Hello! Here we are at part 4 of the Demystifying Social Media series. If you have not yet caught up on Part 1, 2 and 3, head on over and have a read. This week I will be delving into all things Google+ and exploring how you can use this platform as a key part of your social media strategy.
For the past few years I have always prioritsied Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest when it comes to social media. Google+ is certainly worth a look in though with over 500 million active users per month! Here is a comprehensive look at how you can use it to connect, drive traffic to your blog and promote your brand.
A quick overview
In a nutshell, Google+ is made up of the following key areas:
THE NEWS FEED – This landing page lets you view posts and articles from all of the people you are connected with (your circles). You can filter what you would like to view using the top horizontal navigation strip. To view the newsfeed click on home.
CIRCLES – These are groups that you create, called Circles that you put people into. You may have a collection of circles that look like – friends, family, niche circles, work colleagues, etc.
PEOPLE – This is where you can search for anyone that is on Google+ and then add them to your Circles. You will also be shown suggested people to follow within your niche and people related to those that you already follow.
PROFILES – This is your public page that everyone will see. It is made up of a cover image, your image thumbnail, your personal news feed, people in your circles and people you may know. You can also post directly to your profile from the ‘Share what’s new’ box.
PLUS 1’S – This is essentially the same as liking a post on Facebook. Using the +1 on someone’s status update or anywhere you see it online is saying that you like and recommend the content that has been shared.
PAGES – If you have a business or blog you can set up a specific page for people to interact with. (Your Google+ profile page can act as a more personal page, whereas a Page can be set up specifically for your business, brand, blog or shop).
COMMUNITIES – These are places where you can chat to people in a niche that you are interested in. There are a variety of Communities set up or you can easily create your own. Communities are similar to Groups on Facebook.
HANGOUTS – This is an area where you can have live video on-air broadcasts or private hangouts with close friends. It allows users across the world to video chat, collaborate, and share with ease.
Let’s get set up
Head over to Google+ to set up an account if you have not yet done so. During the setup or to fine-tune your existing profile, there are a few things to consider:
- Type of page: First up you will need to decide what kind of page you would like to use – A standard Google+ profile and/or a Google+ page. A Google+ profile represents an individual whereas a Google+ page generally represents an entity such as a brand, organisation or business and may be managed by multiple people. Depending on what type of blog you have and how closely you associate yourself personally with your blog brand will help you decide upon which type of page to use. You can certainly have a personal profile and a Google+ page if you wish but if you are relatively new to this platform I would suggest starting with one type of page to begin with. Check out this article for a little more clarification about the page types you can have.
- Add a profile image or logo: Use one that is consistent with your other social media platforms as we have explored in Part 1 of this series. On this platform, you generally use a profile image on a Google+ profile and a business logo on a Google+ page.
- Create a cover image: Utilise the cover section effectively by creating a cover image that is bold, engaging and represents your blog brand. The recommended size is 1080 x 608 pixels. Here are some guidelines to follow to set up your cover image.
- Don’t forget about your About section: Google+ offers you an About area where you can give your audience a wealth of information about your brand, skills, education, location, contact information and links to all your external sites and social media. Keep this section up to date and fill in all areas relevant to your brand.
- Follow along and set up your circles: Once you are all set up, find and follow key people in your niche and organise them into Circles. Start interacting with their content in your newsfeed and share interesting content in a range of mediums.
Cover image example: My personal profile page on Google+
How to build your following & increase engagement
There are a number of handy tips you can use on Google+ to make yourself stand out in the crowd and get your content noticed by a larger audience. Here are five to get you started:
1 / Use headlines on all your updates: When you share something on Google+, adding a bold heading, just as you would do to a blog post, is a key way to make your post update stand out. Another benefit of adding headlines is that Google incorporates your headline into the title tag of the post and secondly the headline is what generally appears in Google search results. To add a headline, use * at the start and end of your headline. Example: *10 things your blog needs*. When you publish the update it will automatically make this phrase bold.
2 / Formatting for attention: Did you know that there are a few simple formatting tricks using markdown language that can greatly help your post stand out and be formatted in a more attractive and engaging way? Here is a simple guide to some key formatting functions:
3 / Use images: When you post an update it’s a great idea to include an image as many top posts have some kind of image or visual media to engage readers. If you paste in a URL, Google+ will pull in an image from the link if there is one or you can upload your own. Just make sure that you include a link in the update text if you choose the second option.
4 / Targeted sharing: There are a few great options available when it comes to sharing your post. Google+ makes it possible for you to notify people in specific circles when you post an update. You may just use the default ‘public’ setting each time you update but you can actually get far more exposure on an update by targeting circles and individuals. To do this, type in your circle/s name or select individuals to notify when you are sharing the post update. This means that the people in these circles will get a personal notification about your post. You can also take this one step further and choose to notify people via an email when you share a post update. A little word of warning – use these functions very selectively, especially the email notification option, as you will come across spammy very quickly if you use this too regularly. Save it for your most interesting updates.
5 / Make the most of hashtags: Google+ has a very powerful hashtag system that works quite differently to Facebook and Twitter. When you post an update, Google+ will automatically assign a #hashtag or you can assign your own. When you view your update, if you hover over the hashtag it will display a couple of related hashtags automatically generated by Google+. When someone clicks on these hashtags, an explore box will be shown to them with related content and a list of related hashtags. Assigning popular hashtags relevant to your post updates is a great way to link your content, discover content worth sharing in your niche, get an idea of the importance of topics and what is trending and get ideas for new blog post topics. Check out this article for a more in-depth look at how you can effectively use Google+ hashtags.
Once you have your head around using these techniques effectively, there is a whole new level of interactive posts that you can delve into. This is a tad more complex but worth learning as you can add in a large number of ‘call to action’ buttons to your Google+ post updates. This is a very effective way to get people to click through and take action. Check out this comprehensive list of interactive post labels you can use and this guide, which will help you get started.
What’s your strategy?
We all know that Google is at the epicenter of all search engines. There is evidence from key SEO companies that suggests that having a strong presence on Google+ can help you get indexed faster on Google and help you show up more often in search engine results.
The key then to using this platform effectively is to share content that generates interest and ultimately +1s, comments and shares. So how do you go about doing this? Here are some questions to ask yourself –
1 / What story do I want to tell? Google+ is more about connecting with people that share your passions, rather than it being a personal feed filled with baby photos and engagement news. Taking note of that, you can really use this platform to tell the story of your brand/blog. Hone in your message and share a variety of content in different mediums (photos, videos, interactive posts and text) that is related to your brand story.
2 / What kinds of topics are popular in my niche? As mentioned earlier, using the related hashtags feature is a very effective way to see what kinds of topics related to your niche are popular and currently trending. Click on the ‘What’s hot’ link on your Google+ home page and explore hashtags in your niche and see what related hashtags are displayed to you.
3 / What are my competitors doing? There are a number of great free tools you can use to check out what key people in your niche are doing and achieving on Google+. Using these tools can help you evaluate what works well within your niche, how often you should post, the best times to post, what kind of content gets the most interaction plus a range of other great insights. Check out AllMyPlus and Circle Count to get started.
4 / Where do my audience hang out on Google+? Simply posting to your own Google+ profile or page may not be the most effective way to reach your audience. Jump in and explore Communities as these can be a hive of activity and interacting in these communities and also creating one or more of your own is a great tool to create a tight knit group interested in your niche.
5 / Who am I following and interacting with? Follow people that you love and businesses that are key players in your niche. Create a number of Circles with a variety of segments, such as circles specific to location, niche, industry ect. Adding people / brands to these circles that you have created is an easy way to grow your Google+ follower base. Having people in Circles makes it easier for them to follow you back and if they are in your niche, they are likely to.
Tools you will love
Want to find out the best time you should be posting to Google+? There is a great tool called Timing+ that analyses your last 100 posts on Google+ and helps you identify the best times to post.
Want to schedule your posts for Google+? There are a few different tools you can use. If you have a Google+ profile, check out DoShare and Everypost. If you want to schedule to a Google+ page, check out Hootsuite, Buffer, CoSchedule and Sprout Social.
Want to drill down into your Google+ statistics or check the statistics of another user? There are a range of tools on offer which allow you to search for a particular user and get detailed information in relation to how many posts they have made, the type of engagement they are getting plus lots more. Check out AllMyPlus, Simply Measured and Circle Count
What works well?
Here are some great examples of Google+ users that have honed in on their brand story really well, engage with their audiences effectively and have found a way to make Google+ work really well for them. Pop on over and glean some ideas from their profiles.
As always, feel free to ask any questions below!
Have some tips of your own? Share them below so we can all learn more!
- Decide on the type of page you would like to set up – a profile or a page and then fine-tune your branding by uploading a logo, cover image and adding in all your about section and URL details.
- Write a list of the key people in your niche and use the friend suggestion tool to start following a bunch of new profiles and pages
- Follow the tips above to create a Google+ strategy
- Get to know the formatting guide above, pin it for easy reference and use it each time you write a new update – add in headings and formatting for a more engaging post update
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