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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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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+?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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+:
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
April 14, 2014
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