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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. This sounds like a great place to get a discussion going. I’m not the biggest fan of twitter but facebook is great so I’m always on the lookout for really free socialable places to expand to online. I’ll have to check this out.

    • Gregory C. says:

      One key point that Darren makes here that I’d like to point out on your comment about “free social places to expand” is the G+ is obviously so new, so whether or not it becomes a lasting success, it is better to be safe than sorry and starting building your network now.

      Kind of like a “get in on the ground level” type of strategy, while everybody is still scrambling to figure out it’s future, build a strong network on there and it may end up serving you in the long run.

      • Thanks darren for sharing this kind of information.I visited your profile ,added you in my circle but little bit of confused how to add post in my profile.Anyway it doesn’t affect my blogging at all.Great day D:

    • Congratulations on the plus for your family. Google plus is growing very quickly, but it still is very far behind the user numbers of FB and Twitter. And everyone I am connected to on Google is also connected through other social media already. So it doesn’t really add new connections, only a new way for them to connect. Most are treating it rather like Twitter from what I see so far..

  2. Samantha says:

    Many congrats Darren and co ;) As for Google+ I’ll be on it soon as Google decides to send out open invitations, in the meantime I just keep hearing how great it is by everyone else lucky enough to be using it already.

  3. Hi Darren, interesting points you have mentioned. I feel its too much of a hooolaah and noise around Google+ .. i mean its just started and people have already started talking about it taking over FB. i think all need to relax and let Google+ pass test of time and different people. There are few plus in it like Circles, Hangouts, etc but still we need to wait and see how does it go.

  4. and Last but not least but most important CONGRATULATIONS on addition in your family. Hope both the baby and mother are doing fine. All the best.

  5. Good article. Google+ has driven some decent traffic to my blog so far. What’s great is how much easier it is to engage with people you don’t know in person. A writer I look up to shared one of my links — something I feel he may have never done on Twitter.

  6. Congratulations, Darren!

    Also, thanks for the great information about Google+. I got an invitation this morning and was trying to decide whether to join or not. Based on your review, this is going to be huge in terms of building a sense of community…kind of like Twitter was a couple of years ago. It’s interesting how quickly the web community shifts these days.

  7. Frauke says:

    Congrats – a new family member! Enjoy the little bundle ;-))
    I’m brandnew to Google+, and so I’m really thankful for this post. Will read it carefully – and it will be really interesting what Google+ is about to become in the vast area of Social Networking …

  8. Rhoda says:

    I love the baby picture – I don’t think my babies ever looked that cute so early! Thanks for the tips about Google+, I have only just heard of it so now I can check it out with a bit more knowledge.

  9. Megan says:

    Oh, how exciting – a new baby! I remember those days. It actually gets worse before it gets better too…

    I am still waiting for my invite to Google+ but I think I will join. Now, bear in mind this is coming from someone who has resisted Facebook and I have many good reasons for that. the main one being that i just don’t want to interact with that many people who claim to know me.

    However, since then I have started a blog, the potential of these types of sites and finally being made obvious to me. the fact is I can’t afford not to be part of it. But it will be business only. I am hoping I will be able to keep some separation between work and home where this new social media tool is concerned.

  10. Congrats on the new baby!

    I started using Google+ just a few days ago and I am still getting the hang of it. It’s really neat and this is huge coming from someone who took forever to get on facebook….I think it could evolve to be something great. Does anybody think that facebook will become obsolete (like my space…)? It’ll be interesting to see. I’m excited to integrate blogging with Google+.

  11. Nnenna says:

    Many congratulations- that is wonderful news! Also, thank you for this great article! I too have been wondering whether or not it would be worth it to join Google+, but this post has given me great ideas about how I can use it to enhance my blog. Also, I have been holding off of on making a Facebook page because I wanted to limit it to family and friends and now Google+ gives me the opportunity to have something similar to Facebook in that respect, but for my blog only.

  12. Great post Darren and I agree that giving up your homebase would be quite risky. I will always own my original content, regardless of where it is viewed. Also, congrats on your new babe! Saw the pic…adorable!

    FYI you can get a short user-friendly url for your Google+ profile at http://gplus.to

    Stephanie

  13. Nikoya says:

    Desert the beloved blog to be controlled by Google?

    C’mon, Google+ can not be that lovely.

  14. Great post with lots of information in it! Thanks for sharing it Darren.

  15. Nice to know some of us bloggers are finding Google+ useful(as found out by Chris Martucci above). I just started using it, find it really neat and clean unlike other networking sites. Still need to get the hang of it and realise the full potential. Anyone has any idea of FaceBook+??

  16. I was slow coming into SM only on facebook for 18 months and now Twitter a little over a year. I am still figuring out LinkedIn. I am always a little leery and like to let others figure out the kinks as I am not so technical, lol! I am on G+ and I am playing around with it and figure it out bit by bit. I appreciate you going into some detail here as to how it can help bloggers build and engage their communities!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Congrats on the baby!
    Bernice
    As go your days, so goes your life

  17. Dorian Speed says:

    Great points, and congratulations on the new baby!

    I wonder if this will get people thinking more about the implications of using Blogger, if they are concerned about Google eating the universe. I’m betting there will be some cool integrations of Blogger with Google+, but self-hosted WordPress or another self-hosted platform is the way to go if you really want to own your content.

  18. It’s closed as of now, so hopefully I can get an invitation from one of my friends or something because I’d love to get on Google+.. I’m excited to start working on it as soon as I’m in!

  19. Vago Damitio says:

    I’ve been enjoying playing around with G+ but to be honest, to use it as a blogging platform seems problematic. Mainly because your posts will get lost in the stream. Think of it like this, if you have a blog with an address, people always can find your articles or posts. If you use google, your stuff can end up way down the page and it’s not as easy as typing problogger.net or vagobond.com in order to see what’s new…not yet anyway.

  20. Jason L. says:

    Congrats on the new baby! I actually just had a son, too (a picture is on my blog, the url attached to my name)! It’s always fun to know who has children around the same age as ours.

    I, too, see great potential in Google+. Thanks for sharing your insight and learning about the new product and how bloggers can utilize it.

  21. Dan says:

    I really like google+ right now. The posting and sharing are really easy and convenient the only thing I don’t like is the fact that it doesn’t have any of my Facebook friends…yet.

    • Sid says:

      Invite them… Click on ‘Stream’ in the left sidebar of your Google + home page. Then look in your right side bar for a graphic button allowing you to ‘Invite people to join Google+’

  22. se7en says:

    Congrats on the new little person in your life… All the best to all of you!!!

  23. Mike Klubok says:

    Congratulations on your new arrival. Very exciting times.

  24. Congratulations on the new addition to your family Darren! Definitely the MOST exciting birth of all :)

    I came over by way of your post on G+, which I am loving thus far, but have SO much to explore yet!

    I totally agree about not giving up the blog. My blog is my home base and where I really try to put my focus, although the past two days have proven unfruitful anywhere but on Google+! LOL!

    I almost let G+ slip through my fingers. I decided that I’d better jump on board early this time around and not drag my heels like I did with FB. As you mentioned, I am building a network and I truly love the interaction with others as we all learn our way around and get to know each other a bit better! To be honest, my trying to keep up with all of the other social media has overwhelmed me and I’ve felt a bit alienated. I might be premature, but I am seeing G+ as a much easier way of mixing business and pleasure all in one place :)

    Thank you for an AMAZING post and I look forward to updates on your findings.

    Enjoy your new precious bundle …

  25. Pepper says:

    The conversations on Google+ have been amazing. I don’t know if it is because we are all the same learning level with a new platform or if people are enjoying opening up more, but it is amazing!

  26. Congratulations on your new baby, Darren!

    I do like this early stage when the developers at Google are listening and taking input from the social media enthusiasts that joined first, something more established SM sites like Facebook don’t seem to do before making changes or introducing new features. I can see the potential of G+ but I won’t put my eggs in only one basket, you can only have control over your own website or blog.

  27. Great post Darren – though I wanted to +1 it but you don’t have that button yet ;)

  28. First, congratulations on the new baby!

    I’m just getting started with Google+ and would love to learn more about it, so please post more on it. I’m looking forward to seeing how it will develop and am happy to see that you see potential in it.

  29. I guess, it works best if you do have a lot of connections, mine is basically empty.lols I’ll definitely try it more seriously soon, it’s lonely to tinker with the interface with only a handful of connections.

  30. Ian says:

    Congrats on the baby. As for Google+, I’m liking it too, but right now I’m finding it is extremely tech savvy heavy. Kind of like Twitter was in the early days. This could be an opportunity for tech related blogs.

  31. samwize says:

    Agreed Google+ is highly worth engaging at the moment.

    Isn’t it time you should have a +1 for your website?

  32. yatra says:

    Google plus is rocking.

  33. chris says:

    On my way there now to take a look. Problem is I already spend a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter, another social network would just take up too much more of my time.

  34. Jenny says:

    Congratulations on the new little one. Enjoy the babymoon!

  35. I’ve only been on Google+ for a little while but I can already see its enormous potential. It makes FB feel clunky. (Congrats on the baby!)

  36. Dave says:

    Congrats on the new baby! It’s always exciting to add a new one to the bunch. We’re up to three right now. I’ll be joining Google+ as soon as they let me. They’re testing is closed at the moment.

  37. Google+ seems to be stuck on having you use your real identity for their stuff which precludes me having separate personal google+ and business/blog google+ accounts. I know you could build a circle for the promotional stuff but how do you segregate people into that circle?

  38. Callista says:

    Congrats on the baby!

    I just signed up for Google+ but am not sure it’s useful to me, but we’ll see. I wouldn’t use the hangout feature but I’m going to make this more business than personal so I will add blog contacts and friends to this one where as facebook is for me only personal (except for my fan page)

  39. Callista says:

    I can’t get to your Google+ account, it just comes up with a networked blogs link and stays blank :(

  40. sabrina says:

    First and foremost, congrats on the new member of your family! :) I’ve had the chance to play around and test Google+ and in fact, I wrote about this on my blog as soon as I received an invite. At first glance, it seemed a lot like Facebook, and I really feared that it would follow Google Wave in becoming a flop. Honestly, I still have that feeling…

  41. Joseph says:

    Hi Darren,

    Due to Google’s track record with privacy issues among other things, I was initially skeptical about using Google+ but I decided to create a profile after reading about the potential benefits it could provide as a deterrent to content scrapers/content thieves. Google has been testing implementation of content authorship next to articles in the SERP. Google Profiles allows for members to post links to their content which can then be used as an initial + to help Google identify the author’s work across the Internet. Considering your views on link sharing within Google+, what do you think about using them to help Google identify your content?

    On a related note: I attempted to add you to my circle but I’m unfamiliar with Google’s social media platform, so feel free to add me.

  42. Cathy Lanski says:

    Contests on the new baby. I’m still fumbling my way through G+. I added you, thanks. I use facebook and twitter pretty heavily. I even reactivated my MySpace account in case it gains relevance with Justin Timberlake’s involvement.

  43. amit dwivedi says:

    First, congratulations on the new baby!

    I’m just getting started with Google+ and would love to learn more about it, so please post more on it. I’m looking forward to seeing how it will develop and am happy to see that you see potential in it.more…http://www.techomesnoida.in

  44. Cheri says:

    Congratulations to you and your wife on having a baby! Always a cool thing to hear.

    I have loved G+ so far. I don’t consider myself an expert user of any particular social media site but what I like about G+ versus Twitter…I don’t find Twitter to be very conversational although I do have a few now and then; Facebook versus G+…no games! The only one I don’t see a comparison with is Linkedin although there are some similar applications.

    The biggest thing I believe G+ has going for it is everyone of all ages….social media site savvy or not….who know how to use a PC are not intimidated by Google because they are use to it as a search function. When it comes time to open the flood gates to all users, their own site would be the best place to promote it.

  45. George says:

    Getting to know Google Plus better. From the blog brand perspective Google Plus has immaculate features when used wisely work favorably towards the brand recognition.

  46. Branden says:

    Congratulations on the new baby Darren; always an exciting time. Also, I’m really looking forward to Google+. They certainly haven’t let me down with any of their projects thus far (never got too into Buzz, so that never bothered me). Another social networking site is always a good thing.

  47. Chris McCoy says:

    Congratulations on discovering Google +! Also your baby ;)

  48. oscar bu says:

    Thanks for your posting.
    Google+ is serious challenger to facebook. Unfortunately closed for sign up now…cant wait for Google+.

  49. Vikas Bhatt says:

    Google plus is great enough. I was lucky enough to get invite on the first day of launch. Google plus has confirmed 10 million users already.

  50. Congratulations, Darren and “Mrs. Darren”! I didn’t know you guys were expecting again – how cool!!! Happy for ya! :D