10 Creative Ways To Use Google+ With Your Blog
Why is Google+ important?
To understand it a bit better, let’s first talk about Facebook.
Facebook is turning into a bit of a downer for business pages. Unless you spend the money to pay for ads or to boost your posts so that fans who have liked your page will see it, you can expect much less interaction. Our own Facebook pages have dipped as far as how often our fans see what we post, no matter how much time and effort we put into them. It’s understandable; Facebook’s revenue is limited to ads on their own network, and you have to pay to play.
It’s tied to Google, that gigantic company that isn’t limited to making revenue off of its social network, Google+. In a way, the Google+ network is a feeder of user information for their larger ad/search engine machine. In this regard, when someone adds your page to their Google+ circles, your content actually gets seen.
Once you stop thinking about Google+ in comparison to Facebook and other social networks, and start realizing that Google+ is Google, you’ll start to see the significance of how being on Google+ affects your search.
- The default search is based on circles.
- Google+ posts and content get found in Google searches.
- Google is not the only search engine, but it is a monster player, to be sure.
While we don’t encourage blogging on Google+, you should definitely share your blog posts and content on Google+ and give them a decent bit of copy to accompany them. You should definitely not just use it as a dumping ground for links, remembering that Google+ posts are showing up in search sometimes ahead of the blog post you link to in the post.
So what can you do with your Google+ page so that it gets noticed?
1. Integrate comments into posts, or direct the discussion to Google+.
Blog comment sections have gotten a bit quieter in recent years, thanks to social media. Conversation has been splintered out onto many different social networks. While that isn’t a bad thing, you may wish to bring some of that back to your blog, or at least try to collect that conversation on one social network as much as possible.
Integrate social comments on your blog.
There are several WordPress plugins that allow you to pull in social comments on posts, including the comments on Google+. I use the Comments Evolved plugin on my own personal blog, but there are many others that are adept at bringing in the social comments along with the regular WordPress comments. Blogger.com blogs, which are part of Google’s pantheon of services, are already integrating their comments into Google+ very well.
Direct conversation to Google+
Copyblogger recently turned off their blog comments, but they have begun doing an interesting thing: ending each post with a link to the Google+ post and encouraging people to comment there.
I find this an intriguing direction for them to take. It forces commenters to take part with their real identity, uses the increasingly excellent Google+ interface, and it builds up their Google+ page and activity in an incredible way. Copyblogger is placing a bet that this is going to pay off for them in the long run.
2. Embed Google+ posts into your own blog or blog posts.
Embedding tweets is commonplace, and most of us understand the value in doing that. Facebook also allows you to embed posts. Google+ began allow you to embed your page’s posts several months ago, and it is an interesting feature that many bloggers aren’t aware of.
To embed a post, it must be shared publicly and not limited to any circles.
To grab the embed code, simply mouseover in the upper right corner and a little inverted V will appear. That’s where you get your individual post settings (of which there are many, including the ability to turn off comments). Choose the embed option.
Paste the code where it needs to go in your blog or website.
What does this do?
Everything about that post is now embedded, including conversation in the comments section. You’ve essentially put a little piece of your Google+ page over on your own property. Think of what you could do with this.
- Engagement. Bring the conversation back to your blog, and in a big way. Remember, your post can be embedded by anyone anywhere, and all of the comments left on it, wherever it may be, end up back on the original post. Encouraging people to embed your post means you build your audience and get an incredible range of feedback. Heck, you can even pin a Google+ post on Pinterest.
- Images. Share a photo album post on your blog.
- Bibliography. Add a collection of Google+ posts on a topic into a blog post. Perhaps you’ve written and conversed on a topic extensively, and have just written a blog post. Share those Google+ posts.
- Circles. You can share a circle on your Google+ page, and you can then embed that post. Perhaps you’ve created a circle full of movers and shakers, or your favorite apps and services, and you want to share that with your readers.
- Involvement. If you’ve created an event on Google+, you can embed that post into your blog or on your website to encourage people to attend. Imagine you’ve written a blog post about a conference or hangout? How nice would it be to have the event sign-up right there at the bottom of the post?
- Build. Embedding a tweet lets readers easily follow someone. Embedding a Google+ post easily encourages +1’s and shares.
Anyone can embed your public post, just as anyone can embed one of your tweets. The conversation can be collected across many blogs and added to that one Google+ post on your page.
Want to try it out? Below is a live embed of the Google+ post for this blog post.
3. Create photo albums with a purpose.
You can create photo albums to tell a specific story, or to gather the images you publish on the network into categories or topics.
For example, we have started something called “CoSchedule Conversations” where we post an image that encourages discussions. This goes into our CoSchedule Conversations album, which we have shared publicly.
Your photo albums can be related to any number of things that are happening on your blog or in your business:
- Events. Share the photos and images from important events that are happening. Let your circles see what’s going on, and get familiar with you. It helps to humanize you a bit.
- Popular categories. Sharing your blog posts as an image post make it possible to also categorize them into photo albums based on the categories in your blog. In a way, it’s kind of like creating Pinterest boards; you create an album on “cake recipes” or “UI design” and all the image posts you share can be added to those albums as well.
- Reader response. Do readers or users ever ask the same questions? Why not create a discussion forum on your Google+ page? This is similar to what we’re doing with CoSchedule Conversations, but the questions you create on the graphics come directly from readers. It’s kind of a “Dear Abby” approach.
- Tell a story. Images tell stories, and the Google+ photo album is perfect for doing exactly that. For example, here at CoSchedule, we’ve been doing funny things when we hit certain customer number goals. We started with cartwheels (yes, really, and no one got hurt), then show and tell, then we had to create a game, and then we had to reinvent old Todaylaunch T-shirts. We’ve been posting those images and videos to Twitter, but how much fun for our circles if we’d created a photo album to tell the story of it?
- Feature fans. Regularly feature the blogs or content of your biggest fans. Feature posts, do an interview in full in the Google+ post, share links–anything. The best thing about this approach? Guess what they’re going to do with your post? They’ll share it on their own Google+ page.
Images are so very powerful in social media. While your Google+ page doesn’t show the same kind of organization as an album, you can still organize the images you share on the page into albums. And, you can share these full albums in a post to your Google+ page whenever you want, or embed that post on your blog.
4. Use hashtags in Google+ as you would on other networks.
Google+ allows you to tag your posts with hashtags. Ideally, you should create at least three, with the most relevant hashtag first (it will appear on top).
Google+ will also add hashtags to your post that it thinks ought to be there (you can remove them if you want) unless you turn that automated feature off. These hashtags help Google+ know how to categorize your post as people search the network.
I appreciate this automated system, knowing that I can control what tags I want, and include them in the text. But it’s nice to know that if I forget or otherwise forgo hashtags because of the appearance in my text, Google+ will still help my post be found on their network.
The first three hashtags will appear at the top right side of your post, with any hashtags you specifically create on top. Any hashtags that you designate in your copy will appear black. Any that Google+ adds will be blue.
Hashtags work just like they do for any other social network: categorizing and arranging related posts. How can you use them on Google+?
- Tag photos that relate to a particular theme or story.
- Tag posts that are part of a regular feature on your page. For example, we started one for #CoScheduleConversations
- Use the same hashtags for such features across all supporting social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook.
Remember this, though: hashtags are for the reader’s benefit. In other words, hashtags don’t just sort and organize your content on your page only. Hashtags help organize your content in relation to all of the other similarly tagged content on the entire network based on what’s newest, what has the most activity, and so forth. So when readers click on the tag in your Google+ post, they will be able to find other’s content as well as yours.
Just remember that the first hashtag you use should be the most specific to you and your post, and the next two (or more) more general. I like to think of the first hashtag being your limited “custom” one that the general public wouldn’t have any reason to use for their content, and the next two as the general tags that many people on the network are using. That way, the tag on top has a pretty good chance of just sorting your content for the reader.
5. Talk to your readers via video chat and hangouts.
Google+ does a great job of integrating with your YouTube account. Combine that with Google Hangouts, and it really has never been easier to create video content.
Google Hangouts have the potential to be:
- Podcasts and video blogs. Make a regular video feature, and share on your Google+ page as well as in the connected YouTube account.
- Webinars and teaching. Show your audience how you do something. Build your reputation for being an expert.
- Answer customer questions. You can do this on video or via chat, either directly, or reading questions they’ve sent in and answering them.
- Live chatting. Use the Google+ chat feature to talk to your readers and fans directly.
Google Hangouts keep getting better and better. With chat, live video and/or voice, and group options, you can easily turn this simple feature into a great way to connect with your audience all in one place. It really makes your Google+ page a serious base for communication and teaching.
And remember: Google Hangouts are not wasted effort, created once and then gone once the show is over. They can be saved to your YouTube channel so those that were unable to participate at the time can still gain access to that content. You can also use Google Hangouts to stream an event live.
6. Use reviews and testimonials.
Reviews and testimonials are an interesting beast. When it comes to leaving a review, most businesses forget to ask for one and most of us customers only remember to leave reviews if it was a bad experience.
One of the things we do here is ask people who really like CoSchedule to give us a review of the plugin on WordPress. Not everyone gets around to it, but if you don’t ask, most people don’t think to review or give a testimonial even if they are enthusiastic supporters.
Google+ Local allows people to review businesses and attaches it to their Google+ profile. But for many of us, our Google+ pages aren’t Google+ Local; we don’t have a brick and mortar business or location and we didn’t set our page up that way. So, do you have to miss out on the social proof power of reviews?
Think about how you approach testimonials for your site. You maybe get an email or a tweet from someone who really loves what you’re doing. Maybe you’ve gone as far as asking someone for a testimonial or review, or working with them to create one.
What if you put those testimonials on your Google+ page?
Feature a graphic, organize it into a “testimonials” photo album, interview or talk about the person who’s giving the review, link to their blog…show that real people use and like your product, service, or blog. You win, and they win.
7. Get your YouTube account in order and use it.
We’ve already talked about the importance of getting your social media accounts to look and feel the same, and that’s very important for YouTube and Google+, especially. They need to have the same visual and content look because they are very closely integrated.
While this close integration hasn’t been a popular move by Google in the eyes of some YouTube users because it no longer allows for anonymous comments (and a valid fear of trolls following real users back to their Google+ page and harassing them), for you, a creator, it makes it very simple to keep your content under control and get your YouTube account whipped into shape.
- Moderate your comments. Regarding the infamous YouTube comment problem (they can get ugly), Google has begun
8. Create a community and use circles creatively.
Perhaps you’re part of a niche that would do well to have a community. You can create a community in two ways on Google+:
- Create a circle of people.
- Create an actual community.
What’s the difference?
It’s easy to forget that a circle isn’t just a way to categorize people for your own benefit, but is a way to control who sees what you publish. This distinction can be seen in how Google+ circles integrate in Gmail and the idea that you can organize communication based on circles.
Some people have used Google+ circles as a way to store pages they want to bookmark. By creating a circle, labeling it “bookmarks”, and posting links on Google+ and setting them to be seen only by the “bookmarks” circle, they effectively treat that circle as an information repository for their benefit only. No one else sees it.
In that same way, you can create a kind of community by sharing specific content with specific circles. Keep in mind that they may share it to a larger audience themselves.
Creating a Google+ community is easy, but keeping it active and fresh takes work. Luckily, Google+ gives you a lot of controls available as far as who can join, who can see it, what they can do, and maintaining the level of discussion you’d like. How might you sue the Google+ community?
- Create exclusivity. Exclusivity is a great mechanism in sales. Communities can be open to anyone, or by request only. Perhaps you want to create a limited community as a reward for email sign-ups or other action where you’ll offer exclusive content to the members.
- Treat it like a forum. Communities, once filled with active members, become a kind of forum. Discussions and shared links of interest, just like on a forum, are what you start to see. If you’re considering a forum for your blog, why not create a Google+ community instead?
- Long-term teaching. You can create your community to be a place where you give instruction over an extended period of time, answer questions and even having members share links to their own content. Again, it’s a way to build expertise, and you’ll have the full set of tools that Google+ offers to make it work.
9. Integrate with your Google Drive documents.
Google+ integrates with Google Drive, which might not seem particularly exciting at first glance. But think about it. What kinds of things are you creating in Google Drive that could be shared?
- Forms and surveys.
- How-to documents and e-books.
- Spreadsheets (editorial calendars, anyone? :-)
- Presentations and slide shows.
As long as these documents are set for public viewing, you can share them right on your Google+ page. The integration with pages is a bit clumsy, as it is easier to share to a profile right from Google Drive, but you can still share the link.
10. Make use of events.
Not only do they go on your Google calendar automatically (handy, if you have a public calendar that your fans can see on your web site) but they are a great way for attendees to connect, converse and even share their images if they have the Google+ app on their smartphone.
What can you do with Google Events on your Google+ page?
- Announce events and share specific details.
- See who will attend and who won’t.
- Carry on conversation with attendees.
- Schedule a Google Hangout and treat it like an event if you can’t have an in-person meeting.
- See everyone’s photos automatically in one photo album with “party mode.”
Google Events are a lot of fun to use and a great way to have a Google+ page where things are “happening” and people can take part. You can use events even if you’re not planning huge conferences. Create an event for a meetup, an online hangout or training session, the release of an MP3 album, or a sale or limited release item that will only be available for a specific time to those who agree to “attend” the event online.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. The flexibility of Google+ continues to astound me a bit, and I admit to being fond of the network’s interface and the way Google continues to improve it.