Overcoming initial doubts about whether the world needed another social network, in just 15 months Google+ has grown from nothing to having more than 250m users.

On average users are on G+ 12 minutes a day, which is just shy of Facebook’s average of 14 minutes a day and more than 1m brands now have G+ pages.

It has been helped in no small part by the fact that a strong presence on G+ has SEO benefits, but its continued growth is still testament to the fact that the network offers brands methods of communicating with consumers that can’t be found on Facebook or Twitter.

The most obvious example is hangouts, which give brands a unique way of speaking to consumers face-to-face.

We recently trialled hangouts ourselves for the first time in a live chat about email marketing, and is certainly something we will be looking to do more of in future.

So with more brands starting to see the benefits of G+, I decided to compile a list of brands that had been quick to embrace the social network and are reaping the rewards…

Cadbury

Social is central to Cadbury’s digital marketing strategy and it was among the first brands to begin experimenting with G+.

Social media manager Jerry Daykin, who previously shared with us his top five best practice tips for Google+, posts daily updates that keep fans engaged by asking questions or teasing new products.

Cadbury also makes good use of hangouts, including one to celebrate reaching 500,000 followers and another with its Olympic brand ambassador Rebecca Adlington.

Daykin said the brand page has added 150,000 new followers since it started hosting hangouts, although part of the will obviously be down to other factors.

Red Bull

Red Bull’s G+ page is consistent with the rest of its marketing in that it focuses more on a lifestyle choice than the product itself.

It posts regular updates that include images and videos of extreme sports and music with only occasional references to the Red Bull energy drink.

The posts consistently receive up to 50 comments from the page’s 1.2m followers.

Ford

Ford made a big push with social marketing in the past 12 months, one example being its new social sales tool that integrates with Facebook and YouTube pages.

It has also been quick to adopt G+ and has attracted more than 1.5m followers.

Updates are posted every few days, including news from motor shows, images of Ford cars and details of its charity work.

More recently the most popular posts have been ones that reward fans in some way. For instance, it posted a special Ford badge that followers can add to their own G+ pages and reshared images of fans posing with their vehicles.

H&M

Google has flagged up H&M as a poster child for how brands should be using G+, and for good reason.

It posts regular updates focusing on inspirational fashion content such as videos and images, and invites followers to share their experiences and opinions.

It then responds to and shares post from it followers to build a dialogue and keep people engaged.

H&M achieves an average of 72 +1s per post, 11 reshares and 22 comments. The most popular posts are those that involve the brand’s top collections with Victoria Beckham, Versace and Marni.

But more importantly, Google says that H&M’s AdWords campaigns achieved a 22% increase in CTR thanks to its G+ social extensions.

Mashable

Tech blog Mashable has been on G+ almost since it launched and credits the social network among its top 10 sources of referral traffic.

It posts several updates each day – though this is obviously easier for a publisher than for a retail brand – and since adding the G+ badge to the Mashable homepage has seen its G+ page audience increase by 38%.

Mashable also makes use of hangouts to chat to its followers face-to-face and even allowed its fans to help design its G+ page.

ASOS

ASOS has an excellent social presence so it’s no surprise to see that it has clocked up more than 1.1m followers.

The fashion site posts regular updates – though not daily like its Facebook page – featuring videos and image of product ideas and offers.

Surprisingly few of the updates include questions or encouragement for followers to interact, but they still achieve a good number of comments and +1s.

Pepsi

Pepsi uses G+ to promote its Live For Now marketing campaigns, posting video and images of popstars and summer scenes interspersed with the occasional Pepsi can.

More than 560,000 people have added the drinks brand to their circles.

Interestingly, the music videos tend to get fewer comments and shares than posts that encourage followers to answers questions or give their opinions.

Ocado

According to a case study on the IAB’s website, Ocado first joined G+ as a way of improving its search campaigns. And it worked – as a result of adding social extensions CTR on its search ads increased by 30%.

Ocado is another brand that drives fan engagement using hangouts. It used an existing Great British Chefs initiative to create a live event where the chefs cooked for customers.

Overall the hangouts achieved 167k ‘engaged views’ and the number of views on the Ocado YouTube channels increased from 50k to 230k in one week.

The brand is now planning more hangouts as a way of engaging its 80,000 followers.

ESPN

People love to talk about sports, so social media is the perfect forum to promote a sports brand. ESPN has more than 2m followers and posts several images each day from various sporting events.

Engagement tends to be high with posts frequently attracting more than 100 comments and several hundred shares.

Samsung

In contrast to Apple’s decision to largely shun social media, Samsung clearly sees some value in using social to engage with its customers.

It has several official G+ pages, including a Samsung USA account that has 770,000 followers.

In recent weeks a majority of the posts have involved a competition in which schools can win $1m of Samsung products, but previously they were focused on Galaxy Note and the Olympics.

There has been a noticeable drop off in engagement with the competition posts.