In early July Google+ rolled out the most significant change to it’s signature +1 since it was introduced over two years ago. Now “plussing” a post on Google+ can result in it becoming a “recommended” post that might be shown to selected people who follow you on the network.
As you can see in the above screen capture, the recommended post appears with a notice of the person in your circles who +1′ed it.
Previous to this the +1 button had a very limited application on Google+. While out on regular web sites the +1 could generate a share into Google+, inside Google+ a +1 had little or not visible effect. Instead, Google+ users used it as a kind of quick “thumbs up” on someone’s post or comment. It was a way of saying “I agree” or “Good job” or “Thanks” without leaving a comment or generating a re-share of a post.
But now clicking the +1 button on any Google+ post is seen as a recommendation of that post, and may be shown as such to some of one’s followers.
Who Sees Your +1 Recommended Posts
There are several important things to understand about what clicking +1 on a post now does (and doesn’t do):
- The default setting for recommended posts is that they can appear for “anyone in your Extended Circles who also has you in a circle.” What does that mean? In Google+, Extended Circles are anyone you have in a circle plus the people they have in circles. For recommended posts, there is the added qualification that they must also have y0u in a circle (i.e., be following you). So there must be a two-way relationship for recommended posts to appear. Whether the person is a “friend” or a “friend of a friend,” they must also have followed me in order to see my recommended posts.
- Not everything you +1 necessarily becomes a recommended post.
- Only selected posts you recommend are seen by your followers, and no two followers probably see exactly the same ones. Who sees what is controlled algorithmically. In other words, Google+ uses some formula to determine who in your following might most benefit from seeing which of your recommended posts.
Controlling Recommended Posts
You cannot, at this time, keep recommended post from being shown in your stream. However, they only appear in your (default) home stream, so if you spend most of your time browsing in your circles, you will seldom see them.
You can control whether your +1 recommendations are broadcast to anyone, and how broadly. To change the default (Extended Circles) setting, go to the Settings tab and scroll down to “Apps & Activities” section.
Click on “Manage apps & activities, and switch to the “Google” tab on the page that loads. Here you can change to whom your Google +1 recommendations are visible by clicking “edit’ under “visible to.”
We have already defined the default setting of Extended Circles. Here is what the other settings mean:
- Public: Your +1 recommendations may be seen by anyone who has you in a circle, whether or not you have them circled (or someone you circle has them circled [Extended Circles])
- Your Circles: People who have you circled who are also in any of the circles in your Your Circles setting. By default, Your Circles includes all you circles except “Following.” In your settings you can customize and make Your Circles any grouping of your circles you want.
- Only You: This is the complete privacy lockdown setting. Your +1 recommendation can be seen by no one else, only you on your Activity Log (see below). Essentially, this allows you to use +1 as you might have before, without ever creating any recommended posts.
- Custom: This setting allows you to create a custom grouping of any of your circles, which can be different from your Your Circles grouping.
New Activity Log: Another new feature is the ability now to see a log of every post you have given a +1 on Google+. Previously you could only see external web sites that you had plussed, on the +1 tab of your profile. You can view each post in the log by clicking on its “a post by….” link, and you can delete any +1′s you’ve given by hovering your mouse to the right of the post and clicking the X that appears.
In my experience, the Google+ community has generally been much more welcoming to changes to the platform than, say, your average Facebook user is to that networks many permutations. But a mini-fire storm erupted amongst a group of influential users when the change to +1 was announced. I’ll try to summarize the most-voiced objections here:
- People +1 frequently, and this will cause spamming of many people’s streams as they are inundated by lots of posts they wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
- The update fundamentally changes and destroys a beloved social gesture on Google+. Plussing a post or comment had become a quick and light way of saying “good job” or “I agree!” Of course, this can still be done on comments with no change in effect.
- +1 recommendations can end up resurfacing posts from people that one had previously blocked. (Of course, someone sharing their posts could do the same thing, even before this change.)
While some users seem to feel very strongly against this change (I know of at least one early adopter who quit Google+ because of it), my impression is that the protesting was ultimately confined to a very vocal but relatively small portion of Google+ active users. It is likely that the vast majority of users aren’t even aware of the change.
Plusses of the New Plus One
What are some positives or benefits of the new +1 recommended posts?
- The biggest and most obvious benefit is increased exposure of one’s content to a wider audience. Since people are more likely to +1 a post than to share it, the new recommendations will send a wider variety of posts into the stream of other users. This was most likely Google’s main intention in implementing this change. Many have speculated that it is primarily targeted to get more content into the streams of newer users faster. One of the common objections of new people who try out Google+ is that nothing happens in their streams, leading them to the “ghost town” conclusion. Users who are seeing interesting content more quickly are more likely to stay and engage.
- A clever addition to the recommended posts seems likely to increase the number of connected relationships on Google+, and thereby give more people more followers more quickly. If the post recommended by a friend happens to be from someone the viewer does not yet follow, Google+ adds a convenient “Add [name]” button to the post, inviting the reader to add them to a circle to see more of their content.
Since the new +1 recommendations went into effect, I and many active users I have asked have noticed a slight increase in our daily average new follower growth (as measured at CircleCount). While we can’t prove it, we think it is likely traceable to our content being shown to more users than before, and the call to action of the new “Add” button on those posts.
+1 Recommendation Strategies
So how can you make use of the new +1 recommended posts in your Google+ marketing strategies?
My first tip would be to be more careful and selective about what you +1 on Google+. You should think of a +1 for a post as now lying somewhere between a mere “great post!” comment and a re-share. Obviously a re-share is still the highest recommendation you can give a post, since it is potentially seen by anyone who circles you, or even anyone on the web via search (if you shared it to Public). The +1 on the other hand doesn’t guarantee that anyone will see it, but it is always possible that anything you +1 will show up as recommended by you in at least some of your followers streams.
There is nothing you can do, on the other hand, to “force” recommendations of your own posts, since that’s a voluntary action on the part of your followers. Obviously, the more interesting and useful your posts are, the more likely they are to be plussed and thus show up more frequently as recommended posts in new people’s streams.
There is one thing you could try, although I would approach it with caution and test to see how your followers respond. You could create posts that actively encourage readers to hit the +1 button. For example, you could post an opinion and say, “If you agree, +1 this.” Or a beautiful or funny photo and say, “If you agree this is beautiful (or funny) hit +1.” The reason I say do this with caution is some Google+ users may see that as “Facebook behavior,” and there are few things rabid Plus fans despise more than Facebook behavior!
Have you noticed recommended posts in your stream? How do you feel about the change? Do you think it will increase overall engagement and user connections on Google+?