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Why Bloggers Should Consider Engaging on Google+

Google-Plus-+.pngOver the last week, a couple of pretty amazing things have happened:

  1. We had a baby!
  2. Google announced its new baby, Google+ (G+, Google+). If you have a Google account, you can now sign into it here.

Okay, so #1 took the cake in terms of exciting news in our place, but there’s been a lot of buzz about Google+ this week in social media circles.

Luckily, because if point #1 above, I’ve had a bit of time to “play” with Google+ this week (mainly in the wee hours of the morning during settling times.

I’m not going to get into definitions or even explain Google+ features in this post. Rather, I’d like to share a few first impression thoughts on how I see it as being useful for bloggers.

Firstly, though, you can see how I’ve been using Google+ here (I’d love to connect with you so do please add me if that appeals).

It’s not going to replace my blogs

Let me start by saying that as good as Google+ is, its never going to replace my blogs. I say this because I’ve already seen a number of people say that they’re considering giving up their blogs to concentrate their efforts on Google+.

The same thing happened back a few years ago when Twitter hit. I can think of at least a couple of people who gave up blogging to go more heavily into Twitter.

While Google+ is in some ways more like a blog than Twitter (comments, longer form content, etc.) I would still advise caution here for a number of reasons that I’ve previously written about in my post Homebases and Outposts – my approach to Social Media. Ultimately a lot of it comes down to:

  • Google controlling my destiny: Investing all your efforts into G+ is risky because they ultimately control your account. Go against their terms of service, and you can be switched off, so putting all your eggs in the G+ basket could mean everything you invest into it can be taken away.
  • Branding: G+ is great for building your brand (I’ll touch on this later) but an essential part of my own brand is having my own home base. A home base is a place where I have control but also where I build my brand.

I don’t see Google+ as “replacing” my blogs, but I sure do see the potential for them to add to and enhance my blogging in some of the following ways.

Update: check out Marshall’s thoughts on why he’ll never give up his blog to go to Google+.

Community plus

The most exciting part to me about Google+ is that it opens all kinds of opportunities for reader engagement—both with me and one another. In many ways this is why I’ve been putting an increasing effort into Facebook over the last year.

While Twitter is great for getting thoughts out there, and getting responses from individuals, its weakness for me as a publisher has always been that it is limited in how it lets those who follow you interact with one another.

Facebook and now Google+ solve this by letting those who follow you not only see what you think, but also what those who reply to you think. Having the stream of replies all in one place is gold for me.

For example, last night (1.07am … yep, it was a rough night) I asked those following me on Google+ for their thoughts about ebooks. 100+ people commented and it was shared by some with their own circles of friends. The comments where not only people responding to me, but also to each other, which expanded the conversation even further.

As an added bonus, the way Google+ works, comments pop up in real time. It’s almost like a chat room at times, and that can make it even more interactive.

Research plus

One of the things that has attracted me to most social networks has been the ability to gain insight from readers about what they’re thinking and what their needs and problems are, and that informs the content (blog posts, ebooks, courses) that I produce.

Research and testing ideas to see if they have potential is something I love with both Twitter and Facebook—and Google+ is no different. In fact, it’s even better than the other networks because I can now test and research my ideas with targeted groups of people—all from one account.

As a blogger who blogs in multiple niches, I’ve always had to have multiple social media accounts to interact in a relevant way with different groups. As a result, I have a ProBlogger Twitter account and a Digital Photography one. Google+ gives users the ability to set up “circles” to segment different groups of people. This allows you to not only delve into specific topics to see what others are updating about, but also to share with those circles.

As a result, if I want to test some ideas with my photography friends, I can simply put out an update asking a question specifically to my photography circle. I can see all kinds of applications for this. Being able to set up even more specific circles to test ideas in a more targeted way will be great.

Hangouts = potential

I’m yet to do much with the Hangouts feature of Google+, but I see some potential here to also build community and also be used in reasearch.

At the moment, you’re limited to having ten people in a hangout, so it’s very much a small group activity, but I’ll watch with interest to see how Google evolves the feature. Could we be seeing the beginning of a tool that could be one day used for Webinar type interactions?

Driving traffic plus

As bloggers, we all want traffic to our blogs and, as with other social networks, there is opportunity to drive traffic here. I’ve resisted sharing too many of my own links so far on Google+, but it could be a powerful source of traffic if the user numbers of Google+ continue to climb beyond social media enthusiast circles.

The reason for this is that Google+ has built in the sharing of links right from day one. Sharing links as status updates are easy, and more importantly, those in your network can pass on the link if they enjoy it with a single click on the Share button. The potential for viral sharing is massive here.

Brand plus

Social media is as much for me about branding as anything else. It’s an opportunity for you to “bump into” potential readers in the places that they hang out and where you have the opportunity to create an impression and deepen engagement (and even build a relationship).

I’ve seen the power of this with other social networks a,nd see even more potential with Google+ because Google seem so committed to integrating this into everything else that they do (Gmail, Google Docs, Picasa, etc.). Google’s potential reach is on the scale of Facebook, so there’s big potential here in terms of user numbers—too big to ignore in my mind.

Build your network before you need it

One last thought before I open this up for some discussion: build your network before you need it. I’m not sure anyone really knows what Google+ will end up achieving yet. It’s already evolving as people use it and as the Google+ team respond to that.

The key in my mind is to start experimenting and engaging, and watch to see what happens. Many people jump on social networking when they need it to achieve something for them, however those who seem to benefit from it most are those who invest time and energy into building a network and genuinely engaging in it before they actually need something from it.

What other bloggers are saying about Google+

Let’s finish this post off with some thoughts of those who I’ve connected with on Google+. As I was writing this post, I asked others how they saw it improving their blogging. You can read everyone’s responses here (and add your own) but I thought I’d highlight a few:

  • Pet Mugi wrote: “Google+ helped me in two ways: (1) finding blogging ideas; and (2) bringing visitors to my blog. Just observe what people are talking about, I got plenty of topics to write about in my tech blog. And the appearance in Google+ helps me to get more subscribers.”
  • Justin Brooke wrote: “I think the hangouts make a great mastermind tool for bloggers that form a small group dedicated to helping each other succeed. I also think recording interviews over Google+ hangouts can be great info products or blog posts.”
  • Shane Raynard wrote: “I’ve had more readers and interaction on G+ this past week than I’ve had on my blog the past year.
  • Amber Naslund wrote: “I think the substantive discussions I’m having here so far (between the animated GIFs) are making me think harder and consider more nuanced and complex topics, which is GREAT writing fodder. My Evernote folder for post ideas is full to bursting.
  • Chris Garrett wrote: “For me Google+ is the best way to have sticky discussions with my network. Facebook is becoming a friends and family only thing, Twitter is like an ephemeral chat and news tool, Google+ is more like Usenet discussions of old.”
  • Allison Boyer wrote: “So far, for me, G+ seems more conversational. People aren’t talking about their stats like on Facebook or shouting out every single link like on Twitter. They’re sharing ideas and really interested in what others have to say. It feels more like a live conference, where you move from group to group, talking to people about things you’re working on or ideas you’ve seen and getting feedback. As a blogger, it’s been great to help me hash out ideas and get inspired. It’s still promotional, but in a much more organic way.”
About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Buck Inspire says:

    Congrats on the new addition! I was pretty slow to adopt Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for the nudge to get in front of the Google+ wave!

    • Mode says:

      Its really good that you have understood the power of those amazing tools. Study, implement and see how your business can be taken to the next level.

  2. Isha Singh says:

    From decades, Social Networks are the place to build brand and drive traffic. Google+ is best for the two reason as it collects more user in less time.

  3. Since it’s coming from you, I’m going to start taking Google Plus very serious. Off course, I know that whatsoever comes from this giant search people is great. As soon as I leave your blog, I shall head over to get all the tools needed for massive promotion. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Congratulations on the addition!

  5. Dan Smith says:

    I have to admit that I’m still working through Google+ right now, so I’ll reserve my judgment. However, if it does everything you say it does, then this could be a great ride!

  6. Santel says:

    To me Google+ is a beginning to make real friends and created conversation with people you know. Morever with my Android phone, it is very easy to share and video chat with my family.

  7. Thank you for providing your opinion about google+,its a limited edition only now,I have registered my email with them after using it only I can say how it’s helpfull.

  8. Justyna says:

    Hey Darren,
    congrats on the baby!!!
    I have to say this Google+ thing is aggravating…I have not been able to log into it…I guess it is only for a “small group of people” to test it out, as they say. Is that Googles way to make everybody want it??? Well, I am here to tell you it’s working. As much as I would love to be a part of this conversation…I can’t! :( So my question is: HOW DO I GET IN??? I am sure, I’m not the only one with this problem…

  9. Diane says:

    First of all, congratulations on the new addition to your family.

    Thank you for this post. Interesting and inspiring.

    I spent the whole morning setting up my Google+ account. Not really sure what I was doing but just working intuitively. For me, it’s just another part of my branding and social media networking. Another great way of connecting with my family, friends, customers & other people interested in the same loves and passions. I would never let go of my homebase. I’ve felt passionately about that from day one. That’s my home on the web and under my control ;) I think the following months will be interesting to see how Google+ develops.

  10. Kyle says:

    Great article I have been trying to figure out the best way to incorporate my blog with social media! big help!

  11. Google + should just be another promotion tool in a good blogger’s toolset. Thanks for the share Darren.

    Dwight Anthony
    Financially Elite Blog dot Com

  12. Abu Haafidh says:

    I like how G+ makes it easier for us to select specific audiences for sharing information. In FB you do actually have the same feature but the navigations make it seem like it isn’t an important feature for us.

    I also like how G+ puts the circles on the sidebar. Navigation becomes important when you’ll be frequenting on a site more often.

    I totally second Allison Boyer’s thoughts at the last part of this post.

  13. Scott Simsa says:

    Nice post.. I think I most agree with the comment by Allison Boyer.. I think the possibilities for interaction are far greater on G+ than the other networks.. Also, you know you can add the new +1 icon to you’re blogs and websites as well :)

  14. Great article Darren!.. Google+ is a fantastic source of traffic,

    To Your Success,

    Chris

  15. Very enlightening post Darren, I must admit that I’ve myself not yet jumped on the G+ train and your post was my first real introduction to the phenomenon. It seems like a genuinely powerful tool in the sense that it enables new avenues of connectivity between people, and the bloggers who write for them.

    For good or worse I believe that I’m the only blogger/vlogger in my niche (electronic sports and specifically competitive Starcraft 2) but I never the less look forward to see what new partners, viewers and collaborators I will find through Google+. If anyone here like the above, do drop me an email :)

    Also, congratulations on the new addition to the Problogger ranks!

  16. Bethany says:

    Nice.I haven’t yet explored Google+.I bet its one other great place to drive even more traffic to blogs and websites. http://www.bloggingmansion.com/2011/07/google-fighting-facebook.html

  17. Congrats on your baby!

    I’ve started my google+ account yet but haven’t been actively using it. My question is… do you post the same content to your twitter/facebook page/google+ accounts or do you customize them to audiences in those sites?

  18. Rohan says:

    Google plus has worked out very well for me, more so with the launch of my plugin on google+ for wordpress my sites traffic spiked a lot and getting around a few thousand extra hits every day for the keywords related to Google+…

    I am a fan already!

  19. Umer says:

    this great for finding new ideas for blogging. this is very interactive. thanks G+

  20. Umer says:

    few years back google was just a Search engine and few products like google earth, orkut and blogger etc.. now every month google bringing high profile products. . this is may be due to enterance of bing in the market.

  21. Guapa Media says:

    Thanks for the enlightenment! I just placed the Google +1 on all of my web pages! I’m wondering what it will do to my amount of traffic!

  22. sirius says:

    G+ is not as good as I’ve expected. It is more social like addition, so it is not something that will be of a great use to commercial and other business sites. The activity is low , but may be in the future there will a lot more usability.

    • Steve says:

      The video conferencing (hangout) feature is big and a lot of companies are already working with it. It is not the finished article but is evolving and if more business oriented features are not added I’ll be very surprised.

      One thing is for sure, it certainly cannot be written off from the business perspective – unless of course you have an inside track on this.

  23. Hamzah Kutub says:

    Interesting article.I was a little bit confused about Google+ but now I’m convinced that at least it can help me in building my brand which is the most important thing for a blogger in my opinion.And one more advantage that you can have different circles.So i am planning to use this feature to interact with my readers in different niches

  24. Great post. find me on Google+ – Yay!
    https://plus.google.com/115378515200161714700/posts?hl=en

  25. google + is a great new service so far. it reminds me those old yahoo groups slash forums with better discussions and engagement… however I keep an eye on twitter. Twitter will have complete integration with every apple products with iOS5 this fall… Last time I check , apple is killing this market….it is something to check closely….

  26. Jamie says:

    Google+ is going to become something great it’s just a matter of how they market it. It creates a good user experience with the use of circles.

    http://www.the-marketingblogger.blogspot.com

  27. Dan Meyers says:

    It’s amazing how Google+ has created such a strong following just by not allowing many people to join! I haven’t spent much time thinking about it because I don’t like the exclusivity play. However, after reading your post I guess I’ll have to check it out!

  28. Catherine says:

    Not all of us can have access to Google Plus — no matter how long we’ve had a Google account. For the rest of us, we get …

    “Google+ is in limited Field Trial — Right now, we’re testing with a small number of people, but it won’t be long before the Google+ project is ready for everyone. Leave us your email address and we’ll make sure you’re the first to know when we’re ready to invite more people.”

    So there are many of us who can’t yet relate to this post.

    I think it’s a bad PR move on Google’s part to limit members before they are ready or not further advise that they are in beta testing mode.

    C

    • You need an invitation to get in quickly … that’s a great viral method for Google …. You can contact me if you need an invitation :) …So far it is 10 times superior then Facebook and twitter …. It’s more organized !!!!

  29. pembe maske says:

    yes, it reminds me those old yahoo groups slash forums with better discussions and engagement… however I keep an eye on twitter. Twitter will have complete integration with every apple products with iOS5 this fall. yep.