There are around 540 million monthly active users on Google+ engaging through +1s, shares, comments, and recommendations. It might not be in the billions, but this is an audience that you don’t want to ignore, especially since what and how you’re communicating on Google+ can impact your business’s overall presence across the web. One way to ensure your content is seen by people on Google+ is with +Post Ads.

Here’s everything you need to know about the ad unit, including what it is, how to create one, who’s using it successfully, and what best practices to follow.

+Post Ads: What They Are and Why You Should Care

+Post Ads were introduced by Google in 2013 as a way to amplify content and drive more people to your posts, videos, and Hangouts. What sets them apart from sponsored content offered by other platforms is that they reach the entire web, not just your network. This means that any post promoted from your Google+ Page can receive additional traffic and engagement from other places on the web. People can leave comments, follow your brand, give a +1, or join a Hangout right from the ad.

Before you can create a +Post Ad, you must first make sure you meet the following criteria:

  • Your Google+ Page must have at least 1,000 followers.
  • Your post should contain content that’s relevant to your audiences.
  • You need to opt in to share endorsements for Google+ Pages.

We also recommend reading through the +Post ads policy before creating your first campaign. Google+ supports “family-safe” content, so adult, alcohol, or gambling-related brands might find themselves limited by this ad unit. Google reviews your content and formatting to make sure it meets these policies before it starts showing the ads to customers.

Different Ways to Create +Post Ads

There are four different ways you can create a +Post Ad:

  1. New engagement ad campaign
  2. Existing engagement ad campaign
  3. Ad gallery
  4. Your Google+ Page

1. New Engagement Ad Campaign

This is the option you’d choose if you’re starting completely from scratch through your AdWords account. Once logged in, the first thing you’ll do is start a new campaign. Engagement ad campaigns are only available if you click “Display Network only,” so make sure that’s selected.

On the “Select campaign settings” tab, enter a campaign name. Before you move any further you’ll have a few preferences to set.

  • Under “Type,” select the Engagement radio button.
  • Under “Devices,” choose the types of devices you want your ads to be displayed on.
  • Under “Locations,” select the countries or territories you want to reach or exclude.
  • Under “Languages,” select the language(s) your customers speak.
  • Under “Bidding and budget,” enter a daily budget.

If you’d like to edit your campaign’s ad scheduling, ad delivery, and social settings, you can do so under “Advanced settings.”

On the “Create an ad group” tab, enter an ad group name and default bid. You’ll then want to select the radio button next to the target setting you want. If you go with “Interests & remarketing,” you can add interest categories that apply to your audience, add remarketing lists, or search for your own customer combinations. If you select “Display keywords,” enter one keyword per line in the box, and then click “Add keywords.”

Once you’ve reached the “Create ads” tab, you’ll be asked to specify the type of campaign you’re running. You’ll want to click the +Post template from under “Choose a template.” Enter a name for your +Post ad and be sure to enter your Google+ Page URL. On the “Select post” page you’ll choose the Google+ post that you want your ad to link to.

To add more customization to your +Post Ad, click the arrow next to “Customize.” If you want all comments on the post you selected to appear in your ad, select the “Show comments” checkbox. You can also select the sizes that you want your ad to appear in under the “Ad Preview” option. Ad sizes include 300×250, 728×90, and 160×600. Once you’ve reviewed your choices, click “Save ads.”

2. Existing Engagement Ad Campaign

This method is very similar to the previous one, but rather than create an entire campaign from scratch, you’ll choose from an existing one and create a new ad within it. Once you’ve selected the campaign you’ll work in, click “+Ad” followed by “Create” in the “Post your Google+ content on the web” tile.

Just like before, you’ll enter a name for your +Post Ad as well as your Google+ Page URL and choose a post you want your ad to link to. The same customization options for comments and sizes are available here as well. Once you’ve reviewed your ad and you’re happy with your choices, click “Save ads.”

3. Ad Gallery

The AdWords Ad Gallery is traditionally used to create ads using your own customized text and logos. Since +Post Ads don’t require much tweaking, this method probably won’t be a popular one, but we wanted to include it none the less.

Similar to the previous option, you’ll need to have existing assets in place to use this method. Log in to AdWords and click the “Ads” tab. On the “+AD” menu, click “Ad gallery,” and then in the “Social ads” tile select “Create.”

You’ll want to hover your cursor over “Post your Google+ content on the web” and click “Create” again. On the “Select an ad group” menu, search for an ad group that belongs to an engagement campaign.

You’ll wrap this up the same way you did the others: enter a name for your +Post Ad, your Google+ Page URL and select the post you want your ad to link to. Finally, you’ll want to customize your ad, review it, and save.

4. Your Google+ Page

If you’re looking for a way to save some time, you can create +Post Ads directly from your Google+ account. Rather than signing into your AdWords account, you’ll want to be logged into your Google+ Page. Once you’ve created or found a public post that you want to promote, click the down arrow in the upper-right corner of it and select “Promote this post.” It’s important that you’re viewing your page as yourself, not public.

If you manage your own AdWords account, click the “Continue to AdWords” button and follow the instructions. The post information will be auto-populated. If someone else manages your AdWords account, send them the preview link of the post you’d like to use.

How Brands Are Using +Post Ads

One of the best ways to determine how you’ll use a new feature in your social strategy is to learn from brands that are already using it. Here are a few helpful examples.

Text-Based Posts

The car manufacturer BMW uses +Post Ads to invite fans and car owners around the world to share their individual experiences as part of its #bmwstories campaign. Not only does BMW invest in producing branded content specifically for this campaign, but it uses the “promote my latest post” feature in AdWords to amplify its content.

“This was a fast and efficient way for us to drive consideration for BMW with auto enthusiasts and MBW fans across Google’s publisher network.” – Sebastian Schwiening, BMW’s web marketing team

Hangouts On Air

HSBC Commercial Banking produced a year-long series of Hangouts On Air that brought together business leaders to discuss the top economic opportunities in Brazil. The brand promoted these to a nation-wide audience by steaming each Hangout live through +Post Ads across the web. This drove nearly 3,000 hours of watch time and 13,000 new subscribers to its YouTube Channel.

Following in Asos’ footsteps, southeast Asian beauty e-commerce site Luxola ran the region’s first shoppable Hangout on Air, during which a premium skincare line was sold live. When promoted through +Post Ads, online viewers could shop and ask questions of the host right from the live ad unit. The team saw a 45 percent increase in unique visitors to its website following the campaign.

It’s worth noting that +PostAds can be used before the Hangout to raise awareness and collect RSVPs, during the live event for Q&As, and afterward to extend the lifespan of the video.

Best Practices

+Post Ads are still relatively new and so we’re confident that more best practices will become available as the feature is more frequently used. However, here are a few tips to help you get started.

  • Space is limited, so make the first few words of your post actionable.
  • Preview ads within AdWords before promoting them to ensure that the text appears as you’ve planned.
  • Monitor your posts and comments to avoid improper content from appearing in your ad.
  • Use high-resolution images that are relevant to your company, product, or service, and avoid stock photos.
  • Keep text overlays on photos at a minimum.
  • Use custom thumbnail images during the YouTube video upload process to make static images more compelling.

As with other types of sponsored or promoted content, it should be strategically planned out. Make sure that the posts you’re selecting to highlight align with your editorial calendar and overall business goals.