Because an important part of online marketing is understanding our audiences – or at least who might be out there in the virtual world – here is a quick field guide to some of the personalities I've encountered on G+:
These types of posters are an unfortunate rarity, the diamond in the virtual rough. That's because they build real relationships through genuine dialogue, post content that's actually relevant to your discussion, and even go so far as to share their own thoughts or material from time to time. As a result, these are the men and women who tend to build big audiences and attract followers in a way that many of the other plussers try to imitate.
These are generally people who are new to Google Plus, or exist as profiles being run by bots (the scariest part is that it can be incredibly difficult to tell one from the other until you've encountered a few). They typically don't have any followers besides other newcomers or computer-generated personalities, and are often and unsurprisingly in the real estate, affiliate marketing, and "used SEO sales" professions. If you come across one that sends you a bunch of unsolicited, irrelevant links, don't be afraid to hit the "report post" link immediately.
These are the profiles that look to be genuine (or sometimes not), but exist for the sole purpose of generating views, links, and traffic for someone or something else. They are often easy to spot because they don't have any genuine content or photos on their own profile, but tend to leave remarks on yours that invite you to look elsewhere. Although the feedback they give might not seem like spam at first, it usually turns out to be incredibly promotional in nature. For that reason, their profiles aren't of any value to anyone, not even themselves.
This group consists of folks who love G+ and all the possibilities that it represents. They add new content on a daily basis, participate actively in discussions, and manage to do all the right things at all the right times. The only real drawback to this crowd is that, by nature of their love and devotion to Google Plus, they are prone to become agitated if and when others don't know how to plus quite as well as they do. They don't like new neighbors, and can actually scare new users away. They often forget that they were a newbie once as well.
Although they represent three distinct categories, I'm putting this group together because they all adhere to strict guidelines of social media behavior. Comedians will only post or read anything that's funny, serial quoters pass along content that inspires them (but usually don't generate any of their own), and yes-men just like and plus everything without really contributing. These contacts can be useful for spreading the word, but you don't want them to be the backbone of your efforts because they don't generate any real engagement or insight.
Also known as "well-rounded individuals," this underrated group makes up the surprising majority on Google Plus. Often, they use the site in strange and unprecedented ways, like learning about new topics or investigating potential purchases. They may also take the dramatic steps of connecting with friends and colleagues, or even leaving their computers altogether to spend time with their grateful but unsuspecting families. While they might be harder to pin down, most of us had better do a good job of appealing to this crowd if we want to use G+ to build a truly useful following.
Do people fall into more than one category, depending on the time, their mood, or the relationship they have with you? Absolutely.
The point, however, isn't to catalog every type of Google Plus user, but to get you thinking about two things: first, who you are on the world's fastest-growing social media site, and second, which of these groups you most need to attract and appeal to. It's all good and well to say that you need "a growing list of engaged followers" for your social media marketing plan to work, but which of these audiences is best suited for your messaging and personality? And what are you doing to attract more plusses from the contacts you actually care about?
Hard as it is to remember, when you strip away the hard layer of social media that surrounds all of us, we are real people interacting or networking online. Remember that, and make your communications with others open, honest, and worthwhile.
Do that, and you'll be well on the way to being a great plusser... no matter what kind of plusser you might eventually become.
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