For a blogger especially, social media is a necessary evil. How else are you quickly going to connect with like minds and share your content goodies? The question: how to make google plus work for you, springs from whether you are using your time effectively on the platform or not.
A tool is only as good as the person that wields it.
Social media sites can be viewed as an essential PR (public relations) machine. Blogging and Social media have a synchronicity. Where social proof (a form of collective recognition) is important, social media provides social signs. A social sign is exactly what it says on the tin; an outward view that what you are writing strikes a chord with interested parties, and generates healthy debate. You are scored better on organic search results when social signs are more evident.
It is not only pageviews and visitors that make prizes. Reader interaction through social media is called social engagement. Being engaged is the important emphasis. This is partly effected by the quality of the writing, the timeliness of the topic, the urgency of the content (something happening right now “In Trend”) or something that has an enduring appeal and always causes debate.
On the other side it is down to the type of reader you might attract, those who naturally are pre-disposed to engage via interaction, those who have learnt that interaction helps publicise them in a better light, and those who (on that rare occasion) are brought out of the darkness to act.
What does this have to do with how to make google plus work for you?
It is quite easy to fall into a trap with social media. You, as a social media participator, may become side tracked in your goal, swallowed up in the vertical and horizontal ways in which you can interact. It happens to the best of us which is why many of the big guns use virtual assistants to manage their social media accounts. Whilst Social Media has many benefits to continuing debate and winning people to a cause or sell, ultimately it takes time to produce and time to perfect.
I blame the kittens!
Image Credit – Commons
Time as a resource is perishable, finite, capable of running out. You can be very strict with your use of it and accomplish much but there are some times when you need to give over hours of your life to experimenting, to making those connections. Sometimes you are caught idly, looking at tight buns, kitten pictures, interesting Gifs and other oddments that invade your screen. My particular favourite smelling salt to the senses when I’m bored is the Heelsday community (because women in heels okay).
Heelsday – Google+ – Recommended smelling salts for any writing crisis.
Google Plus is a time sink as much as it is a platform for success. How much time will you pour down that sink?
- You need to consider what you are there to do and what you are trying to accomplish!
Do you shape your content to the market or try to make the market fit you?
I would say that from experience you should aim to do a little of both where it suits. You can’t always please. You should take some pride in making thoughts contrary to opinion because often such theories are inappropriate to some models. Your voice should be unique, you shouldn’t always follow what everyone else is doing but try to beat your own path.
- Standing by your principles will always lead to those who share some of your thoughts. Don’t be liberal.
Identification of the potential user community.
This useful graph has followed me through 3 of my development journals thus far. It normally goes at the forefront of my journal because it is important as a concept. I discovered this segmented chart whilst reading a book from the library from a strategist who works for Richard Branson’s Virgin group.
As you can see in the diagram there are 4 typical types of interactor for your blog. Snow White is the optimum and most valued individual whilst Mr Busy and Mr Noisy are both useful in their own ways. It is however, Mr Grumpy that you are going to come in contact with most regularly. It is how you deal with Mr Grumpy that is important. Often it is how you deal with Snow White, Mr Busy and Mr Noisy that provides the catalyst to change Mr Grumpy.
Snow White is your helpful audience, one that both interacts and brings a lot to the table. Snow white generally makes up roughly 1% of your readership. 1 in 100. You should treat her with respect because she will repay you 10x over. Snow White is in the market to learn a lot. A Snow White audience member is capable of commenting, sharing insight, making debate and sharing your work.
Mr Noisy is that self opinionated commentator who you would have difficulty swaying, the one likely to strongly agree or disagree with your content. Mr noisy accounts for 5% of your audience. 5 in 100. This type of user is likely to either be your best ally or your worst nightmare. They are most definitely excellent at debating your content but they are not likely to take much away from it. You shine by how you interact with them in a constructive way.
Mr Busy is the audience who will benefit well from your content but will be passive of voice. Mr Busy accounts for 10% of your audience. 10 in 100. They are likely to return, extracting what they can every time. They are the syphon. They are not likely to have the time to engage with you hand to hand. They are the kind of person who will find you through a search engine, by a specific keyword.
Mr Grumpy is your core audience. The person most likely to view your site. The grumps account for 84% of your viewing public. 84 in 100. They suit teaching rather than learning, are unlikely ever to comment and are somewhat ambivalent to your content. They are the kind of person who never adds much to the conversation but might nod their head if they like what they read. You won’t know if you’ve been succesful with what you did and so their footprints are a mystery lost in time. How you interact with the other 3 audience member types might sway Mr Grumpy if you try hard enough.
Avoid the number farm:
It is easy with Google+ to get carried away with taking up the offer of shared circles. Many boast the inclusion of those who engage with content but there is no guarantee that this same group of engagers will merrily take on your content in the same way.
Avoiding the number farm is about not considering every person following you as a number but more as an individual. Some of those individuals will love you, some will soon learn to dislike you and some will drift away or remain entirely passive. It is the ones that engage with you regularly that are worth the effort. Those individuals are the important ones. You’ll gain far better followers by picking them up slowly with time. The opposite is absorbing many shared circles akin to throwing mud at the wall and seeing what sticks, that is to say it will be a messy process.
I’ve noticed from my own journey with Google+ that some plussers test their audience by contacting them directly from time to time. Those who respond stay followed, those who don’t respond in a timely fashion get the “Spanish Archers” (the elbow).
I push out my shared content to my general populace after I’ve published my post but the general populace rarely come back….
Which leads me to:
The strongest element of Google Plus is the communities you can join. It is where the majority of my site views have come from on the Google Plus platform and where my PR battle is fought in the trenches. The communities you can join are an excellent testbed for your work because they give some idea as to what the general trend is. Writing to trend can often be far more rewarding in terms of view. Just don’t forget to stay true to your own ideals.
As Will.I.Am might say if he were a blogger: “Communities are the bomb dot com!”
Communities I have used for blogging:
There are three particular communities I’ve used on Google+ with varying results.
I actively decided to leave this community. It worked well for a time when there were rules but I had to part ways after it took a turn for the worse. People stopped sharing and just started flooding the decks which is no good. When you flood and don’t share the love there is no real point. Firing and forgetting just doesn’t work. I know this from Twitter. People don’t just view stuff that is spewed out with no control.
- You have to make an effort to elicit a conversational tone. You have to have some real conversations. You can’t always rely on praise alone. You may be required to defend or surrender your position on something.
Flooding is a case of irritable bowel syndrome for the internet. It is where bloggers are under the jaded view that by writing a lot of offal, people will be worn down to read it. It’s not true.
- Write things that other people find useful. Always drive your work towards providing a solution, even if only theoretical. Don’t over expose yourself!
I have found that people who do over expose, normally have to work this way by design. They are the kind of people who have an imperative to do so because they are hooked up with a dodgy pyramid network and are working ultra hard to make their target. Don’t follow their lead because you essential cheapen your work by scrubbing it out. You don’t have to post daily to do well, it’s where, how and who your post are seen by that is important.
This is my current preferred destination. I’ve attributed quite a lot of views to this area and find that when new bloggers introduce themselves I have a great chance at making some connections. There is a bit more order to this community and it seems to be going well. Whilst it does have impressive numbers, many are passive or have simply left the community to show that dreaded 99+. At time of writing this community has just over 14,000 followers.
Blogging for Beginners
I rarely use this community, I used to use it more but I began losing out to the big fish in the pond. There are a number of people who’ve got caught up with some dodgy blogging pyramid networks and they are honour bound to flood. I contact one such individual to no response. At the time of writing this community has 1,825 members.
- Just because a community has fewer members doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t as productive. It’s down to the engaged members. If 80% of 200 members are making an effort in one community but only 1% of 10,000 are making the effort in another, it is clear to see which one is better overall.
The best of the rest:
This is a very successful community but I’ve not been able to interact as much as I’d like. For the few posts I have written specifically for this large audience, I have outperformed all of my other posts in terms of initial viewing numbers.
My pitfalls are that I’m still a novice with GA and in order to succeed on this community you have to really know your onions or be using GA on a regular basis with a view to monetization and campaign management. The people who get the most out of the community are semi-proffessionals who are a bit lost with a problem faced in the analytics. This is by far one of the best communities on providing help. It get’s four thumbs up from me. It has just over 39,000 followers so even small percentages of people viewing your content can add up. It is best to be talking about analytics on this community and specifically about the Google Analytics tool.
Google Plus Newbie
A cheerful if sleepy community where you can be a good citizen and be philanthropic. I’ve also learnt a lot of features here that aren’t obvious. Sometimes it is worth looking at the world in a newbie’s eyes once in a while.
Community Pros and Cons
Communities are excellent for honing your skill. They are an excellent barometer of what titles work and what don’t. You get to interact with real people and carry a conversation, they provide great spawning grounds for unique content and normally community members are of similar opinion and can help where random visitors might not be so helpful.
There are some drawbacks to focused communities and whilst benefits potentially outweigh these shortcomings they are worth while taking under advisement.
- You are pitching versus competition thus response may be muted.
- Your competition may poach your unique ideas.
- Some of the communities are captive audiences, often there are a number of snake oil and pyramid sellers operating on them.
- There are often a number of “big fish” in the “small pond” stealing the limelight. The attractiveness of your post will mean nothing when compared to a “big fish”.
Hangouts & Events
Hangouts is something I’m not an expert in but I know that hangouts provide an excellent way to gather like-minded individuals in a bunch. Events are based around a similar principle except they are in a calendar and are scheduled for a set time with a set agenda, you can also get some idea of how many people are turning out to view.
I’ve attended two of Mia Voss’ power chats in recent times. Normally the Friday is a bit of a tough one for me because I’m only just about ready when I get home from work to attend. However, they do serve a purpose. A live conversation is quite powerful, in the now. You can say a lot more in a video, and communicate it better than you can just as text.
Events can be used to publicise a wide number of things, such as your website and other business assets that you use. Hangouts are an awesome verbal platform and have a great deal of power if presented effectively.
On the flip side, hangouts & events can be another time sink if they are not well produced, if they don’t serve the audience. I have had the unfortunate pleasure of watching a few that were of low quality. Those are minutes that I can’t get back.
- Enter this with some experience of video production under your belt. Don’t go in cold. Write an agenda or loose script, have a purpose. Freeform is fine but it is good to direct the sum of its parts somewhere. Make it with purpose, not just for the sell.
I would like to mention one of my favourite blogger visionaries just because he’s kinda awesome. Patt Flynn. Mr Flynn puts together podcasts and also runs a new audio campaign answering questions from real life bloggers. His shows have meaning, they are produced with thought. In order to compete with people like Pat, you’ve got to know your audience better! You’ve got to be polished, know what you are doing, know what you are saying and most of all, feel passionately about how you can help provide a solution.
Google Pages are much like Facebook Pages. They are the same in that if you don’t know how to get the best out of them, they are pretty useless, and…. a time sink.
I find that I am invited to follow increasingly more Google Plus Business Pages of stuff I really don’t want to follow! That may sound harsh but several months ago I stopped following pages on Google Plus, instead consigning them to the flames.
It’s the whole time sink issue again, pouring my valuable time down the plughole. Being a page follower doesn’t give you a big sense of reward like following an individual does.
I stopped servicing my business page for Blog Prefect and have noticed no discernible difference.
There are some savvy Page implementors who can milk more out of the audience. Ideally you should already have an established audience which you can press onto this page system, they in turn help lure more audience. Starting a Page in a vacuum is much harder.
- Try not to start in a vacuum. Have some innate competency that you can capitalise on. A skill that can be built upon and scaled upwards.
Making headway with Google Plus
I wanted to draw to the sharp end of the tool chest in conclusion of this piece.
Have you ever been told that if you keep something up regularly (e.g. servicing your car) that it will run smoother and that the grind will be reduced?
Have you also been told that leaving something to fester through neglect will make it a hard task to restore later on?
The best path with any activity you intend to follow on a social media site is to perform often and in a disciplined manner.
- You should create a process, a battle plan, a list, and a method to everything you do.
- Commit to a scope that you can cope with. Don’t feel bad about scaling back if it is necessary. If you can’t cover the base well enough it is as good as useless anyway. Spend more time on what you can control. Build up the stack as you get more comfortable.
- Some elements of Google+ like pages work better once you’ve got numbers. Spend time building up your presence before you start building the infrastructure. Lay the foundations before you start building the staircase.
- Try new things. Be prepared to fail. Learn from your mistakes! Common sense but be brave.
- Be conscious of how other people do things well. Adopt those strategies if they work for you but be prepared for some things not to work at all.
- Don’t see Google Plus as a static canvas. It is ever-changing, some communities get better over time, some worse. It is a measure of those involved in the community that is more important than how you expect your content to perform.
- Treat your engagers well, make sure you keep in check with them as often as you can.
- Work smarter rather than harder. Sometimes beating down on people’s doors is not enough. You’ve just go to concentrate more intently on those who perform the best for you.
Question: What tips might you have?