G+ The Other Red Button

I had the great pleasure of presenting at the Type A Parent conference in Atlanta, Georgia yesterday. There was a room packed with bloggers excited to learn about Google+ and how they can use it to their advantage. Unfortunately, because of my failure to check my laptop for a VGA port before hitting the road, I wasn’t able to interface with the projector and therefore had to work with a very limited amount of my visual aides during the session. I was totally embarrassed! Luckily, Ellen Gerstein graciously saved the day and let me borrow her laptop for the presentation. Thanks, Ellen!

Because I had planned to do a mixture of the slide deck and demonstrations on Google+, I had to wing it and go without the tabs that I intended to show and explain. So, appropriately enough, a lot of you may have been confused by what I was trying to explain because of the lack of visual representation. In order to make it right, I wanted to give you a very thorough rundown of what I intended to share yesterday along with some helpful links to get you pointed in the right direction.

If you still have questions after reading this guide, please reach out to me. I promise I won’t bite! For some of those more technical questions that were asked yesterday, I am more than happy to point you in a laser-precise direction. Simply e-mail, tweet or share your question with me and I will do my best to point you in the right direction. So, without further ado, I present G+ The Other Red Button:

What is Google+?

Google+ is not just another social network. Unlike standalone networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, Google+ is a fabric that is intertwined through many of Google’s popular cloud based products. Google+ allows authors to better identify their content through search, share new and interesting things, keep contact with the same people across multiple products and most importantly, build and engage with an audience of people that share similar interests. The thing that makes Google+ truly unique, is that is based upon sharing and interacting with people that have similar interests, not just people you already know.

Google+ for Beginners

If you are really new to Google+ and need help setting up an account and creating a profile, here is a video I created last year that will help you get your feet wet. Please understand that the graphical user interface (GUI) has changed quite a bit since I created the demo, so things might not look exactly the same.

Google+ Calendar Integration

One awesome thing about Google+ is that it is integrated with Google Calendar. I know this is a hot button with a lot of people, because they don’t like having unsolicited appointments on their calendar. Rest assured, there is a way to control how and which appointments appear on your calendar here, courtesy of Veronica Belmont.

With Google+ Events, you can invite individuals, specific circles or even those that don’t use Google+ by simply adding their e-mail address. Once you create the event, invitees will be able to RSVP and comment on the event. Once the event starts, attendees will have the opportunity to join “party mode” to share pictures from their mobile phone to the event while they are attending. This is a great way to collect photos from conferences, meet-ups and parties.

Google+ Events can be used to advertise special events for your business or brand page and to remind your follows of the cool things you are doing.

Google+ Authorship

Quite possibly the most important feature of Google+, authorship allows you to link your profile with all of the content that you create throughout the web. Once you connect the websites that you contribute to with your profile, you will start to see your headshot, follower count and a link to your profile appear in search results. This has been shown to dramatically increase your click through rate on search results, especially for posts that do not rank as the number one result.

googleplusauthorship

Here is the full skinny on Google Authorship straight from the mother ship. Getting setup for authorship is simple and you don’t even need to add any code to your website. If you have an e-mail address that matches the domain of the website you write for, just follow these directions and you will be on your way! If you contribute to multiple websites, follow these instructions (Option 2).

Why Not Facebook

Creating a profile, page, community and audience on Google+ is completely free. The public content that you create is continuously crawled and indexed by the biggest search engine in the world. Communicating with your business or brand becomes easier through other products like GMail, YouTube, Calendar and Blogger. You don’t have to pay a dime to have a successful presence on Google+, you just need to spend some time and effort finding the people that are interested in what you have to say.

Hangouts

My absolute favorite feature of Google+ is hands down, no questions ask, Hangouts. Hangouts allow you to connect visually face-to-face with your friends, co-workers, customers and audience members. You can see their facial expressions as you talk, share smiles, eye rolling and all of the other nonverbal communication that social media isn’t traditionally capable of translating. All of a sudden your message comes to life when people don’t have to decipher your tone.

Hangouts allow you and up to 9 other people to communicate via webcam and audio with the ability to share webpages, documents, presentations and YouTube videos. There are some big brands doing some awesome things with hangouts, and also some people that were discovered after putting themselves out there through Hangouts.

With Hangouts on Air, you are able to take your hangouts to the next level by broadcasting them LIVE for the world to see. As an added bonus, your recorded Hangouts on Air will automatically save to your linked YouTube account where you can share them with your friends, embed them on your blog or monetize through Google Adsense.

BONUS: Google+ Strategy

Gaining traction on Google+ is just like any other social frontier in a few regards: you won’t get a million followers overnight, not everyone is going to be interested in what you share and–most importantly–like anything else, you have to keep working hard to see positive results.

The way in which Google+ is different is that it isn’t about pre-existing connections. Sure, you can import your address book and find people that you are already connected with in “meat space,” but Google+ is all about discovering new and interesting people that share similar interests. The best way to find those people is through what Google does best, search.

What are you interested in? What do you write about? Search for it. Find people that are also interested in what you are talking about. Add them to your circles. Follow them closely. Interact with them.

If you come to Google+ thinking you can just drop your links and magically attract visitors to your blog, you will be severely disappointed.

The best way to encourage interaction and sharing of posts isn’t to embed a link, but to instead share a high resolution photo (that you have rights to, of course), a brief summary of what you are posting or call to action (2-3 lines), a link to your content (use a link-shortening service like goo.gl to keep it trim and track your clickthroughs) and, lastly, two or three hashtags that are relevant to your content.

My recommendation is that you comment on or re-share at least 10 other posts for every post you create. Everyone likes to be heard, so if you want to join the conversation, I always find it best to listen to what others are saying and let them know you’re listening.

As you start to grow your understanding of how Google+ works, you might want to start investing in Communities. Communities are a great feature of Google+ that allow you to connect with people around different topics. You can create public communities or private communities about whatever you would like. I have a community for my family that I use to share photo albums and information that I would like to keep private.

Creating a successful strategy on Google+ requires some work. You can’t “set it and forget it” unless you already have a sizeable following across the web. In order to grow an audience on Google+, you need to create consistent, quality content.

The greatest payoff of Google+ are all the people you will meet along the way. I have made some amazing connections through this network that have resulted in my traveling to different cities, learning about different parts of the world and making bonds that will last a lifetime.

Need More Help

If you need more help with Google+ simply fill out the form below and I will do by best to get you on the right track.

What's in a blog?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” – Romeo and Juliet

Late last night I got into a discussion with +Mike Elgan about his “Google+ Diet” and the #blogsofaugust  challenge. Mike has been evangelizing the adoption of Google+ as a primary means of social media engagement for some time now. Because of his focused efforts (and inclusion in the SUL) Mike has grown a very large and interactive audience. As part of the challenge, Mike asked us to only post original content to Google+ and not our blogs or other social media channels. To ensure distribution across those channels, Mike allows everyone to syndicate content through tools like ManageFilter (http://goo.gl/whvLY).

This discussion got me thinking as to what really constitutes a blog. Initially a “weblog” was a self-hosted or otherwise hosted platform that allowed Internet users to share their deepest thoughts, experiences and whatever they felt compelled to write about. Blogs were popping up so fast that content management systems like WordPress, Blogger and others began to pop up.

As blogging culture grew, social media started to take front stage on the web. People were no longer intimidated by having to write long-form posts on their blog when they could now “micro blog” using services like Twitter and Tumblr. Pretty soon the whole notion of text was laughable and sites like Pinterest became popular.

I believe Google tried its best to marry those different communication vehicles (short text posts, images, video) into a network that a large number of us have grown to love and used to spread ideas and meet others with similar interests. The reason I believe Google+ has been so successful is that it allows you the content creator or curator to decide what and how you want to share. There aren’t huge limitations, there isn’t a “certain way” to do things, you can just share whatever goodness you have of your own or that you dig up elsewhere on the web and very easily. I think that’s the most important thing.

Maintaining a self-hosted blog with a content management system like WordPress is a lot more work than you ever think it will be. Sure the installation only takes three minutes, but the selection of themes, installation of plugins and tinkering with CSS will take the life out of you. With so much energy invested in trying to make things “look good” you lose a lot of the energy that you need to focus on the whole reason you’re creating a blog: to share something.

Now, of course you could completely abandon your blog, board it up and point your URL to your Google+ page like +Mike Elgan has, but then you stand a great chance of alienating people that don’t like the Google+ platform or are using an older hardware that can’t handle rich responsively designed sites like Google+. Furthermore, by limiting your sharing to Google+ you’re limiting yourself from the ability to categorize, sort, highlight, feature and better customize your content.

If you’ve ever seen a search result for one of your Google+ posts appear, you may have been disappointed with the long-string URL. Personally, I think when I search for my posts on Google and see the mess of alphanumeric numbers in the URL for Google+ posts, I get turned off. When I create a post on my blog I have a nice clean and easy-to-understand URL. While that might not be important for the search algorithm anymore, I think it is something people consider before clicking a link. The only way Google can fix that is to seriously change the way it shows URL’s for G+ posts or to change the way it generates them to begin with. Either way, something we probably can’t change.

While Mike encourages everyone to blog on Google+ and not elsewhere, he leaves out the fact that he is a paid writer and actually writes all over the web. Some of his Google+ posts (quite a few) are summaries of his posts across the web. Mike gets paid to write by companies that get paid by advertisers and that’s something you cannot yet do on Google+: monetize text content with ads.

So, if you’re afraid to leave your blog because of the money you’re making from AdSense or other revenue streams, I don’t blame you. You can, of course, always copy your content from Google+ to your blog, but if it gets consumed primarily here, you can’t count on making too much money.

Regardless of money though, if a “blog” is truly just a log of your thoughts and ideas, it doesn’t matter whether you post it on a privately hosted website or an update on a social media platform. The important part is that you are sharing your passion and interacting with those that are interested.

With that said, I have made a huge overhaul of my blog, PeterGMcDermott.com and I would love for you to check out its simplicity. Because not everything I post on Google+ is my best or most well thought out ideas, I don’t think they all deserve their place on a website dedicated to those ideas. Therefore, I only post the things that I feel are very important to my audience and that distinction, for me, is what makes the difference between a blog and a social media stream.

What do you think? Would you want everything you post on social media to end up on your blog? Is abandoning your website for a social media platform a good idea? Is RSS dead?

I will be copying this post over the my blog–as I will with the rest of this months posts–but afterwards I think I’ll get back to pushing you over there to read and interact. Would you be willing to visit?

http://www.petergmcdermott.com/

Top Ten Mistakes Bloggers Make

Stop Sign
Image Source: FreeFoto.com

If you’re just starting a blog or trying to learn how to be a successful blogger on the Internet you have probably read a lot about what you should be doing. Have you considered thinking about what you shouldn’t be doing?

I polled my network of experts on Google+ and got some great responses on this topic. I wanted to feature +C Bret Campbell‘s thoughts as a guest post. Here’s his top ten list of mistakes that bloggers commonly make:

Top 10 No-No’s:

Continue reading Top Ten Mistakes Bloggers Make

Does Teamwork Work in Social Media?

Teamwork
Have We Forgotten Teamwork?

So, tonight, after attending a meeting for speakers interested in +PodCamp Nashville, I went out to dinner with the lovely +D’nelle Throneberry and talked about teamwork and how it relates to social media as a business strategy.

The first thing we talked about is something that “social media experts” are afraid to admit. Social media has grown so much that it is no longer under one umbrella. There are so many aspects of new media that one person can not simply master them all.

Currently the game is being played on a no-frills referral basis in this market. If you’re looking for WordPress, there’s someone for that. If you want to do a Twitter campaign, I can point you in the right direction. Looking for Drupal? There’s a couple of guys in town that do that…

Clearly, what I learned from our conversation and observing the relationships and businesses in this market, I know that everyone is really excited about social media. Especially the people that do it for a living. They are all working independently and love itWhy?

I can understand leaving your M-F 9-5 to become an independent entrepreneur and do what you love, but why do it alone when there is a team of people there all passionate about the same thing?

As this space continues to evolve, more technologies and networks start popping up, we are going to need more than just a few experts. Regardless, though, of how much it grows and changes, all of these things that propagate are all related. There is no reason we should work in silos. That’s why we left Corporate America in the first place, right?

I think that if a group of people with a diversified range of talents band together they will be much more successful than a bunch of people all out doing it on their own.

I don’t care how wide or great your referral network is, there is strength in numbers and if you band together, you can do amazing things. Teamwork is where it’s at.

Blogging from 30,000 Feet: From Nashville to New York

“Each man reads his own meaning into New York.” – Meyer Berger

Over 50 people from all over the world are going to meet in the center of the biggest city in the United States this weekend. Why?

Because they connected with each other.  Continue reading Blogging from 30,000 Feet: From Nashville to New York

Effective Social Media Demands Two-Way Conversation

photo by Grant MacDonald on Flickr

Thousands of people, businesses, brands, products and services create a social media presence every day. Whether its a Twitter account, Facebook page or Google+ page, they want to make sure that you can find their product in all corners of the web.

Creating a social media campaign requires commitment, communication and most importantly, listening.

Have you ever tried having a conversation with a brick wall? Not so much fun, huh? In fact, if you tried talking to a brick wall in front of your friends, people might think you’re crazy.

Continue reading Effective Social Media Demands Two-Way Conversation

How to Get Comments on Your Blog

There is no secret sauce to getting more interactivity on your blog. Blogging simply takes time and effort (T&E). You are only going to get as much out of your blog as you put into it. It’s simple math really.

Continue reading How to Get Comments on Your Blog

How to Get an Avatar in WordPress

If you have ever left a comment on a WordPress blog, you may have noticed that by default, there is no picture (or avatar) next to your name after the comment is published. Furthermore, if you have ever started your own WordPress blog, you will notice that there is nowhere to upload a profile picture under the Users section. So how do you get an avatar to appear? Continue reading How to Get an Avatar in WordPress