My journey on Google’s Suggested User’s List for Google+
In July of 2013 I found myself added to Google’s Suggested Users List (or SUL). The list is displayed to new users as they create an account as well as existing Google account users when they first go to use the Google+ social platform. Up until the second week of March 2014, I was displayed to millions of new users as someone “Fun and Interesting.” During that time, over 400,000 additional users added me to their circles.
My addition to the SUL came without much warning. I simply noticed a large uptick in followers and later received an e-mail from a Googler informing me that I was being offered as a suggested person for new users to circle. They asked me for feedback after my first couple of weeks, but initially I didn’t notice much of a change.
Over time as I first crested 100,000 followers, I thought being on the SUL was going to be a great opportunity for me to grow an audience overnight, become well-known for what I do and hopefully introduced to opportunities that I would have never found before.
Eight months later, I can confidently tell you that not many of those things happened. Just after I eclipsed the 500,000 mark (507 actually), I got yanked from the list. Again, no warning, no communication, I just noticed that instead of gaining an extra thousand followers each day, I was losing 50-100. This “falloff” happens for a couple of reasons. Mostly, I assume it is from the removal of spam and phantom accounts that have been reported. But, unfortunately, I think it comes from a number of users that actively remove me from their circles.
While I enjoyed my time on the SUL, I think it negatively impacted the way I thought about producing content. I focused my efforts on Google+, at one point abandoning Twitter and then later deleting my Facebook account. Now, as I look back, I realize that I ignored some pretty simple advice from a number of smart people, “don’t make Google+ your only platform.”
Platform is a funny word, when we think of it as it relates to technology, we don’t always think of it as something you stand on, but if you could imagine Google+ as being your only soapbox, regardless of how many followers you have, you’re standing atop one of the weakest soapboxes in terms of frequency of engagement.
Even with over half of a million followers, I rarely see over 100 +1’s on a post. To put it simply, that’s two hundredths of two percent. or 0.02%. That’s not very much engagement.
I think the reason for the drop in engagement with growth of audience is due to some very simple math. When a social media platform like Google+ evaluates the “relevance” of your post, it looks to see how much engagement you are getting in a short period of time. I imagine if your content eclipses that threshold, it will be “pinned” so that more of your followers will see it when they next log in. The problem with large audiences is that the more people that follow you, the more engagement you need to ensure the preservation of your posts in others’ streams.
Basically, unless all of your followers live in your time zone and you have a large audience, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Now, if you stick to traditional tactics like posting the about the most trending subjects or just humorous (but not otherwise valuable) content, you can game the system and gain traction that way. However, if you are trying to share original content beyond bumper sticker philosophy, funny GIF’s or the most popular news story, you are going to be met with a serious reality check.
When I was on the SUL, I felt like I censored myself more, trying to keep content within some mysterious criteria that would keep me in Google’s good graces. I wanted to do whatever it took to keep myself on the list so I could guarantee maximum audience exposure (it’s what almost anyone would do). However, in doing so, I did myself–and my followers–a large disservice. I was no longer taking the time to carefully craft the content that I did when I was being discovered organically.
Now that the ride is over, I am focusing on redesigning my blog, building an e-mail list and trying to build a tribe that is actually invested and grateful for my message. All of that is going to take place here, so if you’d like to become a part of it, I invite you to come back often and join the conversation.
This is my platform now. I make the rules, I decide when to change the design and I respect the people that come to visit and be a part of it.
Google may give, and Google may take, but this is my website and these are my stories and I’m happy to start sharing them with you again.