By Paul Parcellin, Staff Writer
December 9, 2014

Q: What's the simplest and speediest way to grab a reader's attention?

A: Ask a question.

You might try asking your Facebook friends for their opinions on a matter. Or, maybe you could write a tweet seeking feedback on a Web page you just put up. Soliciting responses to your questions can be an effective way to ignite conversation on any number of social media platforms. When you inspire conversations among your readers you are employing an effective means to build your following, keep your readers engaged and increase conversion rates.

Some tend to favor Google+ as a forum for gathering opinions, feedback or even a thumbs-up, thumbs-down response to an issue that you raise. That might be due to the ease with which you can conduct polls with new Google+ features.

Why Indulge in Polls?

Offering interesting content is a good way to bring visitors to your site. Polling may not only provide relevant content to visitors, it also allows them to offer their opinions about topics you raise. And many undoubtedly enjoy offering their views to an audience of their peers. Polls often inspire followers to post follow-up remarks in the comments section, as well, which provides another layer of social interaction.

Keeping your followers engaged in social media is just one step away from directing them to your landing page. According to marketer David Sommer, research indicates the average prospective buyer is 80 percent of the way through his or her decision-making process when they land on your page, "so your website's sticky factor will highly influence your lead conversion rate."

New Insights

Google+ has added to Pages and Profiles a function that lets users create and share polls. The polling function makes it easy to query your fans and followers and collect their opinions. You can glean more detailed insight into your prospects' opinions and needs with the data you collect, and you can use that information to craft more effective marketing campaigns. Polling has the additional advantage of demonstrating to your prospects that you are interested in their opinions and are looking to improve your offerings by using their advice.

Here's how to use Google+ polling for your marketing campaigns:

Creating Your Polls

• In the "Status Update" box, select the "Poll" option, then type in your question.
• Enter the multiple-choice options that poll takers can choose from. The limit is five.
• Add a photo or graphical image to your poll to enhance its visual appeal.
• Select whom you'd like to distribute the poll to. You can also open it up to all users.
• Publish your poll.

Twin Design / Shutterstock.com

There are a few limitations when it comes to editing your poll, and they are worth noting.

• You can edit your question after publishing it, but you can't change the multiple choice responses or your photos.
• Once you start, you can't close a poll without deleting the whole post.
• Those who can see the poll can leave a comment or +1 the post, whether or not they vote. It's a good idea to keep an eye on those responses so that you can respond to any questions or comments in a timely manner.

You can check on who voted by clicking the number of votes that have accumulated. The link will bring you to a list of those who voted for each of the multi-choice responses and the percent of votes that each choice garnered. There is no option for anonymous polling, although you can limit the Circles you share your poll with.

It seems that Google+ doesn't measure the number of votes cast at any specific time. If it's important to you to chart the times and dates that votes are cast you might want to try using a Google Form with the polling function. Share your Google Form by embedding a link to the form in your Google+ post. This will provide you with date and timestamps in a complete history of the responses you've received.

Getting Started

Having a new tool will probably make you eager to begin working with it to see what it can do. Once you begin to get the hang it, Google+ polling may add vigor to your social media game plan. However, you'll want to consider a few points before you start presenting polls to your audience.

Take it Slow

Many find polls fun to take and interesting to read. However, some may find that polling is a bit of an annoyance, especially if you bombard your readers with too many questions. It's a good idea to keep a regular schedule, much as you'd do with blog and social media posts. Give your readers time to absorb your polling questions before presenting them with another one. They'll appreciate getting extra time to read, answer and perhaps share your polls with others.

You can possibly generate more interest in your polls by allowing your followers to read the results. Those who participated in the poll will likely be interested in how the figures tallied up. Even those who did not participate may find the outcome interesting, and they may be persuaded to participate next time.

Be Consistent

Conduct polls that ask questions that are related to your offerings and are interesting to your followers. If you stray too far from your central topic you run the risk of confusing your readers and muddling your message. Present readers with a consistent message and maintain a tone that is uniform with all of your other posts and polls.

Make it Good

Just because you can take a poll doesn't always mean that you should. Facebook eliminated its polling feature last year to reduce clutter on its news feed. Certain select pages are still using it, but for the most part merchants are creating more high quality updates and promoted posts instead.

Use When Appropriate

Sometimes your posts will be more effective as status updates rather than as polls. The questions that you ask in polls should be interesting and germane to the topics your followers are most interested in. Creating a poll just for the sake of doing so won't likely be an effective way to communicate with your audience. As for relevancy, you're liable to find that some of the most engaging content will come from your readers' posts in the comments section.

Create your polls from your Google+ page by clicking on the "Poll" button in the "Share What's New" panel. For more information about Google+ Polls, including how to create them from your iOS or Android device, visit the Feature's page on Google+ Help.

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