What is Google+?
Google launched its social network as an invite-only programme back in July 2011 before opening to all in September. Google+ is often compared to other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, but it’s probably more helpful to see Google+ as the glue that binds all of Google’s services together. Google themselves have described Google+ as a “social layer”. That means that when you upload a video to your YouTube account or comment on a video, you do so using your Google+ identity. Google+ and GMail are very much integrated, meaning your Google+ conversations are part of your email experience. Then, there is Google Hangouts, often highlighted as Google+’s “killer” feature. Google Hangouts is very much baked into Google+ and allows you to record live broadcasts and set up screen sharing and video conferencing with up to 10 people and much more!
Google+ does have a familiar social networking core, where you can post updates and share content with friends and the outside world. You can share publicly or share to different groups of people using Google+ Circles. You can put different people in different circles and decide which circles you want to share your content to. Most of the time I share publicly, but you might want to share specific content with different interest groups. For example, if you are a photographer, you could share your photos with your “Photographers Circle”, or if you like a particular type of music, you could share that content with your “Opera Circle”! You can even set up a “Notify Circle” and share your blog posts with people who want to be notified when you publish a new blog post.
It is commonly said that Google+ is a “ghost town” or is only used by geeks. There were even rumblings that Google was going to pull the plug after Vic Gundotra (who headed up the Google+ team) left Google back in April 2014. However, Google announced its intention to continue to invest in Google+ and we’ve seen continued development ever since. Contrary to the “ghost town” image, Google+ has more monthly active users than LinkedIn or Twitter! The last reported number of monthly users was 540 million (back in October 2013). Twitter had 271 million monthly users (as of July 2014) and LinkedIn had 187 million monthly users (as of April 2014).
Since Google+ is Google’s social layer, you won’t be surprised that Google’s search facility is deeply integrated. That means you can search through Google+ posts right back to the start (Twitter for example doesn’t make a good job of indexing older posts). However, more importantly, your public Google+ posts will show up in Google search results incredibly quickly. If you post a link to your blog article in your Google+ posts, any social signals that Google+ post receives (+1s, comments and shares) count towards your blog article. That potentially means a higher ranking in Google.
In my experience, the community of people on Google+ engage much more readily than other networks. My posts get much more interaction (shares and comments) and a richer conversation arises. Google+ posts tend to be longer and more in depth than other networks, and you can get some real gems if you follow the right people.
I’m not writing an in depth guide to Google+, because Social Media Experts have already published one. It’s fantastic, and you can download it here. However, I want to show you ways of growing followers on Google+…
How to write for Google+
If you want to gain followers on Google+, you’ll need to start writing some quality content. No one is going to follow you if your Google+ stream is empty or dull! I’ve already mentioned that people tend to post longer and more detailed posts on Google+. Google+ users love quality and original content.
You also have the option as posting as yourself (a profile) or as your brand or business (a page). I would recommend using both profiles and pages if at all possible, but it is easier to start building up your profile. Once you are established your Google+ profile, you can start building up your page.
Here are some “rules” that will help you succeed on Google+:
- Share thought-provoking or interesting visual content (images, animated gifs or videos)
- Always accompany visual content with at least two paragraphs of quality text. Include your thoughts, ask questions, and go a little deeper!
- Use hashtags, preferably at the bottom of the content. Google+ will automatically pick a hashtag for the content of your post, but to help your post appear more readily in search, use hashtags to categorise your post.
- Make sure you give your posts an engaging headline (try and keep under 140 characters)
- Remember to link to an article on your blog or website (if applicable). When you do this, only include one link to make sure that all social signals (+1s, comments and shares) are passed on to that article.
- Don’t check the box to send a notification email. This is considered spamming. There are exceptions to this, such as sending to friends or other people who are happy to receive these notifications. Another example could be a “Notification Circle”, where the people in that circle want to be notified when you post new content.
- Always credit the author of original content when sharing or mentioning.
- Always post publicly to ensure the SEO benefits of Google+, unless you are posting specifically to one of your interest groups.
In terms of finding and posting great content, here are some tips:
- Post a link to your latest blog post on Google+. Include an engaging title and link to the article. Write a few paragraphs introducing the post. Including questions at the end can be useful to increase engagement and kickstart an interesting discussion.
- Use services such as feedly, Triberr, Flipboard or StumbleUpon to find interesting articles. Use Giphy and its Chrome Extension, to find interesting, engaging or funny animated gifs.
- Share interesting content you’ve discovered on Google+ by other users or even from other social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn.
Your Google+ toolkit
You can get on just fine by using the Google+ website or the apps for iOS or Android, but if you really want to increase your followers and impact, you are going to need some power tools. Here are some to help you make that impact!
Many people see Google+ as just one social network too many. They are already trying to manage a few Twitter accounts, a Facebook profile, page and a group, a LinkedIn profile, a couple of groups and a page. Managing a Google+ page or group just seems too much effort!
Friends+Me is a service that turns Google+ into a fully-fledged social media management tool. It forces you to post directly on Google+, but you can then choose to cross post some of these posts to other networks. It does this very intelligently by understanding the differences between other networks. When posting to Twitter, it posts an image from the article you are posting (if available) together with the title. For Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Tumblr, it posts the full article text. This allows you to manage all your networks from one dashboard since it supports Facebook (profiles, pages and groups), Google+ pages, LinkedIn (profiles, pages and groups), Tumblr, app.net and Twitter. It also directs traffic from these networks back to your Google+ profile and page and so driving up your Google+ followers and views. Friends+Me can cross post immediately, or you set up a schedule so that it will post to another network throughout the week (in a similar way to the social tool, Buffer). There is a free version, but the paid versions give more functionality and range from $9 to $59 per month. There is also a Chrome browser extension.
Steady Demand Pro continually monitors your Google+ profile or page stream and gives you analysis and feedback as to how you are doing. You get a daily report by email where it grades your posts by their effectiveness. Over time you can see which types of posts do the best, and which posts need some attention (for example ones that need more interaction with comments). The personal plan can track 2 profiles (for example one profile and one page) and costs $12 per month.
Buffer is an incredibly popular social media tool which allows you to schedule and cross post to a plethora of social networks including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. You can use Buffer to cross post to your Google+ page but unfortunately not your Google+ profile. This is because Google haven’t made it possible to post directly to your Google+ profile from 3rd party software.
If you really want to schedule to your Google+ profile, you could consider the Chrome extension, DoShare. It’s a little buggy and it does require your computer and Chrome browser running at the time of posting, but it’s better than nothing!
If you are looking for influential Google+ users in your market and/or location, CircleCount is for you. You can search Google+ users and find out what your ranking is. There is a wealth of information on your profile and other Google+ users and best of all it is free!
Circloscope is a Chrome browser extension which allows you to manage your circles and followers on Google+. It is incredibly powerful and integrates fully with CircleCount and NOD3x. You can set up white lists of people you never want to unfollow and black lists of people you never want to follow. You can do a number of advanced searches, and then decide what to do with the results. For example:
- Find everyone who you follow but who don’t follow you back
- Find everyone who follows you who you don’t follow back
- Find everyone who interacted with a specific user’s last few posts and add them to a specific circle
NOD3x is an advanced tool offering a free service to Google+ users. There are also premium paid upgrades of the tool available, offering analysis for other social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Martin Shevrington of PlusYourBusiness, recommended NOD3x as his tool in an article on social tools used by the pros. It’s an amazingly powerful tool, which although a little tricky to get started with, is well worth it. John Dietrich, Chief Evangelist at NODx3 describes it “as a tool for Social Network Analysis, which we call social discovery. NOD3x will help you find and connect with the right people in your niche on Google+, separating signal from noise. NOD3x will save you countless hours sifting through data, showing you the top posts, influencers and much more that you need to be connecting with and engaging for success on Google+.”
More Tips on Gaining Followers
As well as posting great content, you will want to start following other people as well as getting other people to follow you.
As with other networks, people will more often than not follow you back if you follow them. Don’t just follow everyone you can find though! Here are some tips:
- Use Google+’s follower suggestion tool
- Import contacts from other networks. I’ve previously written a guide on transferring Facebook friends to Google+ which you may find helpful. You can also use the Google+ power tool, Circloscope to make this easy. There is a video guide on how to transfer your Facebook friends and LinkedIn contacts using Circloscope.
- Find influencers in your area. CircleCount is a very helpful tool where you can find the most influential people in your field and location. CircleCount also integrates with Circloscope to make following them very easy. A more advanced tool is NOD3x (which also integrates with CircleCount). NOD3x allows you to dive deep into the interactions with your posts and other influencers in your field.
- Find the people who interact with your posts or influencer’s posts. By using Circloscope you can find all the people who have commented, shared or +1’d a post or the last number of posts. If you follow people who have interacted with a post you find interesting, the chances are that they will be interested in your posts and so follow you back.
So, what are you waiting for?