Sunday, 20 January 2013

Google+ - not so evil after all?

Just recently I have noticed an increasing number of friends, colleagues and former colleagues asking me about Google+. Usually with a sigh of resignation they say something like: "you'll have to show me how to use Google+" or perhaps: "I've created a Google+ page for X any tips?"

Now this increase could be down to a number of factors:
  • While I was working at Google nobody wanted to talk shop with me, but now I've left they think I'm more likely to tell them "the answer". Please note: there is no answer, not even if you Google it!
  • People are starting to wake up to Google+. They are noticing more people talking about it and more activity on it and they want in.
  • The fear of being left behind is now greater than the fear of wasting time on "another platform"/something new. 
  • People have read the blog post where Google denied killing a donkey with a street view car and they've decided Google isn't evil after all.
Whatever the reason, it has promoted me to put together a blog post (my first in an age). So when the next person asks for Google+ help, I can point them in this direction and save repeating myself.

I suppose I should add a disclaimer to say, these answers are my own thoughts (for what they are worth) and although I recently stopped working at Google, the tips and tricks below are certainly not: "the answer" because, as I've already mentioned, there isn't one.

What is Google+

Google figured out a while ago that what would make search better is social. When you search for "best place for brunch in Covent Garden" it would be great to get back some results from the cool people you know, raving about the Eggs Benedict in a cute little diner just off Long Acre. The problem was, Google didn't have access to this information, and it was not about to ask Mark Zuckerberg for help! And so they set about trying to invent a social layer for search, and Google+ is the latest iteration of that idea. It is not actually intended to be a social platform. It is intended to "socialise" the whole web.

Okay, I get why Google wants us to use Google+, but why should I?

As an individual, there are a few reasons why you might want to use Google+

  • If you already login to use Google, then Google+ will enhance your search experience, by showing you which search results your friends have recommended (+1).
  • If you have friends or colleagues who regularly use Google+ then it is a great way to keep in touch. In particular, hangouts (the free video chat facility, which allows a whole bunch of people to talk and share content) can be a great way to catch up and share.
  • If you are particularly interested in a brand/TV show or celebrity then Google+ can be a great way of keeping up to date with the latest news. Some celebrities and brands are very active and on Google+ and offer exclusive opportunities and content.
  • If you have a niche hobby and would like to meet like minded people. Google+ (obviously) has an excellent search facility, so however weird and wonderful your interests, chances are there is someone on Google+ who shares your passion.
  • If you're interested in photography. Google+ is an excellent way to share photographs and there are a large number of photography groups and galleries to interactive with.

What should my brand be doing on Google+? I'm already busy on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn et al. Why should I use Google+? I set up a page, but I don't see much interaction?

If you are using Google+ on behalf of a big brand, which (crucially) spends money on AdWords, then your AdWords account manager is a great place to start. All of the Google sales people get brownie points for supporting brands on Google+. You may be able to convince them to help filming hangouts for you, setting up pages, attracting followers etc.

Google may also provide one-to-one help if your community/brand interest them/would be of value on Google+. For example, in the UK the Google+ team have spent time helping mums groups, such as the NCT and MumsNet. 

If you can’t get direct support from Google, then their forums are the next best thing:
Google+ itself is a good way to get advice on Google+ - check out:
There are also a whole bunch of case studies that you might find useful:
If you have any comments/questions or top tips of your own, please don't hesitate to add your two-pence worth below.

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