Time to Check out Google+

google

Not another social media platform! Yep, Google+ may be only six weeks old and available only for individual (not business) use, but it appears to be on track as a serious social media contender. Some say it may be a threat to Facebook.

One reason I avoided it was that the early-bird users made it sound complicated. Last week, when I received an e-vite from Mana Ionescu, owner of chicago digital marketing company Lightspan Digital, to attend Orbit Media Studio’s Google+ webinar, I decided… it’s time.

Google+ already has 25 million users. While that’s peanuts compared to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s impressive for a start-up. Be forewarned, Google+ is nothing like Facebook or the other social media sites.

The set-up is fairly standard. You sign up for a g-mail account, then fill out your personal Google profile page with links to your other sites and bullet points that explain why someone should add you to their circle (more about that in a minute). Fill out the employment field completely, and be sure to upload flattering photos (no silly shots or one of your dog). One of the great benefits of Google+ is the privacy settings. Ms. Ionescu said she spent over an hour checking them out to determine what would be private and what would be shared.

Circling back to circles, which is the Google+ way of letting you organize your friends and business contacts in specific categories. You can have the same people in multiple circles, which is a good idea if you plan to share content only with certain circles.

You read content posted in your circles and have the option to respond or share it. After you write the post, you click on an icon to determine who sees it. +1s are things you like, agree with or want to recommend. Use a lot of +1s, the experts say.

Adding friends to your circles is easy. Either use the “find people” search box or if they’re not yet on Google+, use your Google address book, type in an email address and invite people into your circle.

There’s something called Sparks, which is described as a way to be notified about articles and videos you will like. I typed in variations of “social media marketing,” and absolutely nothing came up. Hangouts are live video chats (I hear it has glitches), and Huddle (huddle is group texting) is described as a chat group where a small group of people can make a decision about a movie, restaurant, etc.,in real time (thus, making text messaging unnecessary).

One article I read said it can drive tons of traffic to your website, but it doesn’t just happen. You’ve got to be active in terms of posting, and following and adding people to your circles.

The only way to use it effectively is to spend time on the platform once you’ve signed up. Ms. Ionescu said she spent two full days learning and getting active, but if you don’t have that kind of time, at least get started. After you read the “help” information, consider the Google+ Tutorial (basics) on YouTube or other YouTube videos. In the coming weeks, there’s bound to be webinars or seminars on the topic, which I’ve found is the best way to learn almost anything quickly and easily.

Even the most experienced social media experts admit to having a longer learning curve than expected, so be patient but persevere. I know I am.

Image by Flickr user topgold

Chris_Ruys

About Chris Ruys

Chris Ruys is founder and president of Chris Ruys Communications, Inc., a marketing/public relations firm that specializes in high visibility campaigns using both traditional and social media strategies. Her blog, originally called "Getting Social," was launched in October 2010 as a way to share her progress as a "student" of social media. While she's still learning, Ms. Ruys has broadened the scope to include other aspects of marketing communications and PR, including blogging, email, traditional media and advertising in the blog she now calls "Proactive PR."