Google Plus Strategy for Networking: Creating and growing the influence of your Google Plus network, which is more powerful than you know.
I don’t think anything I’ve ever written online has received as much attention as last month’s “Your Google Plus Network Is More Powerful Than You Know” on this blog. So many people have told me that the post opened their eyes for the first time to why Google+ is not “just another social network.”
In that post I gave you some basic starter strategies for building a Google+ network that can expand your reach and build your influence, not only within Google+ itself, but perhaps even more importantly in Google Search. This month I want to build on that and give you some more advanced strategies for creating and growing the influence of that network. Be sure you read and heed my previous post first!
The strategies I’m going to recommend this month are for those ready to go to the next level in building an influential Google+ network. You do not need to do all of them, but the more of them you implement the faster and farther your reach will grow.
1. Use Circles to Track Influentials
When Google+ first began, like a lot of other users I tried to use Circles to segment people I was following by topics. Before long I realized that such a tactic had limited utility. People are people (there’s your take-home of the day!). Joe may be a great cycling blogger, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to post about bicycles all the time. He will probably post about other interests as well, or even an occasional dreaded cat meme photo!
When Google+ introduced Communities I no longer felt the pressure to circle people by topics. Instead I now join and participate in the Communities where I know the experts I trust are congregating. That leaves my Circles free for other purposes.
I have now rearranged my Circles to line up with the positions on the Google+ Circle slider. The slider lets you fine tune the default view on your home page, which otherwise displays all posts from everyone you have Circled. You’ll see the slider at upper right when you select any of the circle tabs at the top of your home page.
From left to right, the slider positions are:
- Show no posts from this circle
- Show some posts
- Show most posts
- Show all posts
- Send a notification of posts
So now I have as my top circles: Notify Me, All Posts, Most Posts, Some Posts. I then arrange the people and pages I follow into one of those four circles, according to how important they are to me in my network. So Notify Me is the circle for those people whose posts I never want to miss. With the slider all the way to the right on that circle, I’ll get a notification (in the Google+ bar and/or my email, according to my settings) every time anyone in that circle posts on Google+. Obviously I want to place only my most important contacts in that circle or I’ll be overwhelmed with notification.
Now here’s the *building an influential network* tip: As you learn who on Google+ is most important for you, put those people in either the Notifications or All Posts circle. That way you’ll be more likely to see any of their content to which you can add a meaningful comment. And they’ll keep seeing your name connected with your expertise and helpfulness. After a while they are likely to circle you back, and even start engaging with your content and recommending you to others.
2. Use Plus Mentioning
Related to the circle strategy in #1 is strategic plus mentioning. One of Google+’s more useful and powerful features is the ability to plus mention someone in a post in a comment by typing a + sign and then immediately (without a space) typing the person’s name. Once posted, the plus mention becomes a link to that person’s profile, but also generates a notification to the person mentioned with a link to the post.
Here’s how to use that in strategic network building:
- When you share someone’s post or outside content to Google+, include a plus mention of the person in your introduction to the post so they will know you liked and shared their content. It also gives that person the ability to follow the post and interact with you and your audience about their content. In addition to creating goodwill toward myself with that author, I’ve observed a “reflected halo” effect. By welcoming an influential person into my thread, my followers subconsciously associate my authority with hers. They tend to infer a relationship between us, even if that relationship isn’t really established yet. It’s like if you were a lowly podcaster who managed to score an interview with Tom Hanks on your show. Your credibility and esteem would go way up with your listeners.
- Use plus mentioning to cc: topic authorities into comment threads where their opinion might be valued. For example, “It would be great to hear what +David Amerland thinks about this.” Obviously, use this sparingly and carefully. You don’t want to become annoying! But I have many times appreciated someone calling me into a conversation where I can display my knowledge and be helpful.
- Also cc: topical experts when you post about a topic of interest to them. Again, use this sparingly to be most effective without appearing spammy or like a stalker.
3. Build and/or Join Targeted Communities
Google+ Communities have only been around since December of last year, but they are already one of the hottest places to find great engagement and build influence. I already covered here on Windmill Networking a number of strategies for using Communities, so I’ll just add a few here that relate directly to influence building.
- If more than one Community shows up in your searches for Communities related to your fields of expertise, don’t just look at which are the largest and/or most active. Also take the time to scroll through recent posts in the Community and see if any of the other G+ users you’ve identified as influencers in the topic are active there. If so, that’s where you want to be. It’s another opportunity to get on their radar and build a relationship with them.
- If you decide to start your own Community, first talk with some of the influentials on that topic with whom you’ve already built some reputation to see if they might join you in kickstarting the Community. It’s tough to get a new Community off the ground, but having a few influentials endorsing it and inviting their followers to it can be huge. If those influentials will allow it, make them moderators so their face shows in the right panel when people browse the Community. I know it’s a huge trust mark for my Google Authorship and Author Rank Community that top Authorship experts like AJ Kohn, Bill Slawski and Chris Lang appear for my Community:
4. Use Shared Circles
Another very powerful network-building tool unique to Google+ is Shared Circles. A user can click any circle in her circle view and then click an icon in the circle to create a special Shared Circle post. Anyone viewing the post can instantly add the circle to his circles.
Here are some tips and cautions about using Shared Circles for influence building:
- Keep your Shared Circles small and topically focused. You can have up to 500 people and pages in a Shared Circle, but the larger the circle is the less likely people are to add it.
- Carefully curate the members of your Shared Circles. Make sure everyone in them really deserves to be there. You’re putting your recommendation on the line by sharing them in this way. You want your followers to be confident that your recommendations are solid.
- Don’t forget to +mention the people you’ve included in the Shared Circle. In most cases they’ll appreciate being included, and will probably share it with their following.
- If (and only if!) you feel qualified to be included in the circle, then check the box at the bottom of the share post. This can be a powerful way to increase your following, but if you don’t really belong in the circle, people will sniff out that you are doing this as a spam technique and will distrust your future shares, or even uncircle you.
- Caution: Unfortunately low-value Shared Circles have been proliferating as a run-up-my-follower-numbers spam tactic. In a typical scenario, the spammer will ask people to recommend something vague like “great people on Google+” and say they can even recommend themselves. Then the spammer will put all those people in a Shared Circle, include himself (of course), and then send it out with a notification to all the hundreds of members. This can run up following numbers quickly, but adds little value to anyone’s streams. Because of this practice, you need to be very sure that you only use Shared Circles in ways that would truly enhance the streams of your followers if they added them. And you should probably use this feature sparingly so as not to appear spammy.
What About Brand Pages?
While the strategies above are designed for an individual profile, there is no reason they can’t be put to use for a Google+ brand page as well. This is especially true now that “brands are people, too” on Google+. That is, brand pages can now do most things that personal profiles can do, including following anyone and participating in the conversations of any Google+ users whose posts they can see. Brands can also create, join, and participate in Communities.
My only caution would be that as a brand, you need to be an extra-good citizen on Google+. People will naturally be more on guard when an impersonal logo and brand name posts in their threads or communities. So be extra-personable! Make sure you are adding real value wherever you post or comment. Don’t just leave “great post!” comments or you will be viewed as a spammer.
When I first started seeing more brands commenting in my threads, it was a little disconcerting at first. But very quickly a number of them have become among my most-valued “friends,” and they earned a circle-back from me. That’s a big “plus” for that brand!
Conclusion: Last month I set forth the thesis that Google+ may be the most powerful networking and influence tool ever invented, in terms of the reach it can create as your network there not only build your influence in Google+, but also affects the search results of untold thousands. In this post I have shown you some more advanced techniques for building your network so your influence can spread farther. I’ve proven these strategies to work time and again, first for my own account and then for many others who have followed my advice (or been smart enough to have discovered this power on their own!). As with any such plan for success, the only real requirement for it to work is that you work it.
Have you discovered any other techniques for building an influential network through Google+? If so, please let us know in the comments!