Note: this post is being republished as part of my 2017 daily publishing project. It was originally published on March 7, 2012, and besides minor formatting updates, I have chosen to leave the content in tact. Unfortunately, Google+ will probably be dismantled soon, but back in 2012 I was all over the thing. I posted several times per day, hosted a little tech hangout every week, and got over 10,000 followers.
The days of new social networks might be over, but I think some of this advice applies to any online marketing channel, so maybe it will still resonate for some readers.
When Google released Google+ in the summer of 2011, I jumped on the chance to try it. Quickly I found that engagement on the network was much higher than that of Twitter of even Facebook. Sure, I still use the others occasionally, but Google+ has proven to be the most powerful tool in my professional branding experience. Here’s a post I originally submitted to Entrepreneurs of Knoxville (removed now because I left the organization when I moved to Chicago) about using Google+:
Google+ is by far the most effective way for social media users and entrepreneurs to increase their personal brand. I know what you’re thinking, “Whoah, Karl, that’s a bold statement!” Yes, it is, but it’s also true, and today I’m going to tell you how you can use the tech giant’s latest foray into social networking to become known worldwide as an entrepreneur in _any _field in which you operate. Even though there aren’t a ton of people in Knoxville using it, I can tell you from first hand experience that there are advantages to being an early adopter.
STEP 1: Fill Out Your Profile
Google is already starting to rank profiles in its search results, and now includes a feature called “Search Plus Your World” to show search results which your friends have +1’d. Google’s unique ability to tie Google+ into search as well as its hundreds of other products make using it almost unavoidable. Filling out your profile may not seem like a big step, but it will help people identify you and make sure that you start securing your personal piece of the social network.
STEP 2: Circle and Watch
I’m not going to tell you to start blindly spewing posts onto Google+. This network was built on engagement and not self-promotion, making its dynamic significantly different than Twitter or Facebook. Take some time to follow industry leaders in your field as well as some of the thousands of journalists who are using it regularly. Next, watch your stream. Don’t immediately jump in with your “This Week We’ve Got 50% Off [insert your product]!!! Check the Blog for More!!! [link to blog]”. This will not get you anywhere. I’m amazed at the number of people who think that this will be an effective marketing strategy. You wouldn’t walk into a room full of strangers and shout this kind of thing would you? Of course not.
Think of Google+ like a real conversation. By spending a little time watching your stream, you’ll likely notice an industry leader or interesting person post a question that you can answer, a blog post that you enjoy, or a photo that you find funny. Within two weeks of using the network, I had been circled by Robert Scoble, and next week I’ll be interviewing his boss for my Weekly Technology Hangout.
STEP 3: Face-to-Face Works Best
As an entrepreneur, you know that face-to-face meetings are invaluable. You can tell more about a person in thirty minutes at lunch than you can in weeks of online interaction. Google+’s most interesting (and invaluable) feature is free video chats, called Hangouts. There are literally hundreds of interesting ways that Google+ users are making use of Hangouts. I’ve seen everything from live concerts to interviews with celebrities to news reporting in the field. If your goal is to increase your professional network and build invaluable connections using Google+, then it’s time to start hanging out.
First, jump into a limited Hangout with some friends just to try it. Next, try joining a publicly available hangout. You can use Hangout Canopy to track open public hangouts and meet some new people. Some will be interesting and others may be strange. There’s no pressure to circle everyone you meet online, so just have fun trying something new. Once you get Hangouts, host your own. I do a Weekly Tech Hangout where I bring a featured guest in some area of technology on to talk about their experience and expertise. I’ve gotten to talk to and learn from social media gurus, database architects, small business owners, startup founders, and IT professionals around the world. The key to hosting a successful hangout is to have a predictable format and consistent schedule. Use them as a way to get to know new people, not a way to promote yourself directly. This isn’t about making a hard sale, this is about engaging and relating to your future potential customers.
STEP 4: Create the Perfect Post
Posting on Google+ is a bit different than it is on other networks. Unlike Twitter, you are not restricted to a measly 140 characters, and you may find that your audience responds to different content than they do on Facebook. Google+ tends to be a very tech-aware and creative group. Nice, wide images resonate well and posting complete blog posts or large summaries of articles is usually beneficial. Google+ will collapse your longer posts, so keep that in mind if you want the whole post to show to your readers.
My Posting Formula
I can’t say that I stick to this perfectly, but as a general rule I post 5-12 times per day. 1-2 of those posts is of a personal nature, usually a picture of my latest culinary concoction or an update on a personal project I’m working on. 2-5 of those posts will be my commentary on a news story or blog post that I read. 1 post every day will be a full-length blog post that I write directly on Google+, usually with an attached photo or link to more information on the topic. 1-2 posts will be interesting or relevant reshares from another user. Don’t worry if you feel like no one is responding at first. As with any new form of social media, it takes a little time to build a following.
I will say that the rate at which my following has grown has been exponentially higher than that of Twitter. In just 6 months of using Google+, I have over
4,500 followers 10,000 followers, and my Klout score has risen over 30%. So, no matter how you stack it, Google+ is a great place for engagement. For entrepreneurs, your personal brand matters a lot, and you never know what kind of people you could meet on Google+.
I am always willing to offer my time to help you out if you ever have questions. Just shoot me an email anytime.