Recently, I set out to attract more Google+ visitors. I did not succeed too well - in fact, I actually ended up making more headway on Instagram AND the elusive Facebook - but I thought my failures could serve as a lesson of what NOT to do when engaging on Google+.
So here is a list of the top 7 mistakes for engaging on Google+, and what you can do instead.
Mistake #1: Treating Google+ Like Facebook
This is one of the biggest problems I think people have when thinking about how to use Google+ - myself included.
These two systems are different and work uniquely so you must not mistake one for the other! Facebook connects you to EVERYONE. If you are looking for people with similar interests, you can hunt down a group, but you can just easily find friends you went to high school with. I think of Facebook more as a place to hangout, meet new acquaintances and develop an interest out of that already existing relationship. Facebook is more like a party or mixer, in my opinion, and I honestly use it that way, connecting with friends and family. On the other hand, G+ is highly targeted, making it valuable for niched blogs. You are actually developing targeted relationships, rather than "everyone." On G+, it's far easier to create a circle that is comprised of your tribe and promote relevant articles to that group only. You can also join public communities that target your niche, but if you do, please participate and respect any rules that have been set up for participating.
Mistake #2: Trying to Earn Followers Through Contests
If you are hosting a contest or joining in one, G+ is NOT allowed as an entry or platform by their Terms of Service. See G+ Contests & Promotions Polices:
"You may not run contests, sweepstakes, or other such promotions ("Promotion") directly on Google+ or in a manner that requires use of G+ features or functionality, except by pre-approved means."
So, you are forbidden from gaining followers through a contest.
There are a lot of other slippery G+ rules regarding giveaways as well. The blog at Rafflecopter has a complete article from 2012 explaining the pitfalls of giveaways on Google+. Long story short: this is a cheat to get followers and Google is trying to prevent such techniques, keeping G+ as a way to build real relationships.
Mistake #3: Not Creating Circles - or Not Using Them
Google+ gives you this great ability to create a targeted circle that lets you follow - and promote to - members that are in that circle only, rather than to everyone.
Of course, you can do this in Facebook by posting to a group or your followers or specific friends, but G+ lets you drill down your target to a select, creating a more personal connection. In practice, of the many Facebook groups I am in, only about two actually respond to my more highly targeted content. Meanwhile, in Google+, the people who add you to their circles and send posts to that circle are interested in your niche, and their posts will show up in your G+ notifications. This lets you directly know someone has connected you with your content, and it's a breeze to add a comment or a "+1" to reciprocate, and easy to relevant content if the user is in your circle. On the down side, interpersonal dynamic requires more time and thought to maintain and build a relationship, as well as who is in your circle. This leads me to the next problem...
Mistake #5: Just "Promoting" on G+ Rather than Really Engaging
In many ways, Facebook (even now), Twitter, Pinterest and even Instagram can be a numbers game: I follow you, you follow me, or, just sign up and follow me for an entry or some other incentive. Share enough and something will catch, stick or hit, and people will respond or share.
As mentioned, G+ should not be used in this way - if you do, you really won't get any traction. It's less of a numbers game and more of a relationship-building tool. Get involved with others on G+ who match your niche and share, +1 and comment on their stuff - a lot. You'll get return on that, if your content matches their niche and target, and is compelling. The theory is that simple, but in practice, again, we are talking about time commitment toward building a relationship.
And one more thing. Don't just share what you share on Facebook - or other outlets.
If you want to share all your blog posts on G+, that's fine, but take a new angle, or show a different image. Making your posts unique to your G+ stream will make the next item a technique that works well.
Mistake #6: Not Embedding Posts on Your Blog
G+ gives you the power to embed a post on your site. What's the benefit of doing this?
First of all, your audience can follow, comment and plus one items without ever leaving your blog. Secondly, you can take an older post from G+ and resurrect by inserting it into a new blog post. Finally, you can also share the posts of other friends and spread good will among your community. Take care, you'll need to paste the top part of the embed code into your header or footer so if you're not savvy with these files, have your web designer do this for you.
Mistake #7: Always Uploading Images with Your Post, Rather than Naturally Loading
Along the way I had read that you should upload an image with your post (around 800 pixels wide), open with an engaging line about your post, add the link and add hashtags. However, at a recent webinar, I learned that for your Google+ usage to give you juice with SEO, you need to put in the direct link to your blog at least some of the time.
This gets my head spinning. I guess the lesson here, though, is that just like Facebook, there is no "one size fits all" to G+. Adding images is more engaging, but can be confusing as new G+ users might expect to end up on the page once they click.
Must-Do's for G+
Now that we've got through the "don'ts", there are a few things you can and should do to set up the groundwork for successful Google+ engagement.
1. Have your Google Authorship set up. It's a must and it integrates everything in your Google+ window.
2. Use relevant keywords. While I advocate using keywords in all social media, remember that this is a GOOGLE product, so don't ever post without them. They work. And yes, you can go can go ahead and just line them up in a row.
3. A brief intro about your post is good form too. See my example here.
4. Google+ loves images! Hopefully, you're creating pinnable images by now, so these work lovely in this medium. Be sure to use the recommended sizes for all your images. A good idea is to share a larger size image. According to Google, the size in pixels should be:
- Cover images is recommended to be 1080×608. Minimum size is 480 x 270, and max is 2120 x 1192.
- Shared link image: 150×150.
- Shared image or video: 479wide. Images are 373px high, and videos are 279px high.
- Maximum size of uploaded: 2048×2048
- Feed size: 360×360
I often share images sized between 600 and 800 pixels wide and that works just fine.
If you don't go the full length, an image like this is adapted very nicely for your cover image.
Google+ Is Different
To conclude, your Google+ strategy is going to be different from other social mediums but just as vital - if not more, thanks to SEO. Create a plan to regularly engage and set your target a little lower in terms of numbers, focusing on relationships over numbers.
Remember, as always, to grab your G+ follow link directly on your blog for others to follow.