Google+ is the newest of major social networks to enter the social scene. Google+ is Google's answer to creating a more social search engine. In just under a year Google has grown Google+ to over 120 million registered members making it one of the fastest growing websites ever to hit the internet. I get a lot of questions as to why I prefer Google+ to the likes facebook, twitter, and linkedin as well as a lot of questions from new Google+ users about how to get started making the most out of Google+. This post is going answer all those questions and more. To put it bluntly, I prefer Google+ because the free traffic that is derived from Google+ is unmatched by any social network and the level of interaction and conversation is equally unmatched.
Google took a somewhat different approach to social connections when they created Google+. They decided to merge and build upon the concept of Facebook friends and the concept of Twitter followers. The outcome is what Google has called Google+ circles. The first thing you need to know when dealing with circles on the Google+ social network is that there are three types of circles – there is the public circle, there are your extended circles, and there are your private circles.
Posting to Private Circles
Google handles private circles very differently than that of public circles. When you share content to a private circle only the people you have in that circle can see the content you have shared. This is typically only useful if the people in the circle also have you circled back. If you are sharing content with a private circle and none of the people in that circle have you circled back, the only way they will see what you posted is if they visit your profile page.There are quiet a few useful reasons to post to private circles. First of all, if you create a circle just for your family members, that means you can share posts intended only for family with your family and the internet at large can’t see those posts. However more often than not I see people use these circle to organize content they post. This is done by making a public post about your private circles.Let me give you a real world example to help you understand. Lets say you are a housekeeper and you actively give away house keeping tips, but you also are a huge nascar fan. Now you know most people following you want your housekeeping tips and have no interest in nascar. So you make a post to your public circle that says “I have created a circle called Nascar. If you want to receive my posts about Nascar let me know and I will add you to that circle.”.
Now anyone that responds can be added to your nascar circle and you can make posts specifically to that circle and no one else who follows you will see those posts.
The truth is all this business of circles sounds very confusing but its actually really simple to understand. The biggest piece of advice I have for anyone getting started is NEVER add more than 100 people to a circle. It makes managing your circles very difficult later on if you don’t heed this warning.
Now as I said when I first started explaining circles, Google actually merged both facebook friends and twitter followers with circles. The reason I say this is because circles allow you to follow anyone having to negotiate a “friend request” much in the same way that twitter works. At the same time however Google+ allows you to control who can view the content you share much in the same way you can with facebook friend lists.
Google+ Text Formatting
Understanding how circles work, is only the tip of the iceberg with Google+. Circles are just one of the many features that set Google+ apart from other social networks. Two other great features that Google+ offers that the other major social networks don’t are that of unlimited post size and that of text formatting.
In fact these two features are the very features that have caused many to use Google+ as a blogging platform – something I do not advice people do for various reasons I am not going to get into on this post. Currently the text formatting option on Google+ are limited to bold, italics, and strike through text.
Google+ doesn’t offer text formatting via html however. They have instead used a custom method for formatting text.
- *Bold text*
- _Italic text_
- –Strike-through text–
The above examples show exactly how to achieve each type of formatting. To create both text for example, you surround the text you want to appear in bold with a *. Note there can’t be any spaces between the words you want to appear in bold. So *bold text* works fine, however *bold text * will not work nor will * bold text* or * bold text * – basically put spacing matters.
Equally the same rules apply to Italic text which is any text surrounded with the underscore (_). So in this example _Italic text_ will work but not any other variation. And the same also holds true for –Strike-through text– which is just text surrounded with a hyphen (-).
Now although text formatting is very simple on Google+ there are a few different combinations that can be used to enhance things even further. The walk-through video I have included below shows various combinations that can be used and how exactly they are achieved.
Text Formatting Walkthrough
After you have a solid grasp of how to connect with people using circles, and after you understand how to use text formatting to make visually appealing posts, the next thing you need to know about the Google+ social network is how to track your posts. If you have ever used twitter or facebook, the concept of sharing someone elses post or of retweeting a tweet is probably familiar with you. Well Google+ also has the ability to share other peoples content, and not only can you share other peoples content, but you can track all the people who share your content.
This is a feature that to my knowledge is completely original of Google+. The feature is known as Google+ ripples. Google came up with the name Ripples from the term ripple effect which is defined as a continuing and spreading results of an event or action.
Google+ uses an interactive diagram to show the ripple effect of any given post you make. To put it more simply, they show you everyone from your circles who shared a post, and then it shows you each person that again shared one of the shares of your posts and so on. Let me give you a simple example to help explain because this is an extremely robust feature that is unique to the Google+ social network.
If Tom makes a post, and Suzy decides to share Tom’s post, Tom can view his ripples to see that Suzy shared the post. Now if Johnny doesn’t follow Tom but does follow Suzy and he likes the post she shared and decides to share it for himself, Tom can see that Suzy shared his post, and Johnny shared he post. Now if Scott follows Johnny but not Suzy or Tom, and Scoot also shares the post, Tom can now see Suzy originally shared his post, then Tom shared the post from Suzy, then Scott shared the post from Tom. Now even though Tom doesn’t follow Scott or Johnny, he can now see exactly who shared his post and where where they shared it.
This is an extremely powerful tool for finding out who has the most influence out of all the people who have you circled.
Free Traffic from Google+ Notifications
I left the topic of Google+ notifications out until this point because you really need a solid grasp of both circles and ripples to fully get the most out of notifications. In my opinion, this is the most overlooked, yet simple option available on Google+ for driving free traffic to a website. A notification is nothing more or less than Google notifying you that something has happened you should take notice of.
Typically you will get notifications whenever someone shares one of your posts, when someone +1’s one of your posts, when someone comments on one of your posts, when someone posts a followup comment on a post you have commented on, when someone makes mention of your name in a post and/or when someone new follows you. Notifications however, have a lesser known use of being able to notify everyone you circle of a post you have made and this is what makes Google+ so great at driving free traffic.
The way it works is simple. After you create a post, add the circles you wish to notify. You can not send out more than 100 notifications at a time so you want to be sure you don’t have more than 100 people in any circle. After you added the circle you wish to notify, put your mouse over the circle and a small popup appears with a checkbox saying “notify”. If you click that checkbox all the people from that circle will receive a notice about your post. I have included a screenshot to show you exactly what I am referring to.
Now if you have been following along with this article, then you already know how to find the best people to add to a notifications list. Its the people who have the greatest influence on Google+ as shown to you from the ripples of other posts. However those are not the only people you can notify. One of the main reasons I stress keeping circles under 100 users is because of notifications and the way I use them.
What I do is every time I make a new post on this website, I send out notifications to ALL my circles. Since I can only send out notification to 100 people at a time, I copy and paste my post text and link to my latest post and I send privately to each circle, and I use the notify option. This usually means I am making the same post over and over and over again, however thats okay because ONLY the people in the circle I am notifying can see the post anyways. After I have notified each of my circles, then I make the post public so others can reshare.
Because I notify EVERY SINGLE circle I have and I don’t like to be considered a spammer, I add a statement to the bottom of all my notifications that says: If you do not like to be notified about my website updates, please leave a comment on this post asking to be removed and I will add you to a circle I do not notify. Whenever someone asks to be removed, I add them specifically to a circle I titled “do not notify” and I remove them from all other circles.
I also have a circle I have titled “send notifications”. This is a circle I created for those people I don’t actually circle back. The way I use this circle is I make a public announcement from time to time saying If you wish to receive updates about my blog directly to your google+ notifications, please let me know and I will add you to my notification circle.
Now because I have no real interest in following the people who reply, I also mute that circle from ever appearing in my public stream. To mute the circle simply visit the circle from your main stream, and look for a slider bar to the right of the circle. Slide the slider bar all the way to the left side and none of the posts from that circle will appear in your stream. The screenshot below shows exactly what I mean.
Google+ Hangouts are the last important aspect you need to know about in order to get free traffic from Google+. Hangouts are quite possibly the most used and talked of Google+ features. Political Candidates have used hangouts to talk to supporters, the president has used them to discuss economic issues with the American people, radio stations have used them to interact with listeners, news networks have used them to host guest appearances, businesses have used them to inform customers about products, and there have been a vast amount of other uses for hangouts.
Hangouts are actually group video chats that allow up to 10 users to chat in video realtime. Unlike other video chats Google doesn’t require you click anyone’s name to view them on camera. Rather whoever is talking (or has the loudest voice if multiple people talk at once), is the person who the camera focuses on.
To truly explain all the uses of Google+ hangouts and how it all works would really require a post in and of itself but I want everyone to be aware they do exist and are a great source for getting free traffic from Google+. The video I have included below should help you get started in understanding and using Google+ hangouts.
Hopefully this little post will encourage you to signup and use Google+ a lot more often. There are still a lot of other features that make Google+ my network of choice, but this is a great guide for beginning. There are tons of other resources all over the internet about various ways to make the most out of the Google+ social network, so my hope is that this post will get you search and reading more about the utilizing this social network for everything from building new connections to helping you achieve SEO in the Google search engine.