Over the last week, a couple of pretty amazing things have happened:
- We had a baby!
- 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.”