Google+ has been getting some bad press around the social channels lately. Many are spouting the idea that “G+ is Dead” or at least “a ghost town”. (There have been similar statements about Twitter lately too.) Just as many are refuting that and say that Google+ is full of life, and growing, and worth checking out. I’m with the latter.
“But none of my friends are using it…”, you protest. Guess what? That doesn’t matter. You can get started on G+ with complete strangers. In fact, that’s one of its real strengths.
My favourite quote about comparing Facebook and Google+ says:
“Facebook helps you to keep in touch with the people you already know,
Google+ helps you to get in touch with the people you want to know.”
No matter that your friends aren’t there. No matter that your customers aren’t there either. Search around and you’ll find people to connect with, network with, learn from. They might be running a similar business to you in another part of the world. You might be surprised to find some are quite happy to offer you support and advice, without feeling any competitive pressure.
How is Google+ different?
Google+ connections operate on the concept of Circles. Think of them as ‘categories’. You could put everyone into one big circle if you like, but it makes sense to segment the people you know or meet (or just like the sound of) into separate circles. You can add a person to more than one circle too.
You can choose whether to see everything in your feed, or switch to a different circle to see what activity it happening for those people in the circle.
A hangout is an open conversation, that can include voice, text, video. Anyone can start a hangout, and they can be private – by invitation only – or public. Hangouts can be initiated from gmail or within Google+. You can open a hangout with a bunch of friends, or family members, and leave it open for hours as people drop in and out.
Then there are “Hangouts on Air” (aka HOA) enabling people to basically hold live video broadcasts to participants around the world. See a schedule of upcoming HOAs at http://www.google.com//+/learnmore/hangouts/schedule.html
Unlike a Facebook Page, where it can be difficult to avoid trolls and spammers, you have the ability to “block” nasty people on Google+. Make your world a nicer place.
There’s no real limit on post length, so you can write a whole article if you like. You can upload photos, videos, animated GIFs, and links. Easily. I prefer their interface to Facebook’s.
As you can with Facebook posts and Tweets, you can embed a G+ post into your website or blog (as I have done below). They can be your own or someone else’s.
What I like about G+
1. I like that you don’t have to sit back and wait for others to follow you. Because it doesn’t have to be a 2-way thing, you can follow/watch other people of interest, and hop in and start a conversation with other people on their own page. It’s definitely more ‘networking’ than Facebook, but more ‘social’ than LinkedIn.
2. I don’t feel I need to use Google+ on a daily basis. It’s not another ‘chore’ in the social media calendar. It’s something I dip into when I feel like networking or finding something new and interesting.
3. I generally find a higher calibre of information on G+ than on other social channels.
4. I like that you can add formatting to posts:
- Put an asterisk (*) around words you want displayed in bold – eg. *highlights*
- Use an underscore (_) around words to create italics – eg. _emphasise_
- You can format posts to look as if they have a Heading (ie. the title line in bold) and Subheading (using italics)
5. I left the best til last: THERE ARE NO ADS. Enough said.
How to get Started on Google+
1. Sign up and fill in your profile (you can easily edit it later) and start looking around. To find people or communities that share your interests, just use the search bar – “cupcakes”, “motorcycles”, “social media”. Search on people, businesses, communities or trends.
2. Click on the +n button to show you like a post (that’s right, you don’t need any prior connection and this is not a commitment to follow them). It’s a way of saying “thanks, I like that”, just as clicking Like in Facebook.
3. Comment if you feel inclined (again, there’s no commitment to an ongoing relationship). You can tag people by placing an @ in front of their name.
4. Start Circling. When you find people or pages that you want to follow, Add them to a Circle. You can call your circles anything you like – no-one else sees this designation. So you can happily call a circle “Competitors” without worrying that they’ll immediately know why you’re following them or what you think of them. Your family could be called “Outlaws”, without upsetting your mother-in-law.
5. Post something. It’s best to post publicly, especially when you’re starting out. You never know who might find your post interesting enough to +1 it or connect. Unless it’s something intended for a subsection of your audience, or a Community that you’re part of, always post to Public. That way people who share your interests can find you.
You can also use hashtags, which help your post to be found (similar to Twitter hashtags).
Get help for using Google+ straight from the horse’s mouth at https://support.google.com/plus/?hl=en#topic=3049661
There’s a ton of good information and, unlike Facebook, they’re not trying to force you down the advertising path…
Some people post exactly the same content on multiple networks, a practice I try not to follow. Your audience is likely to be different on each network, for different reasons. And if they do follow you on more than one (eg. Facebook and G+) then it’s better to alter your posted content on each, even if just by adding a different question to change the conversation.
A real plus (‘scuse the pun) is that Google+ posts are indexed by Google and show up in their search results. That should already be enough to convince you that G+ is worth some effort.
On top of that is the bonus of Google Authorship. By setting up your profile with Authorship, Google can form a better picture of your activity around the web. The content you publish, the comments you contribute elsewhere, the sharing of your blogs and posts by others. This contributes to your profile’s ‘authority’ – and hence your credibility.
Get started here: https://plus.google.com/authorship
So should you use Google+ for business?
There are differing reports around about Google+’s usage and expected lifespan. Certainly in the US its membership has been growing hugely, but how many are active is still questionable. A lot are there by default, because a G+ signon has become a prerequisite to many other Google services. Usage stats for Australia suggest there’s under 100,000, with a decrease rather than an increase in the past year.
But it doesn’t hurt to be there. Unlike an inactive Facebook page (which looks terrible) there’s less pressure to produce a lot of posts on G+. You can post the same things to G+ as you do to other platforms. But better yet is to amp them up with some text formatting and different questions. You never know who might circle you and become part of your G+ community.
And finally, if Google+ really takes off in future, you’ll be ahead of the game!