One of the hidden gems within Google+ that a lot of long-time users still aren't aware of is Ripples. It's a powerful feature that is hidden within a drop down menu, so you may not have ever seen or noticed it. We will quickly walk through how to get to and understand Ripples, but more importantly, we're going to dig into some impressive ways to use Ripples to benefit your business, and demonstrate yet again why Google+ is positioned to be your social network of choice.
On any Google+ post, there's a small icon in the upper right corner that reveals the Options Menu for that post. Within that menu you can edit or delete the post, disable comments or lock sharing, and access Ripples. When you click View Ripples, a new tab will open and Google will present you with a visual diagram of how that specific post has been shared.
You will be able to see each time your post was re-shared, as well as instances where someone shared the post directly from your website (if it's a blog post). You can view that individual's name and if you hover over their circle, their Google+ Profile card will come up along with any comments they might have made when they shared that post.
It's important to note that your Google+ notifications or the share indicator on a post will not give you the most accurate picture. Only Ripples includes instances where a post was shared directly from your blog, or instances where someone shared your post and some of their followers shared it again, creating ripples across the network.
Each time you re-share a post yourself to a specific community, that shows up as a new ripple on the diagram.
Popular posts are going to result in dense ripple diagrams, so Google incorporated a couple of features to make that workable.
First, all shares are listed down the right column, along with the comments they wrote, so you can scan those at any time if you wish. Second, you can zoom in and out of the diagram and drag the diagram around, allowing you to focus on the specific shares and posts you want to see.
Note that only publicly shared posts will be visible, and so you'll also only see names of individuals who shared the post publicly. You can view ripples on other people's posts as well!
When someone shares your post and their share gets re-shared by their followers, their circle within your diagram appears larger, allowing you to quickly identify the more influential sharers.
Below the diagram is a real-time tool for watching how your post spread, as well as some interesting statistics. Because your mouse scroll affects the zoom of the diagram, you may need to mouseover the right sidebar before scrolling, or use your browser's scroll bar. If you click on the real-time play button, you can watch as each share occurred.
Now that you know how to get to your Ripples, let's explore some of the business uses for Ripples and information you can gain.
Do you have customers, fans, that just love you and your brand? if you don't, or aren't sure, Google+ Ripples can help you identify them. These are the people that read every word you write and automatically respond positively. Ken Blanchard refers to this type of customer as a "Raving Fan." And on social media, they're invaluable because of the social signals they produce for you. They're often the first ones to Likeor +1 or share your posts. These are important people to identify so that you can thank them and make sure that you're supporting them. Simply check your Ripples regularly and make note of the people who are constantly sharing your posts.
Similarly, you can use Ripples to help identify influencers who are sharing your posts. You could certainly make an argument that brand ambassadors are influencers, but in this case I'm making a distinction between customers and other people in your industry who are respected. Thought leaders. The kinds of people whom you might look to model and emulate.
Typically, you are more likely to be the one sharing their posts and content, but most businesses would benefit from identifying who the influencers are in their industry and nurturing a relationship with them. I recommend that you first look for and circle such influencers on Google+ and perhaps create one or more circles specifically for these influencers. You can then occasionally share content specifically with them and ask them politely if they would be willing to share it. Using Ripples, you'll be able to tell when and if one of these individuals does share a post, and the impact that share had.
Currently, Google+ offers very little in the way of internal statistics and measurement. At least Facebook has Facebook Insights. Particularly for marketing agencies or departments who need to provide reporting to brand leadership, Google+ Ripples can provide meaningful data to a Google+ performance report.
For instance, a monthly report might include improvements in Google+ Page +1's and followers, how many posts were created, discussions and comments started, and then include Ripple diagrams for that month's key posts demonstrating vitality of activity and visualizations of brand engagement.
if you track your posts and their engagement, over time, you can begin to draw some conclusions as to what style and topic are resonating with your Google+ followers.
Google has stated that Ripples is an experiment, so changes can surely be expected in the future.
Have you ever used Ripples to analyze your Google+ activity? Have you been able to identify any brand ambassadors or influencers?
Image courtesy of Bearseye, Flickr.