Google+ is a great way to share info with friends and colleagues, but until today, businesses and brands found Facebook and Twitter more hospitable. Now, Google has opened up its network to permit larger entities to share and interact with fans, customers, clients and more.

Maybe your business, cause, or brand was a social networking pioneer, or maybe you're new to the game and want to start big. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, Google has got your back. Google+ just opened up for larger organizations and is trying to make it easy to reach and interact with customers, clients, fans, and more. Here's how to get started: 

  1. Make sure you're logged into Google using your business account, or the account of whomever is going to be in charge of your Google+ page, as for the time being, admin rights are not transferrable. 
  2. Point your browser to http://plus.google.com/pages/create. Choose your organizational type from the four broad categories or select "Other" if you don't quite fit one. 
  3. Enter the basic info for your organization, decide on an age limit for viewing content, agree to the terms and conditions (after reading them thoroughly, of course), and then click "Create." 
    Step 3: Enter basic organizational information.
    Step 3: Enter basic organizational information.
  4. Now it's time to customize your page. All you need is a snappy tagline and a compelling picture, and they're supereasy to add. 
    Step 4: Customize page.
    Step 4: Customize page.
  5. Spread the word, if you like. Using the profile you used to create the page, you can share your new page with anyone in your circles. This is optional, and of course you can always do it later (or repeatedly, if that's how it has to be). 
  6. Click "Finish" and you're done. You are taken directly to your G+ page and given several ideas to get started sharing, including posting and sharing a link to your new page. 
    Step 6: New G+ page.
    Step 6: New G+ page. Screenshot by Rob Lightner
  7. You can add a badge to your organization's Web site that links to your Google+ page easily. Just click the link under "Connect your website" or point your browser here, then choose a badge style and custom name. Copy the code that pops up at the bottom of the screen and add it to your site. 
    Step 7: Link site to G+.
    Step 7: Link site to G+.
  8. Once you've linked your site to Google+ and published your URL on your Google+ page, you may have the option to send searchers straight to your page if they add a "+" to their search (example: "+muppets"). The system is not yet fully operational, and is largely aimed at big-name brands, so don't be alarmed if it doesn't work for you yet. Check here for more info
  9. You can also add a +1 button to your site so visitors can recommend your site and share it on Google+. It's quite similar to adding the badge. Just point your browser here to get started. 

One important caveat, likely to make Google+ more user-friendly than its rivals in the short-term, is that pages like these can only follow Google+ users who follow them first. While it makes building a following moderately more challenging, it seems like a great feature for the community as a whole. There's a lot to explore, so take your time, build your circles, and connect.