A few months ago I decided to take the plunge myself, and really give Google Plus another try. Not a half hearted effort, but to really get to know it and figure out for myself if it was a worthwhile tool.
Like many people, I had originally signed up a long time ago. I had dabbled with it, but quickly took the view of many others (a view that many still have) that “nobody uses it, what’s the point.”
As a result of this second chance, and to my honest surprise, I now use Google Plus significantly more than any other social channel. So much so that I’m now encouraging clients and friends to jump on the bandwagon.
Why I gave Google Plus another go
I had thought about it for a while. I regularly used Twitter, and often used Facebook. I was beginning to find Facebook predictable in terms of content: moans about a Monday, cryptic messages from people who’d fallen out with each other, and general “me, me, me” themed posts.
Twitter was (and still is!) good, but there just wasn’t a huge amount of engaging conversation on it. A lot of one way statements, which I guess is the downside to 145 characters. I wanted something different.
What have I learned about Google Plus
In September I was asked to deliver a short presentation on Google Analytics, at a Google themed evening hosted by Thea Newcomb. I duly obliged. Also speaking that evening, on the topic of Google Plus, was Matthew Marley. Specifically his comments about Google Plus Communities got me thinking. The next day I logged in, joined some communities, and haven’t looked back.
That was the first learning point. After that I found new people to follow, engaged in interesting conversations, joined more communities and even started using Hangouts. Specific things I’ve learned include …
- People do engage. If you join in, they will speak to you.
- It’s far more topical than other social channels, particularly through using communities.
- Traffic to our blog posts has increased since we introduced Authorship, which pulls Google Plus data into your search results listings.
- Some of my G+ posts have appeared on page 1 of Google within minutes of posting, allowing additional ways to get in front of an audience.
Some less positive learning points (though I’m still working on these):
- I’m based in Scotland. It feels like nobody else in Scotland (and very few in the UK as a whole) regularly uses Google Plus. Many of my conversations are with people out with the UK.
- It’s far easier to grow a personal profile than a business page. It just is. People communicate more with people. So I’d suggest using a profile first, then a business page. That said, I can see the longer term benefits of having a business page, so I continue to work on it.
Google Plus features and tips
Google Plus is fun, and I’m literally learning different features and tips every day. There are some very knowledgeable people who quite happily post advice on getting the most from Google Plus. If you decide to start using it regularly, I suggest you follow some of them.
To help you get started, here are some of my favourite tips to date:
Posts are like individual web pages, so format accordingly:
Tip 14 (of a series of 50) by Rick Eliason states “SEO Your Google+ Post”. Individual posts are like individual web pages, so format accordingly with titles, intro lines and optimised text. I’ve experimented with this myself, and found my Google Plus post on the first page of Google within 10 minutes of posting. There is a fairly quick decay in Google Plus post rankings, from what I’ve experienced, but it gives an additional channel through which to rank for topical content.
Commoogling! Search & ask for answers within Google Plus communities:
I originally heard this phrase in a blog post by Peg Fitzpatrick, though I think (?) it was originally termed by Martin Shervington. Essentially “Commoogling” (as I understand it!) is the shift from simply going to Google search to try and find an answer to a question or problem, to using Google Plus. Finding a related Google Plus community (on the topic you need help with), joining the community and asking a question. I’ve tried this a few times recently, and often get better answers (and faster!) than just Googling.
Use Ripples to find engaging people to connect with, and influencers:
Like most social channels, Google Plus lets you search for people to follow. What it has that others don’t however, is Ripples. Ripples show you how your posts spread across Google Plus, highlighting who shared and who +1’d, AND who shared / +1’d as a result of those initial shares and pluses. It also looks pretty cool when you look at it. This is a good infographic explaining how Ripples can help, shared on Google Plus by Ifran Ahmad, found originally via Mike Fitzpatrick.
When posting a link, use a picture rather than the default link preview:
This is actually a sub point of tip No. 3, posted on a blog by Daniel Sharkov. The main tip suggests reposting older blog content that you haven’t shared for a while. The specific tip I liked was the suggestion of using an image in the post, rather than relying on the default link preview. As Daniel says, and I’ve experienced, “posts with an image rather than a preview normally receive much more interaction”.
Engage with others, if you want engagement yourself:
Lots of G+ users will tell you this, though I originally read the tips on a blog post by Ray Hiltz several months ago, so credit goes to him. It sounds obvious, but I felt it’s where Twitter and Facebook lacked. Yes, engagement was there, but it was generally limited to a retweet or a like. Google Plus on the other hand, is different. It’s very engaging. People regularly +1, share and comment on posts. Interestingly, long conversations can happen between multiple people directly within comments of a post. Yes, this happened on Facebook, but in my view it’s far more regular and common on Google Plus.
Give it a try. Join communities, find people to follow and make a point of learning all the features and tips regularly posted by those above (and others!). I’ve seen benefits of doing so and, while I continue to check in with Twitter and Facebook, i’ve personally been finding G+ far more interesting in recent times!