Starting something new is often more overwhelming than it actually needs to be. Such is the case with Google+. Most people are coming around to the fact that they “should” be using Google+. But, an amazing number of those people either “haven’t gotten around to it” yet, or continue to describe Google+ as a “ghost town.”
If there’s any truth to that one, then there are an awful lot of ghosts in the world.
Today is not going to be about “why” you should be on Google+, but “how” to use Google+ for the benefit of yourself, and others.
This isn’t a comprehensive, definitive guide to becoming a Google+ Ninja. That would overwhelm you, and you’d never get started. This is just the basics you’ll need to get your profile up and running and to start having fun. So, let’s go . . .
1. Ditch the Faceless Rainbow Look
One of the unique things about Google+ is that virtually everyone has an account. If you use Gmail, you’re on Google+, whether you know it or not. And, if people go to your profile page and see this, they see a person who is technically on Google+, but is not using Google+:
The surprising thing is, people with no picture and the default rainbow-like cover photo circle me almost daily. Which means they are at least wanting to use Google+.
But what message are you sending when you can’t take 3 minutes and upload your picture and some kind of cover photo? The message that you aren’t participating on Google+. That you aren’t someone who will engage with others. Which means people aren’t going to circle you, or reach out to engage with you.
You have a picture on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube . . . wherever you are, right? I know you’re anxious to get some content up and some people in your circles, but take the time to first put that picture on Google+, and put something as your cover photo.
It doesn’t have to be professional. I rotate pictures of my kids and our activities, because it makes me happy and lets people get to know me (and because I haven’t gotten around to figuring out a “professional” cover that wisely uses all the new found space Google+ has given us!).
While you’re at it, take some time to fill out your profile too. When you post something, or comment on a post, and someone hovers over your name to check you out, they see your tag line, current employment, and where you live ~ as you have listed them in your “About” section:
So make sure those three sections in particular say what you want people to see ~ because they’ll see it! And if you fill it out right, it will help you make more targeted connections on Google+.
2. Circle the Right People
If you’ve given Google+ a try, but nothing’s happening there, or no one you know is there, it’s because you don’t have the right people circled. Google+ is a warm and inviting place. Don’t be afraid to circle people you don’t know, and to interact with them. They will let you in.
How do you find “the right people?” Here are the 3 most effective ways I’ve used:
Find Shared Circles
As you start to get more active on Google+, you will see people sharing circles in your stream. The circle will have a name that reflects what the people have in common. It may have 2 people, or 500+ people in it. If you see one that interests you, add it to your circles. A shared circle appears like this in your stream:
If you click on the “Add people” button, you can then add the entire circle, or select individuals to add to your circles. Keep in mind that you can only have 5000 total people in your circles.
CircleCount.com is another great place to go to find shared circles that you can add to your circles. If you need some help with this, my free 30 day course, Google+ Made Easy, gives you more step-by-step instructions on this.
Use FindPeopleOnPlus.com and GPlusData.com
Both FindPeopleOnPlus and GPlusData are good places to identify people in your market, and those who share common interests with you. This method is a little slow at first, but you’ll see that once you start adding people, more people come to you, and your network starts multiplying.
Take Google+’s Advice
Google+ has some good suggestions on who to add. First, go to the “People” tab that drops down if you hover on the top left-hand side of the page:
Click on “People” and you’ll see many potential circle mates:
The first category is Google+ suggestions, presumably based on common interests. Then you can see who “added you,” and add them back, and take a look at your Gmail contacts to consider adding them. Finally, it will list your places of employment and colleges so that you can connect with others you work/worked with, and those you went to school with.
3. Start a Conversation
Now that you look good, and you have a few people in your circles, let’s start talking to them. Or, I should say, talking with them. This is a big mistake I see. Too many people are broadcasters rather than conversationalists.
The +1 button is super-simple to use. But, resist the urge to +1 everything you read just to have a presence on Google+. If you’re going to post links on Google+ (and you should!), take the time to give a little explanation. A summary of the content and your opinion is a great way to start a conversation.
This way, even if someone doesn’t have time to click on and read the entire article, they can still participate in the discussion on Google+. Which post do you think will get you more engagement ~ this one:
Or this one:
Right. Now I know you’re likely used to Facebook, where links and long posts are bad. Not so on Google+. Remember, many people have their entire blog on Google+. Long, relevant, and engaging is good.
Also resist the urge to go through your stream doing a +1 of everything. “Drive-by +1ing” it’s called. You don’t always have to comment, but sprinkle some relevant comments in there. And by relevant, I don’t mean, “nice post.” Just remember ~ “conversation” ~ when you’re on Google+.
4. Make it Look Good
Perhaps the one similarity that holds true for Facebook and Google+ is that people are visual. So make sure even your links are as visually appealing as possible. I know you are somewhat limited by the graphic the writer has chosen for his content. But, many people miss even grabbing the post-specific graphic.
An example is the best way to illustrate this. If I +1 an article from my blog using the social share buttons, it defaults to the first graphic on the page ~ my header:
This doesn’t look so great. The good news is, you have the option to change that image. Just hover over the default image and you’ll see this:
Once you click on the arrow, you can scroll through the available images until you get to the one the author designed specifically for the article you’re sharing. Like this:
I admit this isn’t huge, but the little things can go a long way. And, you might as well look your best and show that you really know what you’re doing!
5. Spend Some Time on Google+
I hear a lot of social media “experts” telling people to spend 10 minutes a day on Google+. I would reverse that advice and say spend 10 minutes a day on Facebook and park yourself on Google+. (Actually, I don’t think you can get away with 10 minutes a day on any social media network, but you get my point).
The notion that you can have a drive-by Google+ strategy that consists of posting all of your blog posts there, and doing a +1 and “nice post!” of all of your friends’ posts, is foolish.
Remember, we’re talking about Google here. The home of Penguin, and Panda, and surely several more animals to come. If Google+ is going to work for you, you’re going to have to work for it.
6. Don’t Think Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn
You aren’t just joining another social media network here. Google+ is a chance to build great relationships with different people, and to gain authority with Google. And if Google thinks you have authority, you do.
I know your initial reaction is to wish that Google+ would make its API more available so we could use tools like Hootsuite to post to multiple networks at once. Really, you should be thanking Google+ for not even tempting you to do this!
And please resist the urge to always just copy and paste your Facebook status onto Google+. Especially if that status says something similar to “like this if you agree!”
I don’t have any fancy study in hand, but my observations are that the “shorter is better” strategy that works well on Facebook and Twitter, and that certainly doesn’t hurt you on LinkedIn, fails on Google+. While the other social media networks are completely fine with you going through the drive-thru, Google+ is dine-in only.
While you’re going to have to be “present” on Google+ to be effective, you can use the “Do Share” Chrome Extension to schedule some of your posts to increase your productivity and stay in touch on those days when you can’t get to Google+ until 2:00 a.m.
7. Make Yourself Easy to Find
You need to be able to easily share the link to your Google+ profile so people can find you and add you to their circles. Unfortunately, Google+ gives you this crazy long link full of numbers that you could never remember and that is difficult to link to.
Fortunately, you can go to gplus.to and get a customized link in about 30 seconds. It’s a simple 2-step process of choosing your name and entering the numbers Google+ has assigned to you. For example, my link is http://gplus.to/JenniferHerndon.
Do this immediately, it’s an easy one to check off your list.
8. Join Some Google+ Communities
Google+ Communities are becoming the best way to meet people and build relationships. The problem is, there are SO many of them that they could become a full-time job.
Go to the drop-down menu on the left side of the page and click “Communities.” Google+ will recommend some communities for you, and you will start to get lots of community invitations from others. You should also use the “search” box at the top right side of the Communities page to search for relevant communities.
I would recommend joining 3-4 communities, seeing if they are a fit, and leaving them if they aren’t. A lot of them are a waste of time. Some are pure spam. But, the right ones are golden. And, it doesn’t take long to figure out if you’re in the right one.
It’s important to only focus on the top 3-4 that really benefit you though. You’re going to have trouble keeping up with even that many! That said, don’t put off joining communities. Great things happen in there.
You’re now on Google+, you’ve got the beginnings of a strategy, and you know how to act like you belong!
We have truly only touched the tip of the iceberg here when it comes to how to use Google+ in the most effective and productive way. I’m sure some people will say that I’ve left out some of the “essentials,” but I wanted to make this as bare bones as possible so you feel like you can do it.
Don’t stop here though. I’ve got more to give you that can make Google+ easier for you. I’ll walk you through what we’ve done here and so much more in my free 30-day Google+ Made Easy course. I welcome your questions and other Google+ tips you may have in the comments below. And, I hope to be circling with you soon on Google+!