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7 Ways for Marketers to Maximize Google+ Now

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So you're still not on Google+? Or maybe you've stuck your toe in the water but you want to make sure G+ is the real thing?

Better get busy! Google has already grown to 25 million-plus users in only a few weeks, and it could be opening the floodgates to brands soon. (Ford is already test-driving its business page.) No one knows for sure, but I believe that, with its financial muscle and market power, Google+ will emerge as the leading social platform for business once it fully integrates its search and other tools (Gmail, Chrome, etc.).

So, you need to hedge your bets by getting involved in G+. But that doesn't mean you need to put all your eggs in this basket or spend all your waking hours on G+. There are ways you can manage your time and use G+ selectively and strategically.

Below are seven examples of maximizing Google+ (efficiently), based on my last few weeks of working on the new platform.

1. Think rifle shot vs. shotgun: Avoid the temptation to use G+ like another broadcast medium, as many do on Twitter, or duplicate what you're doing on other platforms. Use G+ to supplement your other channels. What are you missing from your other channels? What can Google+ provide, keeping in mind some of the unique features? What will your key audiences be looking for from G+ that they're not getting from Facebook or Twitter?

2. Start small: Start with 100 to 200 people to follow (or fewer) instead of thousands--- high quality people (the usual industry leaders and influencers, but also other people you want to connect with on deeper levels). Invite select users like potential clients and highly regarded business colleagues---even those not tech savvy. You're going to provide them a guide or two to get started and be their shepherd into G+, which gives you an (early adopter) edge if you execute right.  Put them in select Circles, and start thinking about how you'll share with them. (Tip: use a URL shortener and add your G+ URL to your profiles and email signature; mine is http://gplus.to/markivey)

3. Strategize your Circles: The beauty of Google+ is how easily you can add people to follow in your Circles, and manage those for maximum efficiency. You can shoot out something to a large group, select a small to midsize group of friends, or even focus on just one person. So, it's almost like tweeting (large group), blogging (your readers) and emailing (1:1 correspondence).

Spend some time to get this right. I'd suggest 8 to 12 Circles for starters. This might include different ones for your personal interests, friends/family, close business contacts, corporate clients, early adopters, influencers, "loose ties," and so on. You need to define the Circles that make sense for you for maximum effectiveness. You can add more as you go. Carri Bugbee, a social media consultant, says she "creates circles based upon both geography and careers/interests. Most people will be in at least 2 circles of mine, if not more."

One note: G+ is much easier than Facebook to control who you're posting to, so you're not overloading your important business contacts with all your marketing or personal posts.

4. Go deep: The key is to share only relevant, segmented posts that appeal to each group. G+ people are 2 to 3 times more likely to share within specific circles than in public, so I focus on creating and working with small groups, say by reaching out with a question to key people. For example, I'm helping my wife launch a new gluten-free Asian food business, and I called on my Circles for feedback. I also queried a small group about this story. You can also launch a questionnaire or poll. Do you have a new product, or want to help a client get feedback on certain features or issues?

The point is to  forget broadcasting;  think of developing fewer, deeper relationships, using more personal, targeted approaches.

For instance, Mari Smith, a social media marketing strategist with a large following, only posts two or three times a day on G+, compared to once an hour on Twitter, and several times a day on Facebook. The result is deeper, "tremendous engagement" and, interestingly, "more immediate responses than most other social networks," she says.

5. Manage the noise: I put "loud" posters who I still want to keep any eye on (ex: Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki) in separate circles. I also "mute" conversations that quickly get out of hand and distract me with constant email reminders. (You can also turn them off completely.)

6. Interact: I follow about 8 or 10 people very closely and keep my eye on another dozen or so people. The rest I just check on (in my "stream") once or so a day.  When someone says something interesting, I try to leave a comment or give it a 1+ (equal to a Facebook "like"). Do this selectively to build and connect  with your community, generate new connections and get added into the right groups/Circles. The key to managing this is limiting your sources, know what you're looking for and being able to skim quickly and cut through the noise.

7.  Schedule your time, stay organized: Avoid getting sucked into G+ like any platform, set a time limit---say 30 to 40 minutes early morning and late day. Develop an editorial calendar and stick to it. Be clear on your objectives and goals each day, so you can stay focused. About once or twice a week go through your Circles and weed out the weak players (yes, it's a little like a garden) by uncircling them.

Evaluate your strategy once a week. If it's not working, make changes. Smart users like brand strategist Gaynelle Grover use Chrome's extensions (ex: G+Me and Golden View) to make it easier to skim posts.

This is basically my approach to G+, but it is changing as I delve deeper and the platform evolves. Be sure to experiment with G+ to see what's going to work for you. Explore "Hangouts" (live video conferencing chats) and "Huddles" (group messaging features. Try different types of interactive techniques and questions, posting different times of the week and day, and so on. Schedule in a little fun. (OK, forget the "schedule. Just go for it!)

See you online!


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Mark Ivey is a consultant and vice-president with the ION Group, a marketing communications company specializing in social media strategy. He helps companies tell their stories and connect with their key audiences in the new interactive online world. He shows them how to use a blend of social media and traditional marketing and PR tools to build communities, develop thought leadership platforms and promote their brands.

Mark brings a unique multi-dimensional perspective based on 20 years of industry experience spanning journalism, marketing, PR, media and executive communications. He worked as a writer and bureau chief for BusinessWeek magazine for almost a decade and in the late 90s served as a consumer media spokesman for Intel, part of a unique national education program he developed for families--Intel's first "human brand" program. He's a published author (Random House) and former nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows.

The ION Group specializes in digital marketing and communications consulting services, along with building interactive websites, blogs and other social media platforms. The company is based in San Jose, and primarily works with Fortune 500 companies in Silicon Valley.

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  • by Nick Westergaard Wed Aug 10, 2011 via blog

    Great G+ guide, Mark. I think all of your points of difference with other networks were spot on and making sure people know to really exploit them to attain the deeper level of engagement that's possible via Google+.

  • by Local Search Marketing Concepts Wed Aug 10, 2011 via blog

    I enjoyed your general approach to G+. It's like Jerry Maguire's "memo". Fewer clients, better relationships.

    I can't just add 80 minutes to my social networking time - wish you would have addressed what concessions you recommend in order to stick with your plan. An extra hour of social networking has to replace something for some people. So, would you FB less, tweet less, take time out from social bookmarking?
    Thoughts, anybody?

  • by Mark Ivey Wed Aug 10, 2011 via blog

    Nick- thanks for the comments, and yes it's all about deeper engagement.. great discussion going on in couple of G+ posts now about similar subjects so I know this is a key area for marketers

  • by Mark Ivey Wed Aug 10, 2011 via blog

    Good question- ultimately you'll need to figure out a way to maximize efforts around YOUR audiences. For me, Facebook is mainly personal and what I all "light professional"- sharing a few social media, marketing posts a week and a few semi-personal observations, pics, etc..So easy for me to cut back there and spend more time on G+ . For others FB may be more strategic, so needs to be balanced in other ways.. Maybe you do more broadcast tweets (vs large pc of conversational)...hire an intern to help...get other team members involved.. I don't know your situation and there is no easy answer to this balancing question- and of course, co's expect us to do it all.. Good luck

  • by Emma Wed Aug 10, 2011 via blog

    You're probably the first person I've encountered who actually pinpointed G+ as a supplemental social platform, as opposed to a primary one. I like that - it makes me feel like I can put G+ into a more manageable perspective, rather than trying to figure out the best way to transfer all of my company's social stats over yonder, as a lot of band-wagon jumpers seem to be suggesting.

  • by Sujata Ramnarayan Wed Aug 10, 2011 via blog

    Mark, Good article on G+. I can't help but wonder though if G+ is in fact attracting a different kind of person, people who do like deeper and fewer quality connections. Facebook seems to have turned connections into a numbers game of weaker ties. Google it seems is taking a different approach.

  • by Mark Ivey Thu Aug 11, 2011 via blog

    I think it is, at least for now. I think the "numbers game" you mention doesn't work for a lot of marketers- who has time, and our goals are often different than amassing large followings (this is different if you're a large brand like Dell trying to develop large followings with a sales-driven site but even brands need deeper relationships). G+ gives us a new start, and chance to step back and assess our social media strategy. thanks for your observations.

  • by Mark Ivey Thu Aug 11, 2011 via blog

    Emma-glad it was helpful. It's easy to get overwhelmed with yet another social media platform, but we need to use G+ strategically...thanks for your feedback.

  • by Marshal Thu Aug 11, 2011 via blog

    Through our social media training services at Awesomefat, I work a lot with Higher Educational Institutions. With this idea of fewer more intimate connections, how can you see a University taking full advantage of what would previously have been a "Class of 2015" Facebook page? Or a corporate page for that matter? Or does G+ open new doors of communication with the University community and within the classrooms?

    Thanks for the article!

  • by Brian Collinson Thu Aug 11, 2011 via blog

    Mark, I'm fascinated with your idea of G+ as a new start for social media, one that potentially moves away from the "numbers game". I also note your stress on the importance of staying away from the temptation to amass large followings. It makes me wonder about the particular personality attributes that a "hard core" G+ might possess, as opposed to, say, a very committed Facebook user. The strong sense that I get is that Facebook's current direction is definitely towards "the shallows". Maybe G+ is a medium well-suited to developing marketing relationships that require more in-depth, and more personal, types of interaction?

  • by Olivier De La Conception Thu Aug 11, 2011 via blog

    Good article Mark. I actually drive my business online for French Speaking customers. Hard task! They're so conservative people you know. Well I know I'm french too, but yet engaged in Social media. When I talk about G+ to my customers they generaly say that it won't work (french spirit ;)... However I'm going to take a ticket to ride this train. I won't stay at the station! As you say, Go for it!

    Thanks again for sharing these tips with the world!

    Best regards, Olivier

  • by Christa Herzog Thu Aug 11, 2011 via blog

    I have a Google+ account, but it is all blank. I am looking for friends, but it seems that most of them are only offering business - I mean wanting to sell sth. Nothing against it, but I would also like to share personal interests. Well, I will try it again.

  • by Mark Ivey Thu Aug 11, 2011 via blog

    Maybe because you're the "pioneer"- many people still aren't on...Suggest you find select people you want to connect with, for starters, and send them invites, encourage them to get on...G+ will be growing so in a few months (or wks) this probably won't be a problem. Good luck!

  • by Paul Merrill Thu Aug 11, 2011 via blog

    So Mark - you must be on vacation - your last post on Google+ was almost 3 weeks ago.

  • by Megan S Thu Aug 11, 2011 via blog

    Does anyone have a good Editorial Calendar they would recommend? Preferably more on the publisher side?

    Thanks!

  • by Tea Fri Aug 12, 2011 via blog

    Thanks Mark for the great tips. It makes my life much easier in learning about social media.

    BTW, you have any idea if G+ has been launched in Asia, say Malaysia? It seems twitter is less popular here, while FB is getting lots more response, from the public and the corporates as well.

  • by Mark Ivey Fri Aug 12, 2011 via blog

    I wish I were on vacation ;) My last post was about an hour ago, but turns out when outsiders (new visitors vs those in my Circles) come to my profile they're not seeing the latest posts.. Just figured it out-I was not checking off "Public" when I share (for some reason the Public box seems to be absent at certain times...this is a Beta site remember). In any case, recent posts aren't showing up in my profile (publicly) so only my Circles can see. Actually good tip for MP readers.. Good catch, thanks..

  • by Jesus Fri Aug 12, 2011 via blog

    WHY? If your customers are not there - or you haven't even started monitoring your customers and understanding where and what they are interested about, why waste resources in an unproven me-too site. It is time we stop following the hype and start focusing on REAL Marketing.
    How to Maintain Social Media Investment Focus in Times of Hype : Simply Listen: http://jrgrana.com/blog/?p=630

  • by LogicalTV Fri Aug 12, 2011 via blog

    I've been trying to get into G+ for a month, and always get the "we're full" message.
    It's very frustrating reading excellent articles like this and being unable to apply the techniques within.

    (Sigh) Oh well, some day...
    Great article, keep 'em comin'!

  • by Mark Ivey Fri Aug 12, 2011 via blog

    Not sure, good question..try to check later.. Thanks for the comments.

  • by Jon Yoffie Fri Aug 12, 2011 via blog

    No doubt Google+ is an important platform, but at this juncture all I see over there are social media early adopters and tech folks. How many people really have time for multiple social networks, not to mention the time to learn the complexities of G+?

    Businesses need to be prepared, but in my opinion everything on Google+ should be considered a beta, ad i'd hesitate to make is a significant platform for my brand unless the users I mention above are your target audience.

    All that said, G+ is moving at an incredible rate of speed and should be ignored at your own risk.

  • by Jesus Fri Aug 12, 2011 via blog

    WHY even 5 minutes may be a waste? If your customers are not there – or you haven’t even started monitoring your customers and understanding where and what they are interested about, why waste resources in an unproven me-too site. It is time we stop following the hype and start focusing on REAL Marketing.
    How to Maintain Social Media Investment Focus in Times of Hype : Simply Listen: http://jrgrana.com/blog/?p=630

  • by Cobo Tue Aug 16, 2011 via blog

    I, too, am apparently not on the "in" list. I'm trying to develop a strategy for my company regarding google+ but it's difficult when it won't allow me to become a member, neither personally nor as a business! If you're in and you're inviting friends to join...maybe this is why they aren't joining? Maybe they can't? Or is a personal invite your only ticket in at this point?

  • by Lionel Bachmann Wed Aug 17, 2011 via blog

    Great insight about Google+. I think G+ is going to be Facebook 2.0. Everyone was using Facebook as a way of getting the most amount of friends as possible, and not about deep personal relationships. I like how you explain having deeper interaction with your friends/fans through using circles. You can create circles of people that are interested in different aspects of your business, or different topics in your industry, therefore giving them a more meaningful experience.

  • by Renee Thu Aug 18, 2011 via blog

    While these are all great tips for maximizing the effectiveness of Google+, the last tip is my personal favorite and the most helpful in my eyes. With all of the social networking sites out there now, it's hard not to caught up in all of the noise and feel overwhelmed. However, if you put a time limit on your involvement each day and stick to it, it will never get as overwhelming. Furthermore, you will be able to focus on quality rather than quantity which is one of the best differentiators Google+ has.

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