Recently, several of our clients have asked about Google Plus (Google+) and how it can relate to them or help in the promotion of their business. As an early adopter and first generation user of Google+ I have to admit I had not been fully engaged in utilising my G+ profile until now, though Vincent a partner at our company, had been using his G+ profile mainly for his photography and interacting with other photographers. After much research we began testing various areas of Google+ to better understand how they work and how this new social media network can be of benefit to individuals as well as businesses. This has prompted us to write a series of articles in layman’s terms to demystify and explain what Google+ is all about.
It’s been some months (Since the writing of this article September 2nd 2011) now since the social media giant, Google, launched their ‘Google Plus (Google+) offering. Growing to an astounding 40 million+ users and with the recent addition of Google+ Pages (for businesses, brands, companies, organisations and products) that number is sure to sky-rocket in the weeks and months to come.
So what’s the appeal when there are already so many other networking tools in the marketplace? What exactly are you doing when you click on the +1 button beside the headline in the search results? Does it affect your search engine rankings? How user-friendly is it? Does it reach your expectations as the nest great thing to hit social networking?
Google+ is a multifaceted social media network with a myriad of capabilities, from assisting with search engine rankings, to a constant flow of informative communication posted by Google+ users in a continual stream, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are Chats, Circles, Hangouts, Games, Posts, Stream, Photos and so much more.
The Google+1 Button
Let’s start with the +1 button next to a headline in the search results. When you click this you are giving your personal recommendation to that particular page or site. Your +1 implies it is a valuable or relevant source of information for a particular subject matter. To your friends and contacts who search for the same topic online, this recommendation appears on the search engine results pages (SERPs) with a +1 icon along with your profile picture and the annotation ‘you shared this’.
A +1 commendation can be made on any page of a website so when adding the appropriate code to the internal pages of your website (a process performed by an experienced SEO or web designer) don’t just add to the homepage of a site, but rather to specific pages that best represent you and your products and service. Pages that are informative to others will thus be viewed with positivity and they’ll click on that +1 icon to acknowledge that.
According to Google, by utilising the +1 icon you are in fact able to affect your organic search ranking. Google’s press department state that they’ll ‘study clicks on +1 buttons as a signal that influences the ranking and appearance of websites in search results’. They do however wish to be clear that since this is a new ranking signal they’ll be ‘starting carefully and learning how those signals are related to quality’.
Though now available in some 40 languages, currently the +1 button is not available on mobile search results though viewers will be able to see any +1’s that have been added to web pages. Google+ Mobile is however available on the following mobile devices: Android, Apple iPhone/iPod Touch, Blackberry, Nokia and Windows Mobile via various Apps.
Flow of Focused Information
Whether it’s professionals within a particular field of interest who wish to connect with each-other, or perhaps an avid fan wishing to glean more information on a particular subject, Google plus allows the sharing and spreading of information to either everyone (public postings), or just a few select individuals, chosen by you. You are able to create your own categories (Google calls these Circles) and direct your posts only to certain individuals. For example, you may be a huge music fan and want to connect with Google+ members equally engrossed in the world of music then you could set up categories for bluegrass, county music, jazz, punk, reggae, and swing. Your conversations and communications become more focused about subjects that you are personally interested in, and that others won’t be bored by. You’ll be talking to like-minded individuals and getting fully involved in the conversation.
Recently my partner, Vincent posed a question to a circle of photographers asking for advice on a particular piece of equipment to purchase. Within moments he had received responses from some really talented professional photographers all offering their advice and explanations on why they use the equipment they do. Needless to say he was extremely impressed with both the information that was shared with him and the speed at which he received the responses.
Search and Social Media Integration
Basically, Google+ continues along the lines of Google search with the addition of social interaction and the benefit of being able to have control over who that interaction is with.
Finally, at the beginning of November (2011) after some back and forth, Google released their business profiles feature, Google+ Pages. This would appear to be a huge PLUS for businesses, brands, companies, products and organisations, giving them yet another social media marketing tool to add to their arsenal!
Google say they’re including Google+ pages in search results thus giving businesses yet another avenue from which to receive custom! So, by creating your Google+ Page you’ll be giving your customers a direct link to you enabling them to share their thoughts and ideas with you, get advice from you and hear about the latest and greatest you have to offer. However, note that a page can only add a person (profile) once that person has added their particular page.
There’s Google+ Local Pages too!
The basics of Google+
There is so much going on in Google+ and so here I’ll endeavour to explain a little about the various features this social media networking tool offers, such as Circles, Stream, Posts, and Hangouts. However, if you are in a hurry to get a deeper ‘fix’ of Google+ then let us suggest you take a look at photographer Colby Brown’s take on Google+
Getting Started on Google+
For personal users setting up profiles, after you’ve logged into your Gmail account, along the navigation bar you’ll find the following (from far right to mid-screen)
A little cog to the far right – if you run your mouse over this icon it says ‘options’, click on it and it’ll give you a menu for Google+ settings and help. Click on the Google+ setting button and you’ll be able to make edits to the following categories:
- Account overview
- Profile and privacy
- Data liberation
- Connected accounts
Beside the Google+ setting button is your profile picture, click on this and it’ll give you quick access to:
- Circles (this is the be all and end all, more on this later)
- Account Settings
Next to your ‘profile picture’ is the ‘share’ button, this is the where you’ll go to make all your posts. Just create your post and click share. Within each post you are able to add photos, videos, links and locations by utilising the icon just above the post box.
Beside the ‘share’ button you’ll find the ‘notification box’; this advises you when you’ve received a communication from a google+ member. A red box with a number in it signifies you have that many new notifications. If the box is black then you have no notifications. The notification numbering system only goes as high as 9 so if have received more communications than this it will show up as 9+.
Notifications are sent when:
- You’ve been added to a circle (upon your request) or someone has added you to a circle (to which you’ll respond). Circles are a group of like-minded individuals and can be categorized how you choose – see more on this later.
- You’ve received comments from a post that you either wrote or commented on yourself
- When another member posts an item in which you are mentioned by name
- If someone has +1’d your post (which could be an image, video, link or text)
You are able to disable notifications which I promise you, if you have ever made a comment on a post that receives hundreds of responses, you’ll understand the value of this information.
- Go to Google+Setting menu
- Click Google + icon in LHS menu
- Scroll down to Receive Notifications
- Edit check marks to your personal preferences, i.e. comments on a post after I comment on it.
This same process can be followed a little further down the page to disable notifications on Photos.
Finally, you’ll see your name, if you click on this then you’ll come to the same menu as you did when you click on your profile picture.
The remaining items on the left hand side of the navigation bar are all Google features that can be accessed during your time on Google+.
So now you have a basic view of the Google+ navigation bar all you need to do is get that Google+ profile set up and your ‘circles’ fully loaded
How to Create a Google+ Page
To create your business or company page on Google+ go to: https://plus.google.com , either log in to your personal account, or create a new google+ account.
- Click on the link ‘create a Google+ page’
- Select a category from the list (i.e. local business, product/brand, company, arts, entertainment or sports, other)
- Complete the relevant information
- Click Create
Yes, it’s as simple as that! You’ll want to customize your page, very similar to setting up a personal profile.
Setting up your Google+ Profile
Set up your profile before you do anything else. Click on the box next to the share button, click profile and then edit profile. Here you’ll be able to add personal information you wish to share about yourself, add your profile picture, add your choice of images and videos, and there’s also a list showing all the sites or pages that you’ve personally plus 1’d.
Below your profile picture are details of those in your circles and those who’ve added you to their circles – you can choose to hide this information from others by clicking on the ‘change who is visible here’. Just click on the check mark of those you wish to remove from view.
In the ‘about’ section at the top of the page of your profile a single row of 5 images can be displayed. These are taken from the Scrapbook photo album which can be created in Picasa web albums, so choose your favourite images and these will be displayed until you edit the album. Simple edits to this album can be made using ‘manage albums’ button on Google+.
Also in this section complete all the information you wish people to be able to read about you, this includes: introduction, occupation, employment, education, places lived, etc.
Photos is the location from where you’ll upload any images you wish to share on Google+. Just click on ‘photos’, then ‘upload photos’ and follow the prompts – it’s pretty straight-forward.
Again this is pretty straightforward, just click on the upload video link to upload your video.
This is a list of all the sites and pages you recommend with the plus+ button.
OK, your profile’s set-up and you can start to get to grips with Google+
Begin by searching for those you wish to connect with on Google+, either adding them to an already created ‘circle’ or adding a few of your own, and each person can be added to more than one circle. Soon you’ll be conversing and sharing with fellow Google+’ers all interested in the same things that you are.
Creating Circles – the basis of it all
Circles are basically the categories you assign to each of your friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances who you interact with on Google+. Certainly there are times when you want to alert your entire family about something but don’t want the whole world to know about it. Google+ allows you to do this. Another example would be if you are a fine art artist and you have a specific question relating to art accessories then by directing that post only to those in your fine art circle means you’re going straight to the source and will receive knowledgeable feedback to your enquiry. These circles can be related to business or personal interests and there is no limit to the number of circles one can create.
Only you have access to the names of your Circles, and the contacts within them, and no-one in your Circles will know the name of the Circle that you have designated them to. Also, just because somebody wants you in their Circles, doesn’t mean the feeling has to be mutual – you can choose to ignore a Circles invitation.
It is also possible to edit your visibility on pages (show how many contacts you have in circles, and how many contacts have you in their circles.). Go to your Profile and click on ‘change who is visible here’ link on LHS of page. Edit to your personal preferences and save.
Circles for Chat
The most recent feature unveiled on November 23 is ‘Circles for Chat’. Chat with anyone you have a relationship with on Google+, as well as those you have added via other Google products. To find Chat just go the stream and you’ll find the Chat icon on the lower LHS of the page. You will only see those in your chat list when you are in the stream! Only those you’ve most recently conversed with will appear in your chat list, so if you want to find other contacts then just type their name into the search box at the top of the chat list.
For privacy during your chat sessions there’s an ‘off the record’ option, meaning that conversation won’t be saved (by default, chats are saved). Note that once you’ve set up this particular option, each time you ‘chat’ with that circle, your conversation will be ‘off the record’(until you alter your settings). It may be a good time to mention here that those you are conversing with could be on a company network and thus their system would automatically make copies of all that was said (depending on the content this may or may not be of importance)!
Hangouts are live video chats with friends, co-workers or colleagues, actually anyone that you have a relationship with on Google+, with a limit of 10 people (including yourself) in each Hangout! You create a circle of those you want to include in the Hangout but once the chat has begun anyone in the Hangout can invite another of their contacts, as long as there is a place available.
To start a Hangout:
- Go to Stream
- Click on the Blue start Hangout button
- Set up your camera
- Choose who you wish to Hangout with
- Click Green hangout button and your video broadcast will go live!
There are extra’s you can utilise on a Hangout such as screen sharing, the ability to take notes (on your screen), update existing google documents, and access notes following a Hangout via docs.google.com.
So as you can see, Google have been busy little bees with their updates to Google+ and I’m sure we’ll be seeing many more in the near future.
Of note, also featured in Google+ are Instant Message, YouTube Connect and Games.
One final note here before I sign off, I should mention is that there had been some concern from certain individuals regarding the Google+ Terms of Service – but if you read all the details all what’s being said is that the owner (specifically you) of an image, ‘retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services’. Consider for a moment that you are only uploading images of 72 dpi so how much of a masterpiece can be reproduced from such a low resolution image anyway? Even Getty Images have aired their lack of concern saying that they’re ‘OK with Google+’, following a strict review of the documentation by their legal folk.
So there you have it, Google+ in all her glory!