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/

Google+ Opportunity: Create a Community for Your Local Community

Recently Google announced the launch of a new feature for Google+, Communities. Since the announcement there have already been 20,478 communities created (according to circlecount.com). Community topics range from things as broad as Space (35,252 members) to things as small as Miniature Gaming (189 members).

The success of these communities will rely greatly on the amount of time and effort that has been put into them. Creating a broad topic and failing to moderate will quickly turn your community into the Wild West, filled with off-topic conversation and tons of spammers. However, if you mix the right ingredients, you can grow a vibrant community full of rich conversation, new discoveries and awesome connections.

Community Members Gather for Fundraiser
Nashville Community Members Gather for St. Jude Children’s Hospital Fundraiser Event

If you want to create a community, but haven’t decided what to make it about, let me give you a suggestion: think local.

One of the things that Google+ offered us was the ability to connect with everyone around the world and discover people with like-minded interests. Now all of this discovering has been a lot of fun, but it doesn’t mean much when you’re not at the computer or using the app on your phone. Luckily, I have begun to make a lot of local real-life connections through Google+ that I meet and spend time with in the real world (thank you #Ingress).

There are millions of cool and interesting things happening around the world, some of which you might be able to participate in, but for the most part, probably not. It’s important to get out from behind the keyboard and your touchscreen and interact with the real world.

I created a community called Nashville+ because I was beginning to notice other members of the the Nashville “community” (funny how that word has another meaning, eh?) starting to embrace Google+. There was a huge opportunity to connect those users and give them the conduit to share interesting stories, photography, local news and other things like restaurant reviews.

The Google+ community I created is pretty small and somewhat stagnant at the moment and I’m fine with that. Like any good community, I want to make sure I have the correct foundation before I start bringing in the people to keep it moving. Once I get the categories sorted out that I like and plant some seeds for conversation, I’ll start contacting local businesses and individuals and offer them the opportunity to connect with other community members.

One thing to be careful of, though, is to make sure that the community doesn’t turn into a giant billboard. The last thing I need is every restaurant and bar posting their specials every day. What I would like to see is people sharing their experiences with different businesses and events. I would like to see people showing the human side of the community. Because, that’s really what community is all about.

Nashville+ is in its infancy, but I already have a few great things planned.

Do you have an idea for a local digital community? What are your plans for success?

Your Community Sucks and Here’s Why

A Guide to Jump-Starting your Google+ Community

We are now on day six of Google+ Communities and people are starting to learn a number of things very quickly. First and foremost, if you missed the opportunity to be the first to create a unique community surrounding one of your interests, don’t worry. It’s not about being the first, it’s all about being the best.

The first thought that crossed my mind when I heard that Google+ was releasing a communities feature was whether or not there would be a community for people that like to manage communities. It seems meta, I know, but it is very likely that the creators of these communities would like a forum to share their knowledge, tips, tricks and questions, while making a few important connections.

Since creating the Community Moderators community, we have had over 1,100 unique members join. We have had dozens of people’s questions answered, some very interesting feedback expressed towards the betterment of communities, and most importantly, a fellowship of people with like-minded interests.

In my last post, I talked about how Communities could be the answer to your biggest circle management nightmares. That theory only works if you are dealing with successful communities. So how do you make your community a success?

Bring the right people into the conversation.

A community is much like a new house, it is not going to build itself. However, it does require some of the same fundamental features of a house. It needs a good foundation, support beams, and protection from the elements.

Abandoned House near Hooper's Farm to Oast House Archive
Photo: Abandoned House near Hooper’s Farm by Oast House Archive (Used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0)

The foundation of my community is a group of people that share passion for a common interest. Without the foundation, we would have no place to establish our pillars for success. Finding the people the are right for your community is tricky. Of course, you could always spam out to all of your followers and ask them to come and join, but what is in it for them? To attract valuable members to a community, you must show them the value of becoming a member.

For the Community Moderators community, the value was easy to demonstrate, if you come and join us, you will learn from other community moderators, have a chance to ask questions and gain valuable insight towards growing your own community. It sells itself, really. However, for some community topics, it may be harder to market value. Regardless, if you can cast your community in a light that shows value to potential members, you are more likely to attract members that are likely to actively participate in the conversation.

Support the conversation and keep it going.

As a community moderator, you will quickly find that you cannot answer every question and stimulate every conversation. The remarkable thing about having a community, is that the members of your community can work with each other to answer questions, create engaging conversation and exchange valuable content relative to your topic.

Initially, it may be difficult stimulating the level or quality of conversation that you would like to see within your community. Just like in a cold room, people are often shy and do not want to be ridiculed for their opinions. Start with some light conversation. Break the ice with your community. Show them that you all have humility and good will and can learn from each other.

As more people become more comfortable with sharing their thoughts and ideas, the conversation will begin to grow. Before you know it, you may have to call for some help to make sure the conversations are headed in the right direction and that people are familiar with your community and its guidelines.

Protect your community from the elements.

The Internet is like any other place in the world. It has good people, it has bad people and it has some people that just don’t know any better. Your job as a community owner is to ensure that you are moderating your community in a fashion that is not restricting free speech, but keeping out unnecessary commercial solicitations, spam and otherwise annoying contributions.

When you begin to protect your community from spammers, trolls and bullies, keep in mind that you are not InterPOL and your function isn’t to control what every member of your community has to say. Your just to to facilitate the conversation, keep it rich, keep it on topic (if necessary) and keep the evil doers at bay.

When deciding how to moderate (not police) your community, you might want to consider establishing a Code of Conduct or set of Community Guidelines. I have worked with the Google+ community at large to create an open-source set of Community Guidelines that you can find on github. These guidelines are free for you to use, interpret, change or use how you would like. If you would like to contribute to the project, please free to do so.

Keep in mind that your community guidelines should be general, light-hearted but also clear and concise. Your goal is not to create a rule for every possible situation, but to express to the community that certain behaviors such as hate speech, bullying or spam will not be tolerated. Set the tone early and remain consistent and your community will respect your efforts.

Most importantly, as you watch your community grow, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

How to Better Manage Your Circles in Google+

With the release of Google’s new “Community” feature on Google+, you can take a deep breath and stop trying to sort each and every person you come across into the right interest-based circle. The community function allows you to focus on not only who you are interested in, but what you are interested in. As communities begin to develop and mature and you continue to use them, you might find yourself spending less time managing your circles.

Photo By Leo Reynolds used under Creative Commons 2.0
Photo By Leo Reynolds used under Creative Commons 2.0

Communities take the guesswork out of circles.

Up until this week, you were charged with the task of keeping up with people on Google+ exclusively through circles. If you found someone that was also interested in Technology, you might have added them to your Tech circle, but realized they are also passionate about cats. You hate cats. Communities solves that problem. Sometimes we aren’t as interested in the people we interact with as we are interested in the topic at hand.

Now with communities, you can focus on conversations focused around topics that interest you and not just people that may have said something interesting at one point in time. No longer do you need to blindly create circles centered around topics in fear of “missing” something relevant. With communities, you can rely on quality curation of the content you’re really looking for.

So what should you do with all of those topical circles, or the random circle shares you added? Give them a rest. Go into the individual sliders and pull the volume down to ‘Mute.’ Give it a week or two. Notice a difference? Less noise? I guess you can live without that circle after all…

5,000 People, That’s It?

The notion of being able to “follow” 5,000 people is ridiculous and if you claim to be able to do it with any sort of consistency, then you have super-human powers. In fact, a study with Facebook users found that if you follow too many people, you might become unhappy.

“Among the group who read updates, the study revealed that having 354 Facebook friends seemed to be the tipping point after which people were increasingly less happy with their lives.” – Menshealth.com

When you look at the way you manage circles on Google+, ask yourself “Why did I follow these people?” Maybe you thought that keeping in touch with a group of people could lead to a new job. However, if you were following people just because you thought the picture they posted that one time was interesting, you are probably circling for the wrong reasons.

Today I chatted on the phone with Laurie DesAutels, a talent acquisition expert that specializes in connecting with people based on their skills and talent. “If I’m going to be interacting with 5,000 people in my circle, I’ve got to be kind of picky. I want it to be people that post regularly and people that I want to see in my timeline.”

She went on to say “It’s not all about quantity, it’s about quality.”

Use your circles to connect with the people that you care about.

Keeping your topical correspondence and your personal/business correspondence separate has just become that much easier. Focus less on strangers that only peak your interests 10% of the time and start focusing on the people you care about through your circles and the topics that interest you through communities.

Now that you have a degree of separation between relationships and interests, you should be able to better strengthen and develop your relationships while enjoying more relevant content centered around your topics of interest.

Give it a try, hit the mute button on your random circles and leave the Home stream to people you care about.

What do you think? Are Google+ Communities the best thing since sliced bread, or just another distraction? Will Communities help you turn down the noise and turn up the volume on the things you love?

Reactions to Communities: The playing field is being leveled. (Guest Post)

So on the whole, I think most users are finding that Communities are a very useful and, a few tweaks notwithstanding, well implemented feature. But a few users, particularly those with medium to large followings, have been expressing a lot of doubt and negative feedback, and I have an idea why.

When circles were the only method for connecting, the “playing field’ for engagement and audience was extremely uneven: a brand new user had almost zero chance of their post being seen, even if it was of tremendous quality, while some users with (inexplicably) large followings were posting crap like copypasta from chain emails and having it reach What’s Hot. Contrast this to Reddit, where as +Carter Gibson showed a few days ago, a new user with great content can reach the “Front Page” with their very first post.

Communities change this. Suddenly, a new user can join a Community on their very first day and make a post to an audience of thousands of people. And I have a hunch that if it’s good content, it will be seen and engaged with by a great many of them.

So my theory is this: while much of the negative feedback represents legitimate room for improvement, there’s a not-insignificant portion that is the result of a changing playing field. Users that have come to love being one of the select few who have large audiences are inclined not to like that. Most of these users have nothing to worry about, as their followings came about as the result of posting great content. But I have to believe there are some who have either gamed the system through shared circles or posted repeated crap to build a following, and those audiences are going to leave in a hurry for the increased quality and relevance that Communities will offer.

The great news for everyone else is this: Communities are going to make great content king. They offer everyone an opportunity to post to an interested audience, not just those with big followings. And I think that’s a plus.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://petergmcdermott.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/zachaphoto1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]I’m fascinated by technology, science, and the things that make us tick. My current long-term pursuit is to major in Computer Science and Neuroscience in order to research brain-computer interface technology, particularly the commercial applications it holds.[/author_info] [/author]

A Week In Review: Taking Content Curation on Google+ to the Next Level

A few of Google+’s power users, such as +Mike Elgan, have touted the network as their new blogging platform. I have to concede that the majority of my content creation and curation takes place on Google+, but I’m not completely satisfied.

The way Google aggregates your posts and content doesn’t make your list of posts easily digestible. Looking at my profile, you’ll see a mess of status updates, long form posts, photographs, check-ins and shared posts from other creators.

What I would really like to see is a way to organize my content on my profile. Not in the quirky way you organize posts on your Facebook timeline, but in a blog-like fashion, much like Blogger.

Until then, we have a great tool at our disposal. We now have the ability to embed Google Docs into our posts. Embedded today for your enjoyment is my last week of quality content. I’ve sorted out some of the less valuable content and left you with what I call my quality posts.

Take a look at the Google Presentation and let me know what you think of the idea. This is a fairly simply presentation to compose, can be easily assembled, shared and gives me a vehicle to notify my audience without spamming them 25 times during the week.

Setting one up is easy. Just launch Google Drive, create a presentation and add links to your favorite posts. Once you’re done, share away. Since you’ve digested everything into a neat package, your followers might not mind a notification in their inbox…

How Google+ Is Different From Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn

Once You Get It. You Get It.

+Google+ is quickly gaining adoption and finding itself integrated in all corners of the web from +Sarah Hill‘s work on +KOMU 8 News‘ interactive live format featuring Hangouts, to +HuffPost Live‘s adoption of hangouts and audience participation.

Unlike the three other major social networks, Google+ works a little differently. Of course you can use Google+ to connect with your friends, colleagues and family, but there is so much more you can gain from it. Continue reading How Google+ Is Different From Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn

Does Your Google+ Influence Count in Klout?

While checking on my Klout account today, I noticed something surprising. My Google+ influence has dropped to 9.65% of my total score, splitting the difference between Facebook and Twitter.

Clearly, with over 57,000 followers on Google+, less than 500 on Twitter and less than 400 on Facebook, the numbers just don’t add up. Also consider the fact that 90% of my content and interaction takes place on Google+, why the sudden change in the score make up? Continue reading Does Your Google+ Influence Count in Klout?

Get Notified When People Post on Google+

How to Create a Subscription Circle on Google+

Google+ gives you the opportunity to sort your contacts by interests, topics or whatever you would like. You can create as many circles as you’d like and put people in multiple circles. As you continue to use the social network, you might find yourself following thousands of interesting and unique people from around the world. But, how do you keep yourself from missing out on the posts from the 10 or 20 users you really want to follow?

Thanks to Google’s circle “volume” controls, for a long time you were able to control the prevalence of posts from particular circles within your stream. However, now with the added “Notification” setting, you can get a notification every time someone in a particular circle posts something. Continue reading Get Notified When People Post on Google+