Google+ is quickly becoming a marketing asset for businesses of all kinds. The issue is that many businesses set up pages on Google+ when it first launched in summer 2011, or when it became available through Google Apps in November, but haven?t done much else on the social network since. If this sounds like you, then you’ll want to keep reading. Because Google+ can be a powerful marketing tool for your business.

So how can you make Google+ a marketing asset?

It’s actually quite simple. Although it’s a newcomer to the social media scene, Google+ is one of the premier social networks for businesses because of its communication and promotion tools. And the ease of tracking your progress on Google+ doesn’t hurt either.

The idea behind social media is to share, and Google+ makes that easy for businesses with pages. In addition to making communicating simple, the stream, circles, and hangouts are three Google+ features that also allow for collaboration. With the stream, your business can share information in any format (i.e. text, photo, video) to keep customers in the loop and share news on a regular basis. You can choose to share information publicly so anyone can see it, or with certain circles, so only a select audience has access. Circles allow you to place people in specific groups, which is especially useful to businesses looking to send out targeted messages through social media. For example, you can group customers into circles based on membership, previous purchases, geographic location, and much more. By sharing information with a specific circle, your business can share more targeted messages on social media and provide customers with a more personal touch, as you can send people information that is only specifically relevant to them. The personal touch that comes with a targeted message only increases when you partake in a hangout. A hangout is a multi-person video chat that also allows for screen-sharing, making both communicating and collaborating with others effortless. When you host a hangout, you can speak or work with anyone in real-time, regardless of how far apart you may actually be. The stream, circles, and hangouts have been around from the start and played a huge role in building Google+. Now, with the new redesign in place, businesses have even more communication tools at their disposal including chat list and an explore page.

While communication is a key part of any social media marketing strategy, sharing information on a social network is only useful if you’re promoting your business? page. This need for promotion, and the relevant tools available for Google+ users are yet another reason why the social network is an asset for businesses. When it comes to promoting your business? page on Google+, one of the first steps to take is to add a Google+ badge or icon to your website. The badge allows visitors to add your Google+ page to their circles without leaving your website, while the icon takes visitors directly to your Google+ page. But what’s great about Google+ is that you’re not the only one doing promotion – your customers can help, as well. People can give your business a +1 to show others that they are happy with your work, like what they see, and would recommend you. Simply receiving +1s is useful for promoting your business, but to get the most out of these customer recommendations you should link all the +1s you receive for your website, your Google+ page, and any advertisements. When you link your +1s, people who come across your business as a Google search result will be able to see how many people have given you a +1 and who has given them. This visualization of what people think of your work can only help, as a +1 is a recommendation for your business.

If you’ve worked hard communicating and promoting your business? presence online, it helps to know what you’re doing well and where you can improve. This is why Google made it easy to track your progress on its social network through ripples and analytics. With ripples, you can easily track the information you posted on your Google+ page. Ripples will show you who shared what information with whom. This tool not only allows you to see what information (what topics and what format) people are paying the most attention to and sharing the most often, but also which people are taking the most active role in promoting your content. With this knowledge, you can share more of the content that people like and share more information with the people who are going to pass it along to others. You can also use analytics to manage your +1s and view the activity on your Google+ page.

Overall, Google+ can be a major marketing asset in your social media tool belt when you properly take advantage of its premier communication, promotion, and tracking tools.

About the Author: Sharon Shapiro?works for Cloud Sherpas. Cloud Sherpas is a leading cloud service provider and was named the Google Enterprise 2011 Partner of the Year. A Google Apps Reseller in Atlanta, GA, Cloud Sherpas has regional offices in locations including San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Austin and Sydney, and has more Google Apps Certified Deployment Specialists than any other partner in the world.