The Trade Development Council and Google have teamed up on a social media initiative to help the city's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) connect with buyers around the world. Under this collaboration, free social-networking service Google+ will serve as a new online platform for local companies to raise their profile, link with global buyers and generate sales leads, according to Sophia Chong, the director of the council's publications and e-commerce operations. The council will introduce this social media strategy as part of Hong Kong Fashion Week for Fall/Winter 2013 and World Boutique, Hong Kong, two annual international trade exhibitions to be held later his month in Wan Chai. Events at this year's fashion exhibitions will be broadcast online via the Google+ Hangouts On Air function, which allows participating companies to get instant feedback and response from internet users worldwide. "This is just the beginning. There will be more to come," Chong said, without identifying other international exhibitions by the council that will use the Google-based social media programme. Google+ has an estimated 135 million active users worldwide. Formed in 1966 as the international marketing arm for Hong Kong manufacturers, traders and service providers, the council staged 35 international trade exhibitions in the fiscal year ended March, many of which are among the largest of their kind in Asia. The number of exhibitors, most of which are SMEs, at the events last fiscal year totalled 32,774, while the number of buyers reached 675,300. Google vice-president John Liu, who heads the internet search giant's China operations, said the social media push at the fashion events this month was "just the tip of the iceberg". Liu described the partnership between Google and the council as a milestone "in using technology to enable new trade opportunities" for local SMEs. While there were other social media platforms, such as Facebook, in use, the council and Google "are aligned" in their goals of increasing adoption of online tools by SMEs to boost their competitiveness, Chong said. There were about 300,000 SMEs in Hong Kong at the end of September, according to the Trade and Industry Department.