As Google+ has over 300m active users (and growing), I am always keen to learn how I can use the platform more effectively. This week, I was very lucky to catch up with Google+ guru Martin Shervington in a Hangout before his talk at Social Media Marketing World. The downside of a Google Hangout was that I could see he was on the sunny West Coast of the US while I was sitting in the dark in London, but on the positive side I learned a huge amount about how to maximise my use of Google+. Martin also shared his advice for people new to the platform.
Getting to grips with Google+
Martin first joined Google+ in 2011. I was pleased to learn that, like me, he didn't immediately understand all the intricacies of the platform. However, unlike me, in 2012 Martin decided to spend a number of days learning about the platform and started writing copious notes, including the tools he used, the best extensions, and the best tips he picked up from others. Luckily for me and everyone else on Google+, Martin openly and actively shared all his knowledge. Martin's Google+ videos have had over half a million views and over 300,000 people have circled Martin on Google+.
Martin says once he understood that Google+ was a social layer within a much bigger ecosystem, he was blown away by the possibilities. The fact that it combines Google, the world's largest search engine, with YouTube, the second largest search engine, and also the full range of Google products and services, makes it much more than a social network.
I think Martin is one of the first people who fully grasped the power of Google+ as part of a much bigger ecosystem and the increasing importance of social signals in areas such as search, authorship and authority. You can read more on the search benefits of Google+ in my article on Ten ways Google+ will improve your SEO.
The power of Google+ circles
Martin uses circles in a sophisticated way for campaign building which highlights the potential for amplifying content on Google+. He believes strongly in seeding content with an opt in list of people in a circle. As an example he asked people to share what Chrome extensions they used to put together a helpful list for people. He built a circle of those that participated and then notified them when he published his post and shared it with them, which they then also shared and amplified.
Martin demonstrated the power of this approach with his #PlustheZuck experiment last month. He started again with an opt in list of 200 people which he put into a circle and then published a post asking them to circle Mark Zuckerberg. This post was shared by people in the circle, see the image from Google Ripples below.
Within an hour #PlustheZuck was trending at number one on Google+. This was followed by a further post that got 2,900 people involved, and 1,590 people took action increasing the number of Mark Zuckerberg's followers. You can read more in Martin's PlusTheZuck case study.
The #PlustheZuck campaign was tracked by one of Martin's favorite tools Nod3x. NOD3x is a real-time social network analysis and data mining application that is free to the Google+ community. You can see the full details of how Nod3x tracked the campaign.
How Martin uses tools with Google+
I was really interested to learn more about how Martin manages the sheer range and volume of work he undertakes on Google+. These are the tools that Martin uses and how he uses them.
Martin uses Buffer as the mechanism to create and distribute content to his Google+ pages. Buffer is a go-to tool for many to manage their social media activity both for ease of use and its detailed analytics. Just a note that you can't distribute to a Google profile using Buffer or similar tools.
Martin then uses Friends+Me to distribute his his Google+ posts to LinkedIn and Facebook. Friends+Me allows you to share your Google+ posts to other social sites including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Martin chooses to manually create his posts for Twitter rather than automate these via Google+ as they are crafted differently to his Google+ posts which are specifically designed for that platform.
Martin uses CircleCount to get a good understanding of who has shared him in circles, to get insights into communities and to get updates on what is happening more generally. You can read my previous review of CircleCount in the SMToolbox outlining its core features and how they can help you be more effective on Google+. http://socialmediatoday.com/SMToolbox/google-plus-circlecount-be-more-effective
Martin uses Circloscope to review information and gain insights on people in his circles. Using Circloscope he can find and uncircle dormant accounts, and also to get data on who has been engaging with him. Circloscope is a powerful tool for analyzing your circles and filtering people. For example you can filter users in your circles who haven't been active for a specified period of time, who don't circle you back or who engage with you. You can filter down to locations such as cities. Circloscope then allows you to manage your circles by for example by automatically uncircling people who haven't made a post for say the last two months.
Martin also makes extensive use of Google tools such as Ripples within Google+, which provides a great visual representation of how content is shared as we can see above in the #plusthezuck example. Ripples also allows you to test content that resonates with your network. Martin makes extensive use of Google Drive and Docs which has transformed collaborative working, this post was written on Google Docs. Martin also uses other extensions such as Checker Plus and Winestamp.
Martin's Top Tips
Martin's advice is that before you get started on Google+ you decide clearly what it is you want to do, for example:
build your personal profile - build trust, reputation and authority
develop and promote a brand page
Your objectives will determine the appropriate strategy to follow and the tools to use. Martin's top tips for getting started on Google+ are as follows:
Settle in for a month before you try to push your own content. Spend time looking around, engaging with people and building relationships. Set up and start to include people in your circles.
Set up your profile with new pictures including a nice headshot image and tag it. Don't create a Google+ page initially, start with your profile where you can post and share.
In your profile update the sites linked to you such as your blog and claim your Google authorship by listing the sites you contribute to and including the rel author tag back on your own sites. See more on how to set up authorship https://plus.google.com/authorship
Develop a list of influencers in your area. Plus one their content and more importantly reshare their content that is relevant to your audience. I like the way Martin described it as a shop, you don't want to start by only stocking your own products, share content from a range of authoritative sources. Google+ is a great platform for content curation.
The more you socially interact with people and the more you share, the more you will be respected. Develop your relationships and collaborate informally, be helpful and willing to share.
Only after you have done the above should you post content that is relevant for your networks. Do make sure it is high quality and helpful content as no one wants to read lots of sales material.
Use Google Hangouts. They are great for building relationships, also interview people via a Hangout as I did with Martin for this article. Martin gave me many examples of how you can use Google drive and docs together with Hangouts to create a powerful collaborative working environment.
I hope this artilce has inspired you to look again at Google+. If it has and you want to learn more your best starting point is Martin's PlusYourBusiness Quick Starter kit. This kit has a mass of helpful videos and PDFs to improve your performance on Google+. You can also follow Martin Shervington on Google+.
Column logo by Marie Otsuka