The market is going to suck for the next 20 years, and you're going to have to double your life savings

The "golden age" of stock market returns is over.

That's the summary of a big piece of research from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), which estimated returns over the next 20 years in US and Western European markets under two scenarios. The first assumes that today's slow-growth environment remains, while the second models faster growth as technology improves.

It concluded that in neither case would returns match those of the past 30 years. For US and European stocks, the difference between past and future annual returns could range from 1.5 percentage points to 4 percentage points. The gap for fixed-income could be even wider, between 3 and 5 percentage points for most countries, the report notes.

"What's surprising is that even if there's higher GDP growth, we find that returns in equity and bonds over the next 20 years would still be lower," Susan Lund, a partner at the institute and one of the coauthors of the report, told Business Insider.

mck scenarios1McKinsey Global Institute

mck scenario 2McKinsey Global Institute analysis

That means investors will have to save more, retire later, or live less comfortably during retirement, which could further drag down economic growth. A seemingly small difference in numbers can actually be pretty scary.

Here's an example by MGI (emphasis added):

To show this, consider the impact on a 30-year-old who might expect to receive a 4.5% real return from his or her blended investment portfolio of equities and fixed income—consistent with the growth-recovery scenario—rather than 6.5%, consistent with returns over the past 30 years. To compensate, all else being equal (and especially with no change in life expectancy), that individual would need to work seven years longer or almost double the rate at which he or she saves.

If returns were even lower, at 3.5% in real terms—consistent with the slow-growth scenario—this individual would need to work an additional nine years, or more than double his or her annual savings.

mck researchMcKinsey Global Institute


It marks a stark difference to the "golden age" of stock market performance from 1985 to 2014, which was marked by sharp declines in inflation, robust growth in China, and strong corporate-profit growth.

Real total returns in equities for US investors were 1.4 percentage points above the 100-year average, while those in Western Europe were 3 percentage points above. For bonds, real returns were 3.3 percentage points above the 100-year average in the US, and 4.2 percentage points above in Europe.

But those historical drivers just aren't there anymore. Interest rates have little room to drop further. Some countries have already joined the negative interest-rate policy club.

Larger American and Western European firms that dominated the global profit pool in the past 30 years might be hit hard with lower profit margins, the report notes. New players from emerging markets pose threats with their rapid growth, while online platforms like Amazon and Alibaba are helping smaller companies get more international exposure, pitting them against larger local players.

And it doesn't stop there. Lower returns could dampen household consumption and widen an already underfunded pension-fund gap, which currently stands at $1.2 trillion. That could expand by between $1 trillion and $2 trillion if returns hit the low end of McKinsey's projections.

The times were good while they lasted. It's time to reset your expectations.



27 APR 2016

palm frond wall hanging

Because plants make every room look better, we wanted to create a wall hanging that makes it easy to add a little greenery to any space! If you live in a warm area where they happen to fall from the trees, you can use real ones. Or you can scoop up some faux ones (and faux ones these days look pretty legit!). We made this palm frond wall hanging that looks sort of like a mobile and beaded curtain had a baby. Here's how...

palm frond wall hanging

You'll need:

Copper piping (we used 24" length)

Parachute cord (neon pink)


Acrylic paint and paintbrush


Hot glue gun

Faux palm stems (in large and small)

palm frond wall hanging

Here's how:

1. Start by painting beads in a pattern. We stuck with a simple polka dot and kept them neutral so the color of the cord would pop.

2. Start by making the frame by feeding the parachute cord through the copper piping, leaving the cord as long as you'd like it to hang. Then tie the two ends together to make a triangle when hung. Tie a double knot and feed the knot back into the copper piping so that it's hidden.

3. Next add the hanging pieces by cutting various lengths of parachute cord and tie in a knot at the top to secure around the length of the copper piping. Add a dab of hot glue to reinforce the knot around the pipe and keep it in place. Trim away any excess cord.

4. Go through each strand to add beads by tying a knot in the cord where you would like to place a bead. String on the bead and secure at the bottom with another knot so the bead sits between two knots.

5. To attach the palm frond, lay the stem parallel and on top of the cord. With one hand holding the palm frond in place, begin to wrap the cord around the stem. To make it extra secure, it's helpful to wrap one loop under and then one loop over your original loop. When you look at the back, you should have made an "X" with the cord.

6. Continue to wrap the cord all the way to the end of the stem and secure with a knot.

7. Add as many palm fronds and beads to each hanging string as you'd like and keep adding until you're done!

palm frond wall hanging

Ideas for Cheap Outdoor Summer Weddings

During the warm spring and summer months, many couples opt for an outdoor wedding. Fortunately for them, they can easily customize outdoor weddings to fit any budget. Rather than hosting a traditional and extravagant outdoor wedding, consider an unconventional wedding idea. For example, you can easily turn your backyard into a beach paradise or barbecue party for a wedding. You can also use local parks to host a cheap outdoor summer wedding.

Ideas for Cheap Outdoor Summer Weddings
(Laura Ford/Demand Media)
Backyard Barbecue

Make your wedding a casual affair by using a backyard barbecue theme. The bride should opt for a simple sundress, while the groom can wear a short-sleeved button-up shirt with khakis. Use the wedding invitation to inform guests of the casual dress code. Place several chairs and small tables around the yard. Extravagant decorations will be unnecessary. Line the yard with tiki torches; they serve as both decorations and a source of light. Serve grilled hot dogs, bratwurst, chicken and hamburgers. Allow guests to serve themselves at a buffet table with fresh fruits, salty snacks and deli salads. Dessert ideas include brownies, homemade cookies, apple pie, cupcakes or ice cream treats. If space allows, set up games such as badminton, horseshoes and bean bag toss in the backyard.

Laura Ford/Demand Media
Beach Paradise

Create a beach paradise in your backyard for a cheap and romantic outdoor wedding. Set up round tables around the yard and cover them with ocean-blue tablecloths. Use hurricane vases filled with sand and seashells for centerpieces. Scatter smooth stones and pebbles around the centerpieces and on the cake table and buffet tables for extra decoration. Use candles and paper lanterns to light the area as the sun sets. Rather than hiring a DJ or live band, create your own music playlist on a computer or music player. Allow the air to fill with the sounds of soft music and mingling guests. Stick to your budget by forgoing an expensive wedding cake and instead opting for multiple tiers of cupcakes, which will also be easier for wedding guests to eat while socializing.

Laura Ford/Demand Media
Play at a Park

Most parks and nature preserve areas will allow you to rent space on the grounds for a wedding. Contact the park’s administrative office for the park’s rules, regulations and associated fees. You might be able to bring tables, chairs and portable toilets into the area. If the park does not allow this, attempt to reserve a space close to park benches or picnic tables. Encourage wedding guests to enjoy the park’s amenities, such as playgrounds. Some parks do not allow visitors to serve alcohol on the grounds. In this case, serve punch and fruit-flavored sparkling water. Keep the food simple; this keeps the budget on track and allows guests to eat while standing. Food ideas include finger sandwiches, meat and vegetable kabobs and small snacks. After the wedding, invite close friends and family members back to your home for dessert and drinks.

Laura Ford/Demand Media

Unique Outdoor Wedding Ceremony Ideas

Outdoor weddings are challenging endeavors that can have rewarding results. If the weather cooperates, your guests will not soon forget an outdoor ceremony with aninventive theme showered in sunlight. There are a number of unique outdoor wedding ceremony ideas that allow the planner to create an impression with the guests.


  • A seasonal wedding gives your outdoor wedding a theme depending on what time of year it is. Sunflowers in a watering can create a summery feel in the warmer months. You can decorate the ceremony area with autumn leaves in fall or drape fresh flowers over chairs, lecterns and arches in spring. In winter, accessorize the wedding dress with real or faux diamonds to give it a chilly sparkle.


  • A rustic outdoor wedding provides an authentic, down-home and comfortable feel to your nuptials. Decorate with earthy tones such as yellow, tan and maroon colors and build a theme around a favorite country flower or an insect such as a butterfly, suggests Favor Ideas. Holding the wedding near a wheat field or a barn can add to the look.

Sculpture Garden or Historical Park

  • Consider hosting the ceremony at a sculpture garden, which you can find at some art museums. The sculptures and artwork give your ceremony an artsy, one-of-a-kind feel. Or, if you can obtain the necessary permits, hold your wedding in a historical park. This can give the ceremony a romantic, old-fashioned feel with meaningful scenery.


  • A beach wedding is a popular option, although it requires some planning. Many private or even public beaches require a permit. If you can work out the particulars, however, a beach wedding offers the rewards of a unique setting with prime scenery. Use seashells, starfish and sand dollars to line the aisle and give it a special twist.

Botanic Garden

  • A wedding ceremony set in a botanic garden can provide a lush and colorful backdrop for your nuptials. The natural colors and smells of a garden will mean you will need to provide little in the way of extra decorations. Add candles or colorful table linens to accentuate and put your personal stamp on the look.


How to Make Trifold Wedding Invitations

A trifold wedding invitation is fun and even a little exciting to receive, as it reveals more and more with each unfolding. Besides having many panels to announce your love and invite your loved ones, you can play with colors, photos, design, typography and wording, all to express the joy of the big day. If you are not a computer expert, you may want to go with a local or online invitation house, leaving you to do the basic design.

How to Make Trifold Wedding Invitations
(Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media)

Get two pieces of paper and fold them in the two different folds -- a “Z” or a “U.” The "Z" trifold is like the standard business letter, where the creases go in opposite directions. When stood on end, it would look like a "Z." The creases go the same direction for a "U" trifold, which allows for an introductory panel, then a second panel, before opening to the spread of three panels. If you hold the “Z” with the crease on the right, the introductory panel is part of the three-panel spread. If, however, you hold it with the crease on the left, you have an introductory panel that then opens, revealing the three-panels.

Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media

Consider where on the two folds -- and three options -- you want to put the words and pictures. Using the "U" with two panels, you could tease the recipient with photos or lines such as “Guess what?” then “Keep Guessing….” Or, “Your two favorite people will soon be…” and “Your favorite couple!” Then put the invitation on the three-panel spread.

Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media

If you have other information, such as a map, or RSVP information, put them on the "back" panel, or just leave it blank.

Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media

Choose the photographs and colors you want to use. If you have a theme to your wedding, or you just want to play off of the time of year – June, Christmas, August – use colors and type fonts, or even little illustrations, that reflect it.

Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media

Get clever with the invitation. Use the trifold to hold a surprise, such as a white rose petal, or have an extra invitation card inside the trifold. Some invitation companies feature a trifold with a pocket, for your return card and anything else you want to put there. Or have a photo of a church on the first panel, with "This is the church. This is the Steeple." On the second panel, have a picture of the church door with, "Open the Door and...." Then, across the tri-panel spread, have a big, "Come to Our Wedding!"

Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media

DIY Faux Leather Cuff

Men's accessories are becoming more and more popular. Instead of just the typical watch or cuff links, men are finding ways to add personality to their outfits as well. You can create a variety of easy and inexpensive bracelets with just a few supplies.

(Image: Beth Barden)

Things You'll Need

  • Faux leather
  • Hemp cord
  • Assorted beads
  • Straight edge
  • Small screw driver
  • Scissors

(Image: Beth Barden)

Step 1: Cut the Faux Leather

Cut a piece of the faux leather in a straight line. In this project, a 1-inch width was used, but the dimensions are a personal preference.


  • Loosely wrap the bracelet around your wrist to get an idea of length.

(Image: Beth Barden)

Step 2: Puncture the Faux Leather

Using the small screwdriver (or any tool that can puncture), make a small hole about 1/8 inch from the end. Do this on both sides.

(Image: Beth Barden)

Step 3: Cut a Piece of Hemp Rope

Cut a piece of hemp rope slightly longer than your strip of faux leather. Leave 2 inches of rope on either side of the bracelet.

Step 4: String a Bead

Feed the string through the hole of one end of the bracelet. Thread the hemp rope through one of your beads and then continue with that end of the hemp rope through the other punctured hole.


  • You can always add more beads to the bracelet for a different look.

(Image: Beth Barden)

Step 5: Tie a Knot

Take one end of the hemp rope tie a knot approximately 1 inch from the end of the rope. Thread a small bead through to the first knot and then tie another knot securing the bead between the two knots. This will be part 1 of your closure.

(Image: Beth Barden)

Step 6: Make a Loop

On the other end of the rope make a loop and secure with a knot. This will be the other part of your bracelet closure. The loop needs to be large enough for the small bead to fit through it but not fall out. You want to be able to slide the small bead back out of the loop when you are ready to remove the bracelet.

(Image: Beth Barden)

Step 7: Fold Back the Ends

Fold back the ends of your bracelet so that you are seeing the underside of the faux leather. Slide the small bead inside the loop and secure your bracelet.

(Image: Beth Barden)

The Compliment Bracelet

Step 1: Cut a Piece of Faux Leather

Cut a strip of faux leather. Loosely wrap the bracelet around your wrist to get an idea of length. Make sure to cut in straight lines.

(Image: Beth Barden)

Step 2: Cut a Piece of String

Cut a 2-to-3-inch piece of hemp rope. Slide one of your assorted beads onto the rope and position it in the center. Lay the piece of faux leather on top of it so that the bead and string is centered.

(Image: Beth Barden)

Step 3: Tie a Knot

Wrap the hemp rope around the back of the faux leather and tie in 2-3 knots. Make sure it is secure and the bead is not slipping around.

(Image: Beth Barden)

Step 4: Repeat Three Times

Repeat steps 2 and 3, spacing the beads evenly across the leather until you have your desired look. In this project, three beads were used.

(Image: Beth Barden)

Step 5: Puncture a Small Hole

Using the small screwdriver puncture a hole 1/4 inch from the end of the hemp rope. Do this on both ends.

(Image: Beth Barden)

Step 6: Pull the String Through

Cut a 2-inch piece of hemp rope, slide it through the punctured hole and tie a knot at the end to keep it from sliding all the way out of the hole. The knot should be visible on top of the faux leather. Repeat this same process with another piece of 2-inch rope on the other end.

(Image: Beth Barden)

Step 7: Create a Closure

Tie the two pieces of rope together in a knot. This will act as the closure for the bracelet.

(Image: Beth Barden)

Accessories aren't just for the ladies anymore- now the guys get add their own style through these faux leather bracelets. Make as many as you want to add layers and texture. They are neutral and rugged enough to feel masculine and with all the beads and faux leather options, the possibilities are endless!

(Image: Beth Barden)

How to Remove a Watch Back to Replace the Battery

If your watch has been losing time or has stopped running entirely, you may need to replace its battery. For most inexpensive wrist watches, this simply entails popping the back of the watch off, pulling the old battery out and sliding a new battery in its place. For more expensive watches, however, this process is more involved, as there are a variety of back plates used on different brands of watches. Some watches may require special tools to remove the back plates. In this case, you will need to take the watch to a jeweler or specialist.

How to Remove a Watch Back to Replace the Battery
(Grayson Dere Photography/Demand Media)
Things You'll Need
Small screwdriver or dulled knife
Small coin such as a penny or dime
Retainer wrench (for retainer back watches)
Rubber-tipped opener (for screw back watches)
Soft, non-abrasive cloth

Kelly Ripa's Future On 'Live' Unclear As Michael Strahan Exits

Watches with a Snap-on Back
Place the watch face down on your soft cloth. This will prevent scratching the face of the watch. Search for the small groove that runs around the edge of the back casing of the watch.

Grayson Dere Photography/Demand Media
Watches with a Snap-on Back
Work the head of a small screwdriver or the edge of a small, dull knife gently into the groove.

Watches with a Snap-on Back
Give the screwdriver or knife a slight twist. This should cause the back plate of the watch to pop off, revealing the battery beneath. Carefully remove the battery and replace it with the new. The back should easily snap back into place.

Grayson Dere Photography/Demand Media
Watches with a Hatch Back
Place the watch face down on a soft cloth. You should see small slots on the back of the plate.

Grayson Dere Photography/Demand Media
Watches with a Hatch Back
Place the edge of a small coin, such as a dime or penny, into the slot and turn it counter-clockwise.This should loosen the hatches.

Grayson Dere Photography/Demand Media
Watches with a Hatch Back
Finish unscrewing the hatches with your fingers. Pay special attention to not allow the battery or batteries to fall out of the watch, as you need to note their position in order to correctly place the new battery. After the hatches are removed, the batteries will fall out if you turn the watch over.

Grayson Dere Photography/Demand Media
Watches with a Screw-on Back
Place the watch, once again, face down on the soft cloth so as to avoid scratching its surface.

Grayson Dere Photography/Demand Media
Watches with a Screw-on Back
Push a rubber-tipped opener directly into the center of the back plate of the watch. If you do not have a rubber-tipped opener, you may need to take the watch to a jeweler or purchase a tool kit specifically made for watch repair.

Watches with a Screw-on Back
Maintain pressure on the opener and turn it counter-clockwise. The back plate of the watch will unscrew, giving you access to the battery.

Grayson Dere Photography/Demand Media
Watches with a Retainer Ring Back
Position the watch face down on a soft cloth and search for the small wrench slots located on the back plate of the watch. There should be at least four small slots along the perimeter of the plate.

Grayson Dere Photography/Demand Media
Watches with a Retainer Ring Back
Slide the metal tips on your retainer wrench into the slots. You may need to make the proper adjustments on the wrench in order to get to the proper size. If you do not have this wrench, you may, again, need to take your watch to a service technician or purchase a watch repair kit.

Grayson Dere Photography/Demand Media
Watches with a Retainer Ring Back
Turn the wrench counter-clockwise after you’ve fitted it correctly into the slots. Loosen the plate. Remove the retainer ring and the back plate in order to change the battery.

Grayson Dere Photography/Demand Media

These are the watches worn by Wall Street’s most powerful men

Masters of the Universe value one piece of jewelry above all else — a watch.
They're collectible, gorgeous, and, at times, incredibly expensive pieces that can be handed down from generation to generation.
Exactly the type of thing a titan of any industry would want.
We've put together a list and commentary about the wristwatches worn by some of Wall Street's most public executives. 
As expected, a couple of the watches are flashy. A few of them are really, really cheap by Wall Street standards. And one prominent banker doesn't even wear a watch. Ever.

Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway
Buffett, the "Oracle of Omaha," wears a gold Rolex Day-Date.

Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway

T. Boone Pickens, BP Capital
Reuters/ Mario Anzuoni
Oil magnate T. Boone Pickens also wears a yellow gold Rolex Day-Date that he purchased in 1964.

T. Boone Pickens, BP Capital Reuters/ Mario Anzuoni

Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO
Reuters/ Lucas Jackson
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein rocks a Swatch with what appears to be a clear plastic band. Swatch's tend to range between $50 to $245. It's also not exactly the sort of timepiece you'd expect a chief executive of a Wall Street investment bank to wear. Then again, Goldman is "the most hipster" bank on Wall Street.

Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO Reuters/ Lucas Jackson

Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone Group
Reuters/ Brendan McDermid
Billionaire private-equity chief Stephen Schwarzman also wears a Swatch. He also uses a flip phone.

Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone Group Reuters/ Brendan McDermid

Jack Bogle, Founder of the Vanguard Group
Reuters/ Tim Shaffer
Investing legend Jack Bogle, the founder of the Vanguard Group, wears a $14 wristwatch he received from a shareholder.

"I received in the mail a wristwatch from a devoted shareholder in California. On the dial were printed our Vanguard logo, my name, and a phrase that was an indication I was still looking out for our shareholders: "Still on Watch." It was also an outrageous pun: "Still on Watch." Confident that it would be my rabbit’s foot, I put the watch on my wrist, where, having proved itself, it remains to this day. (Yes, I knew about the $50 limit on gifts. So I checked the catalog for the price. It was $14. Talk about value!)," he wrote.  

Jack Bogle, Founder of the Vanguard Group Reuters/ Tim Shaffer

Bill Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square
Reuters/ Brian Snyder
Ackman, the billionaire activist investor, wears a stunning Patek Philippe Ref. 5216P.

Bill Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square Reuters/ Brian Snyder

Carl Icahn, Icahn Enterprises
Time Magazine
Billionaire Carl Icahn, the famed activist investor, appears to wear The A Lange & Sohne Grosse Langematik Gangreserve in this TIME magazine cover from December 2013.

Carl Icahn, Icahn Enterprises Time Magazine

George Soros, Soros Fund Management
Reuters/ Bobby Yip
Hedge fund legend George Soros was seen wearing this Patek Aquanaut back in 2010.

George Soros, Soros Fund Management Reuters/ Bobby Yip

Bond guru Jeff Gundlach, CEO of DoubleLine Capital
Reuters/ Jessica Rinaldi
We learned about Jeff Gundlach's watch collection when he had a bunch of his artwork and personal property stolen in 2012. According to the Santa Monica Police Department report, the watches that were stolen included a Glashutte, Breitling, A. Lange & Sohne, TAG Heuer, and a Patek Philippe. We couldn't nail down prices for these specific models, but every one can run in the tens of thousands of dollars or more.

Talk about some serious wrist candy! Fortunately, the DoubleLine Capital CEO brilliantly helped the FBI recover his stolen property.

Bond guru Jeff Gundlach, CEO of DoubleLine Capital Reuters/ Jessica Rinaldi

Tom Steyer, Farallon Capital (retired)

AP images
Billionaire retired hedge fund manager Tom Steyer wears a sporty Ironman watch.

Tom Steyer, Farallon Capital (retired)  AP images

Andreas Halvorsen, Viking Global
Getty Images/ Scott Olson
The billionaire "Tiger Cub" hedge fund manager also wears a sports watch. We can't tell what the make or model is. Halvorsen runs marathons and competes in triathlons.

Andreas Halvorsen, Viking Global Getty Images/ Scott Olson

James Gorman, Morgan Stanley CEO
Reuters/ Yuri Gripas
Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman wears what appears to be a stainless steel Rolex Daytona, according to Ben Clymer, the founder of watch site Hodinkee.
James Gorman, Morgan Stanley CEO Reuters/ Yuri Gripas
Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase CEO
Reuters/ Yuri Gripas
BONUS: Jamie Dimon doesn't wear a watch! Ever. Apparently, he doesn't care for jewelry.

Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase CEO Reuters/ Yuri Gripas

One woman, photoshopped to the beauty standards of 18 countries

Perceptions of Perfection global beauty standards.
It probably won’t come as a surprise that beauty standards are not the same everywhere else. These perceptions of perfection are very much regional, and they are all incredibly different. To boil it down, no matter your shape or size, there’s a country that values you.

20+ Awesome Ways to Get More Followers for Your Google Plus Business Page

20+ Awesome Ways to Get More Followers for Your Google Plus Business Page

Google Plus has more than one billion registered (and 359 million active) users, as well as some of the most business-friendly features of any social network, this is the time to start building out your business page, if you haven’t done so already.

As additional incentive, Google Plus has been shown to dramatically improve search engine rankings, which, in itself, is a sufficient reason to join the platform. By building your brand through this social media channel, you will be able to boost your SEO efforts and increase your business’s online exposure.

So, let’s jump in and take a look at some of the awesome ways to increase your exposure on Google Plus.

For the sake of your business, Google + your business NOW!

  1. Create a Personal Profile In Addition to Your Business Page

Use your personal profile to build and reinforce your business brand.

Just because getting followers for your business page is the ultimate goal, that doesn’t mean you should stop using your personal profile altogether. In fact, your best bet is to use both your personal profile and business page in tandem, as this will allow you to improve your personal and business brands. With the potentialinfluence of Google Authorship in SEO, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ensure your personal profile is a strong one.

If you take a look at their profiles, you’ll see that, while the profiles are all about them personally, each post and conversation they get involved in helps to increase the brand awareness of their particular employer or business.

  1. Treat Your Google Plus Page Like a Micro Blog, and Post Valuable Content

Don’t just comment and Plus One the content of others. Post your own engaging content.

Make sure you are updating your Google Plus page on a regular basis. The content needs to be exclusive, valuable, and compelling, both in terms of visuals and substance. Knowing that Google Plus posts are searchable, you should treat them like a micro blog (and a very powerful one at that). For your business page, you should keep the content strictly on topic, but you can use your personal profile to post content on other areas of interest.

Make posts on your Google Plus page to engage with readers

  1. Add Relevant People and Businesses to Your Circles

Follow people and businesses you are interested in, and many will follow you back.

Unlike Facebook or some other social networks, where you will find lots of fake profiles, Google Plus is not very crowded. Plus, the restrictions are not as limiting as they are at some other networks. If you have spent time buffing up your profile, description, and image, etc. simply adding relevant people to your circles will result in a majority of the people adding you back.

Remember that you should be doing the networking and outreach mainly with your personal profile. That will benefit your business page indirectly, since the more you can manage to get into the circles of other people, the more exposure you will get for your business page, by sharing your business posts.

Add people or businesses to your circle

  1. Engage with Other Users In a Meaningful Way

Be more than a page. Get active and engage with people in a one-to-one fashion.

Apart from posting regular updates, useful links, or images, you need to engage with users on a one-to-one basis. For your business profile, the engagement will be limited mostly to people posting queries, messages, and posts on your business page, with some occasional posts made on some community, etc.

But the real networking will be carried out via your personal profile, and it will take a lot more than liking (+1) others’ posts. You need to follow and interact with relatively active people in your niche, take some time to go through their posts and make thoughtful comments, and participate in relevant discussions, communities, and hangouts.

+1 someone’s post and make thoughtful comments

  1. Watch for Trending Topics to Find Out What Your Users Are Talking About

Use the explore feature to check out what’s hot in your niche.

Keep tabs on trending topics, and it will give you an idea as to what kinds of posts, images, or GIFs are getting exposure among your target audience. In most cases, you will notice that a lot of content is not very creative, or entirely original. Again, your content needs to be on topic in case of a business page (though you can use polls, questions, or surveys to make it more engaging), and you always can use some off-topic posts, images, or GIFs on your personal profile to win new friends.

Explore trending topics

  1. Search for Users You Want to Connect With

Use the search function in Google+ to find your target audience.

While trying to engage people, or simply adding people to your circles, you should be focusing on your target audience, especially the people with active and high authority profiles. To find these people, you can use the search function on Google Plus while using the Ripples feature to see who’s worth investing time with, and who’s not.

Here’s a Ripples Effect From A Post By +Buycoolprice

  1. Figure the Optimal Time to Post for Your Audience

Rotate post time until you figure out when you get the best results.

Depending on the age group, time zone, or occupation of your target market, posts or updates made at different times can yield significantly different results. Not that the quality of your post doesn’t matter, but knowing the optimal time to post is important for getting maximum exposure and response from your target audience. And, the only way to figure that out is to test and compare. If it’s not feasible to post manually at a specific time on a regular basis, you can use a tool like Bufferapp for custom scheduling.

Bufferapp – Make the most of custom scheduling and social analytics

  1. Get Familiar with Notification Triggers, and Use Them Wisely

Don’t annoy people with random notifications.

Know the notification triggers and use them wisely, but, remember, there’s a very fine line between taking advantage of these triggers and stepping into the forbidden territory of spam.

Depending on the preferences set by users, there are almost 20 actions that will result in a notification being sent to their emails or phones. To know these triggers, you can visit the Google Plus settings at your profile, and look under the “Receive notifications” setting.

Know what triggers a notification

  1. Use Hangouts On Air to Build Your Authority

Hangouts On Air are a great way to brand yourself or your business as an expert.

If you are an authority on your subject (or you can get an expert on board),Google hangouts-on-air can be a great platform to engage and impress you target users. While it will take quite some time to plan, prepare, and promote a hangout on air, it’s worth the effort. You can build a good following by organizing a successful hangout-on-air every once in a while, and it can be a nice step toward establishing yourself as an authority.

Hangouts on Air – Live streaming on YouTube, Google+ and your website

  1. Create Events and Invite Your Followers

Be social and create events through Google+.

To promote your hangout, create a circle of Google Plus users that you are looking to target. Create an event for your hangout, and send the invitation to the people in that particular circle. Use a compelling title and banner to entice more people. Also encourage the invitees to share the news with their contacts. And make it a public event so that anybody can participate (unless you’d like some sort of restriction on attendees).

Create an event

  1. Mention Other Users In Your Posts

By mentioning other users, Google+ automatically will send them a notification.

Like Twitter, you can address specific users in your posts by using a plus sign (+) and choosing the contacts from the drop down menu. Mentioning other users in your posts is a good way to involve other people in the discussions, especially the influencers.

Mention users for more engagement

  1. Use Hashtags to Link Your Posts to a Certain Topic

Hashtags help your content get seen by many users.

Hashtags are used to tag posts or updates related to a certain topic, news, or event at social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. And now they aresearchable at Google, so you need to make the most of hashtags. You can go through the trending topics and incorporate some of those hashtags in your posts for some quick exposure.

Use hashtags for more exposure

  1. Ask People to +1 Your Posts for More Exposure

Don’t be afraid to ask people to +1 and share your post.

When someone +1 your posts, it will appear in the feed of people who are following them. And there’s nothing wrong with asking people to +1 your post if they like it (needless to say, you need to make it like-worthy first). For some, it might sound a little desperate, but, at times, a simple call to action can make the difference.

  1. Post Updates and Content Regularly to Stay In the Streams of Your Followers

By posting regularly, you will stay at the tops of your users’ minds.

It goes without saying that it’s important to update your Google Plus page on a regular basis. It will take some time before your social media activity starts to gain traction, but many small businesses abandon their social profiles, simply because they don’t see any tangible return on investment. By updating your content and profile regularly, you will be staying fresh in the minds of your users; and when they get around to needing your services, you will be “top of mind.”

  1. Invite Your Friends and Other Contacts to Like Your Business Page

Use your real world contacts to build up your numbers initially.

Don’t forget to invite your friends, colleagues, customers, and any other contacts to like or follow your business page. It’s good to have some followers (especially for small businesses) because, just like money begets money, page likes or followers beget more page likes or followers.

Invite your friends and family members

  1. Train an Employee to Manage Your Google Plus Page for You

Upskilled employees let you focus on strategy and planning.

Encourage and train your employees to use social networks like Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Twitter. You can offer some kind of an incentive. And it can be beneficial for both your company and your employees.

  1. Add Your Google Plus Page to Your Email Signature

Make sure your Google Plus profile is in your branding.

Promote your Google Plus page in your email signature, business cards, or any other advertising or promotional material you are using.

  1. Place Your Google Plus Profile In the Bio of Any Content You Provide

Build your author rank and become an expert.

Place your Google Plus profile in the author bio whenever you get a chance to be featured as a guest author on other blogs. Not only will you get some followers (if the guest post and the blog are good enough), it also will contribute to yourauthor rank.

  1. Use Google Ripples to Find Influencers In Your Niche

Google Ripples is a great feature which helps you identify people to connect with.

Make use of Google Ripples to find authority people with good reach and influence in your target market. Google Ripples will let you see exactly who is making waves and who isn’t. Needless to say, you should try to target both people who are getting the most shares and people who are actively sharing their posts (and here’s how to make use of the Ripple Effect).

Ripples – Know which posts are getting shared the most and by whom

  1. Join Or Create Communities Relevant to Your Niche

Get active in relevant communities and interact with others in your field.

Google Plus communities are similar to online forums, message boards, or Facebook groups, where people with similar interests can come together and share information, ask questions, or initiate discussions. You can search and join relevant communities (while using your business or personal profile) to interact with your target audience. And if there’s no community which suits you perfectly, you can create one.

Google Plus Communities – Interact with like-minded people

  1. Use a Google Plus Badge on Your Website

Add a badge to your site to show people you have a social media presence.

It has been more than two years since the launch of Google Plus, but while we see many businesses promoting their Facebook or Twitter pages, very few businesses have posted a link to their Google Plus page on their website, mainly because it’s not in fashion as yet. You really shouldn’t be waiting for some SEO bigwigs to declare it an absolute-must, or for your competitors to take the initiative, before you decide to do so (because by then it will be too late).

Once you’ve created a Google Plus page, you shouldn’t waste any time placing a link, badge, or widget on your website. You can use the official Google Plusbadgewidgets, or a simple icon linking to your Google Plus profile. Using a Google Plus badge also will make your brand eligible for the Direct Connectfeature.

However…use these site badges with caution and don’t forget your end objective. If your real goal is to have your visitor purchase an item or make an inquiry, then think carefully before adding the badges to your site, as they may lead your visitor away from your site and away from the sale.

Google Plus Badges for your website

Summing It All Up

As you can see, there is a huge variety of ways to interact on Google Plus. Jump in now while the momentum is building, and watch your business ride the Google Plus wave.

About the Author: Stephen Walsh is a director of Lightship Digital and focuses on e-commerce marketing and conversion rate optimization. You can contact him at Lightship Digital or say “Hi” on Google+ and Twitter.

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