Note: This guide specifically targets the Google+ Early Adopters, Bloggers, Social Media Enthusiasts, Photographers and All Users with a following of 1k+. However, other users are more than welcome to read through, provide feedback and re-share.
It has only been 4 weeks since Google+ went into field trial. Us social media enthusiasts and early adopters flooded in like this gif: http://bit.ly/iZGosF. In this short span of time g+ has taken over our online presence. Why? Because g+ offers us a publishing platform catering to our social needs like no other network before it:
- The posts can be as long as you want them to be while holding videos and pictures.
- Feedback here is instant and meaningful. For example, Photographers have found an excellent following here. They can publish pictures in elegant portfolios as well as share their skill and technique with other photographers.
- There are no spams.
- I’ve never been a fan of blogging and hence never had a blog/website, but Google+ makes me want to write, publish and share!
And the list can go on for much more I'm sure.
The issue I want to highlight and possibly solve is that even though most of us know how to work google+, we still don’t use it to its full potential. It is important we do so because:
- It will make our presence on google+ more organized and manageable both socially and individually.
- It will increase our rewards on the time we invest into google+.
- Our followers, especially the new comers, rely on our knowledge of the system for guidance and support. The google+ community managers are already swamped with support requests so surely we can help out with what we know.
For these reasons and more, I believe that there is an unknown but very real need for a guide that will fully unlock the power of g+ for the early adopters and social media gurus. We are quick to provide Google+ with a list of features that we would like to see but we ourselves aren't even using the complete set of features that have been giving to us. Using them properly will show you that most of what we need is already in here just waiting to be discovered.
The guide is divided into six main sections:
Circles | Sharing | Commenting | Chrome Extentions | Sparks | Educate
I know of quite a few users on here that are popular; they follow a lot of people and are likewise followed by even more. However, they are of the opinion that even though they really need to sort out their circles, they would rather not because it’s a hassle and there is no time. Instead they just put everything into one or two circles and share everything publicly.
I humbly refuse to agree with that. Granted that it can be a hassle to sort out 10k+ people but if you are spending 12 hours a day on google+ then you definitely have two hours to invest as a one-time investment to organize your circles. Doing so will save you a lot of trouble in the future when the list of your followers will grow even further. Circles are the most powerful feature of google+ in my opinion. If used in the right way, they can make the sharing and reading experience a 100 times more efficient and manageable. How? Here is one way to do it using Dividing, Nesting and Prioritizing: http://bit.ly/gpcircles
More importantly, managing circles is also a matter of etiquette. Even though people are following you, that does not necessarily mean they’re interested in all the things you’re posting and would rather not have you clogging their stream. However, they’re still interested in some of the information you share relevant to their interest. Therefore, I would suggest creating circles meant purely for interest-based sharing. For example: Mobiles, Movies, Books, Music. Then poll your readers; let them know that you have created the above-mentioned circles and will be posting to them accordingly. In response, they should let you know which circles they want to be a part of based on their interests. Afterwards, add them to your interest-based sharing circles accordingly. This way you will accomplish two things:
- You will be filtering content automatically so that your readers get information from you that they’re interested in specifically.
- You will add your readers to your circle. Even if you’re a famous actress or a social media guru with 50k followers, you adding your readers to specific circles makes them happy and lets them be a part of the google+ community. An inspiring example of this is setting up his photographers circle. Think of the world of good that will do to the aspiring amateur photographers.
So, don’t just amass followers. Add them to circles based on interest. That way content will be filtered and people will feel wanted on here. This is something I am working on too by setting up my Movie Maniacs circle.
So much content is being generated on here that it’s hard to keep track of it. A bookmark circle is one of the most popular tips being shared on g+. Surprisingly though, a lot of people haven’t created it yet, and if they have then they don’t use. Create an empty circle called Notes or Bookmarks and bookmark things in it by sharing content with that circle only so only you will be able to see it. I find this an excellent way of saving long articles I’m typing as drafts or to go through interesting content on google+ as per my own convenience.
a) Content Filtering
One of the important aspects of sharing was already mentioned above with content filtering using circles. So to recap don’t share everything publicly, rather use Interest-Based sharing with the help of content filtering that is made possible by circles.
b) Formatting / Layout
A brilliant aspect of google+ is the ability to format your posts. And yet it is so under-used. When you’re posting something, take the time to format your text and lay it out in an aesthetic way. This will make your posts more readable, presentable and will definitely attract more attention. A well formatted post stands out in the stream. Furthermore, add helpful text so people can give one look at your post and tell what it’s about. Here is what I try to do mostly: http://bit.ly/pz1wTU. Some note-worthy tips from that link:
- Give a bold category heading at the top. It further helps filtering based on interests.
- If you’re sharing a link/picture/video then give your own description of the link even if it silly. It gives readers something to talk about in your comments and gets a discussion going.
- Keep it precise but make sure the users get all the necessary info at a glance. For possible ideas please refer to the link above.
Don’t re-share a post straight away. Space it out. If someone popular with 50k+ users just shared a post publicly then that means tons of people see it already. So you re-sharing will clog the streams of users who already got it the first time and will be counter-productive. The better thing to do would be to wait thirty minutes so that the original post has disappeared down in the streams. Re-sharing after that time-period will spread the message more efficiently because users who missed it the first time will now get another chance to see it.
Always give credit when you re-share what someone else posted. That is a big question of etiquette. Doing so will earn you respect on the network. The aim is not to earn followers and +1s, rather it is to allow everyone to share original and quality content.
a) On other posts
Don’t just post your own content. Interact with other users on the network. Only then will you become social on this network. Go through your stream. Comment on other people’s posts. Discuss. That “Incoming” circles stream is there for a reason. It is most definitely not to block out people that have followed you. You are not the only one sharing interesting content on Google+. Therefore, see what the users are posting and provide feedback to them for it. This will also earn you more respect on the network and people will look forward to having you online.
b) On your own posts
After posting something, do not leave what you just shared for other people to comment on. As mentioned earlier, the great thing about google+ is you get real-time genuine and helpful feedback. So respond to people when they leave comments by +mentioning them. It is the least you can do. This will not only show them you actually care about what they have to say and but it will also make them feel integrated too. You needn’t respond to each and every one of them but make your presence felt in the comment threads regardless of the number of followers you have.
Google+ has an excellent, clean and functional UI. It is pleasing to the eyes. There are some handy extensions for Chrome that make the Google+ experience even better. Here are some of the ones that I use and would strongly recommend them:
Google+ Photo Zoom: http://bit.ly/rurhrR
Replies and more for Google+: http://bit.ly/pMH2GB
Usability Boost for Google+: http://bit.ly/pPXWa1
There are lots more out there. If you have some really helpful ones to share then please link them in the comments. I will add them here as necessary.
Sparks is the most un-used feature of google+. I agree that there are some flaws in Sparks that need to be ironed out but it still provides an easy way of looking up the most popular content on the internet relevant to your interests. So create Sparks for yourself. It is a great way to find content not just for you but also for your Interest-Based circles.
Some sparks that I’m using so far are: Android, The Dark Knight Rises, Movies, Google+, WTF, Samsung Galaxy S II, etc. If you have more terms for Sparks, please do leave a comment and I will add them here.
As the well-settled adopters of google+, we now have a responsibility to the social network. We’ve all wondered and written about whether google+ will last long and eventually be a big force in the market both for companies and individual users. But what we don’t realize is that the network has to spread through us. I already mentioned in my previous article, Google+ Starter Pack (bit.ly/gpstarter), the average facebook user (AFU) uses the internet strictly on a personal level to share with a small group people within their real-life social circles. If they browse the internet for looking up content related to their interests, they either use their facebook stream, follow a popular twitter account or lurk on sites like reddit.
This AFU is now giving Google+ a try thanks to the invite system opening up recently. However, when they come here they see a large community of well-settled users, like me and you, who have a relatively huge following compared to theirs and who publish regularly. As a result, they feel blocked by a learning curve making it harder for them to become a part of the g+ community. We as Google+ early-testers can help bridge this gap by guiding these people with what we already know about the network. Here is what you can do to play your part:
- I’m sure you’ve all come across posts/tips both on googIe+ and elsewhere that helped you with your first few days on the network. Include this collection of articles and tips in the About section of your profile. The Introduction textbox is most suitable for this as it allows formatting and embedding of links. New users always look at About sections of other users. Therefore, any helpful tips and articles found there will greatly assist them with getting started smoothly. If you can’t find a good collection of articles then you can use mine:
Google+ | The Starter Pack - bit.ly/gpstarter
Google+ for the Average Facebook User - bit.ly/gb_fb
Circles: Dividing, Nesting and Prioritizing - bit.ly/gpcircles
- In a similar way, use the Introduction text-box to advertise any Interest-Based circles you created for sharing. Users can then message you and request to be added. Again, this will help them with getting integrated into the community while immediately exposing them to content relevant to their interests. For ideas, please look at my Introduction text-box: http://bit.ly/zeeshan_about. If you know of other helpful About profiles, please do share in the comments below.
That marks the end of the guide. Indeed, there are many ways of using Google+ and each person utilizes the available features as is most convenient and suitable to them. However, in writing this guide, I hope to show you all that Google+ offers a lot more than we actually see at the moment. Exploiting the true potential of g+ will do wonders for you and the community in terms of content, management and integration.
Thank you for reading through.
Note to fellow readers:
> Please do leave feedback. I will incorporate your suggestions into the starter pack as best as I can.
> Please feel free to re-share the post.
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