My worlds are finally colliding. This week, as I prepared to write this post, one of my local friends and Facebook contacts asked a question about Google+. Specifically, she wondered if the platform was worth her time as a homeschool podcaster since she noticed a lot of active groups in her niche.
I answered with a resounding yes! And I’m willing to bet there are more dyed in the wool Facebook users just like her that will be making the switch over to Google Plus in the coming months. As marketers, we need to be prepared to write for and engage users on this social platform.
Writing for Google Plus – What’s Different?
When it comes to features Google+ has the basics that you’d expect from any social network with a few added perks. Although there’s a lot attention paid to Hangouts, there are some writing specific features that make writing for the Google Plus audience a unique experience.
At its launch, Google Plus claimed that it could house unlimited length updates (although testing has shown that it tops out somewhere around 100,000 words). But even still, that’s a lot of space to play with. Rather being limited to just 140 characters, Google+ allows you to write full length posts or even portions of white papers. This opens up your options for post length and variety. For the record, in response to Google+’s post lengths, Facebook also increased its post limit to around 65,000 words late last year.
With that many words to work with, you need some formatting to break up the content into bite-sized chunks. Fortunately, Google+ has got you covered in this department as well. There’s a whole host of formatting features to make your updates pop.
- To make a word bold, place an asterisk on both sides of it. *I am a bold* becomes I am bold.
- To make a word italicized, place an underscore on both sides of it. _I am italicized becomes I am italicized.
- To strikethrough a word, surround it like hyphens. –I am struck through- becomes I am struck through.
Bullets can also help break up text. To create bullet points you can press Alt + 7 on you keyboard to create a black dot, or Alt + 9 to create a white circle dot. In fact, any of the special ALT codes on this list can be used when you create your Google+ updates.
This isn’t a writing feature exactly, but it does affect the way that you write on Google+ and your level of engagement. Facebook has groups and Twitter has lists but neither of them compare to the power of circles. With circles you control who sees what, so you can control which messages are going to which individuals. The segmentation is all in your hands so you can get really specific with your sharing and writing.
Curating and sharing content to specific circles is a given. But you can also reshare the same content to several circles and change the message up a bit. For example, when I’m sharing a new blog post from my Windmill Column, I might share it to my marketing circles with a more professional intro. With my “Biz Friends” circle, I’d be more casual and post a “Hey – check out my latest post.”
Search Engine Terms
Finally, your writing on Google Plus can help you engage search engine audiences. Ranking for search terms in your Google+ posts can sometimes be a lot easier than on your website or current blog. That’s why it’s important to work with a short list of keywords and integrate them into your posts frequently – without being too much of a keyword spammer.
Now it’s time to get advanced.
Getting active on Google+ is an advanced marketing move to begin with. It’s not just a social network – it’s a social layer on the entire online experience. So what constitutes an “advanced” approach to Google Plus writing? The basic mechanics of Google Plus are what sets it apart from other social media platforms. But it’s what you do with those basic tools and best practices that can improve your results. Whether you’re looking for engagement, exposure or website traffic – these advanced Google+ content tips can help.
Use Google Plus as a Blog Platform
With the potential to host big posts, it’s only natural that some users have tried to use Google+ as a replacement for their blog.
“I’ve been using Google Plus as my blog since July 2011, and I can highly recommend that to all. The engagement beats everything you have ever seen. I have never ever been near as many comments on any “normal” blog as I get on Google+. I have over 40,000 followers that can be compared to around 1000 RSS subscribers I had at the most on any of my old blogs. That’s not even close. I think I have around 30 comments on my posts at average. At least it feels so. When using “normal” blogs I was happy if I got one…” – Stefan Svartling
Blogging on Google+ can open up your social media writing to a wider audience than you’d see on your business blog. Does this mean you should abandon blogging on your website? Not necessarily – but you can start to use Google Plus as a strategic blogging tool for more exposure and more search results.
Here are three ideas to use:
The Snippet Method
Post a long snippet of your current blog post on G+ and then link back to the original post. While most people post just a few sentences and a link, you’ll be providing fodder for a conversation right there. I know I always stop and take notice when there’s a paragraph of text on the normally image-heavy platform – and your circle members will too. Pick your biggest point or juiciest tidbit from your entire article and post it on Google+ the next time you publish a blog.
The Maximizer Method
This method – explained recently in a CopyBlogger post – uses Google Plus as a way to maximize blog traffic and engage the audience on Google+ at the same time. Instead of posting a blog post first and then sharing it on Google+, this starts by posting directly to Google Plus. Start by creating a short, targeted post directly on G+ and then gather comments from your circles. For example, you could create a simple list post and just share the main headings of each point. Use the discussion to create a longer post on your blog, and then edit your original Google Plus post to link to your new blog post. Flesh out each point on your list in your blog – and be sure to thank your circle members for contributing to the process.
The Launch Pad Method
Do you have a great spark for a blog post but need more info to pull it together? Try using Google Plus as a launch pad for your blog post. Post a question and spark a conversation. Then use the replies (with attribution!) as part of your blog post. You can also keep your eyes open for great conversations to join, and then use those to create new blog posts.
Ask the People
Speaking of posting a question, you can add polls to your Google Plus page to get more formal feedback from circles. There are several ways to add polls, but one of my favorite G+ tools has a great polls feature.
DoShare is the only tool I’ve found that supports scheduled posts on Google Plus (if you have another favorite, share it in the comments). In addition to scheduling future updates for G+, you can use it to create polls to:
- Gauge your audience’s interest in a topic.
- Figure out what product or resource to create next.
- Get feedback on your latest product or service.
To add a poll to DoShare, open the tool and then click on the checkbox in the message creation field. It will pre-set three different poll options, and you can always add more.
Add a title, your question and then your response options and share directly to Google Plus. You’ll be able to see the answer tallies in real time.
By blogging directly on Google Plus, using Google+ as a tool for blog ideas and polling your circles, you can make an impact with your G+ writing.
Which method are you going to try first?
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