You’ve likely heard that Google+ is a powerful social networking tool for your business, but you may be wondering how to get started. Given that it’s gained a lot of traction since it first launched a little over a year ago, and the fact that it can be used in conjunction with other Google tools to boost online exposure and lead generation, I suggest you create a Google+ account as soon as possible. Follow these steps to get started:

1. Sign In. Go to Google+[RS4] and click “Create your Google+ page” and sign in with your username and password. If you do not already have a basic Google Gmail account, click on the “sign up” button located at the top right corner of the page, and follow the directions to create one.

2. Choose a Business Category. The category “local business or place,” is probably the most appropriate for most remodelers.

3. Business Info. Fill in your local business name, website URL, and industry category as prompted. The business category or type of business cannot be changed later, so make sure you pick the one fits best. If you already have a Google Places account, you can link it to your Google+ business.

4. Add Branding. Input your branding information when prompted (for example, your tagline and business photo/image).

5. Add Content. Begin populating your page with posts and newsworthy information. You can add photos, and posts for other Google+ users to view. By having a robust page, you gain authority in the market place. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, you have full control of the page and posts and how they appear to the people that view them.

This area is less about conversation, but rather more about getting information about the company out to the public.

6. Add People to your “Circles.” Circles are subsets of all the people you are connected to through Google+. Click the circles icon located on the side navigation bar. From there you will see that Google+ business has suggested four pre-set circles categorized as “Following,” “Customers,” “VIPs,” and “Team Members.” Circles give you better control over how you share information and with whom. This feature is what sets Google+ apart from Twitter and Facebook, because you have the option to communicate just with people in a particular circle.

Click on the hyperlink “Find People” and Google+ will use your profile to make recommendations for people you can add to your “Circles.” You can also do a name search at the top to find past and present customers; click on those you’d like to add.

7. Public Profile. You will then be prompted to update your public profile. Fully complete the requested fields. If at any time you do not want your information listed, you can click on the “manage your account” tab, and decide exactly who can see your page and what information they can see.

That’s it! You’re now ready to start connecting with the world. You will gain a competitive edge, as many companies are missing out on the many advantages of using Google’s resources to create synergies and rank higher in search results. (Refer to the resource, How to Use Google+ for Business, for more detailed information as it relates to setting up and using a Google+ account for business.)

In upcoming posts I’ll talk more about how to use business tools like Google Maps, Google Places, and Google Authorship to maximize your company’s visability.

— Chris Marentis is founder and CEO of Surefire Social, a local internet marketing company.