Let’s get one thing straight. Google doesn’t think it has the divine right to put one over Facebook, the number one social media platform in the world. With a goal of that magnitude, failure would only result. And with all of the previous criticism of Google+, you would think the Internet giant would have nixed the social platform by now.

Rather, Google+ was created to be a sort of “social layer,” designed to connect all of Google’s services into one streamlined platform. Go on Google+, and you’ll be granted instant access to your YouTube account, Gmail, blog (if hosted by Blogger), and more. And as Sue Spolan wrote a couple of weeks ago, we’re now beginning to see how G+ fits into the greater picture of web rankings and SEO. If you missed it, G+ is a must-have for boosting your online presence.

Granted best practices will continue to evolve as more individuals and businesses utilize the platform, but here’s what you should know to get started, or breathe some life into your already existing, but stagnant, profile page.

Complete Your Profile.

This may be a “no duh” tip, but you’d be surprised how many businesses don’t have a fully developed Google+ page or even any page at all. There’s a reason why Google allows you to provide information such as your business location, links to your website and social sites, and descriptions of your business and products/services provided. At the most basic level, filling out that information gives others a sense of your company, what it represents, and what it can provide for them. Although we’re all still waiting to see what the true potential of Google+ will be, we already know it’s important for Google Places and boosting search rankings.

Use Circles and Join Communities.

Google Plus’ Circles feature allows users to segment the people they follow, providing a great opportunity to create targeted posts and content. Communities, which are similar to groups found on Facebook or LinkedIn, are great to join and connect with new audiences and enter niche-specific conversations.

Images, Images, Images!

From the massive cover photo to individual posts, G+ is definitely image-heavy. Be sure to use high quality pictures and don’t be afraid to get creative when choosing or designing your page’s cover photo. If you take a look at your G+ newsfeed, you’ll also notice how every post includes an image. Follow in these footsteps, and don’t be afraid to use larger images to make your post stand out even more. And design doesn’t end with photos—you can also make basic text style changes in your posts, such as bolding, italicizing, and adding a strikethrough effect.

Set up Google+ Authorship.

If you post a blog entry on Google+, this rich snippet will provide additional information about the blog’s author.  This snippet will also pop up when the author’s name is searched on Google and is a great way to link back to other content you may have written, as well as your company’s website. Authorship is great for establishing one’s credibility and it also boosts your SEO. You can get started here.