I totally dithered over the heading, wondered whether I should call this “A Guide to Using Google+” decided that was way too presumptuous and a “How to Use Google+” would be way too prescriptive plus I use Google+ in ways that’d make most traditional marketers want to stone me so I decided the personal angle is probably best.
Before I reveal all my ‘secrets’ it’s worth noting a couple of things: First, for me Google+ is the one social media platform I invest considerable time in, by design. It was a conscious decision I made from the first day I joined because I could see its practical importance in the Google universe. Then, when I dove in and met all the people it hooked me in a way I had not expected to be hooked so here I am, now writing a post about how I use it (because so many of you have been asking) and explaining all the personal choices I made from the very beginning. Second, I respond to most, if not every, post that requires my attention on top of all those that I come across that simply interest me. This is by choice, again. From the very beginning I made the conscious decision to respond every time I felt someone has gone into the trouble to catch my attention on the basis that if they’ve really tried then to ignore them would be antithetical to what social media is all about.
I am explaining these two guidelines here because everything else from here on will make that much more sense. What I love about Google+ is the fact that no one is out of reach (provided they are on the platform). This cuts through traditional barriers of rank, job description and perceived status and makes this place very real (which is why it’s so addictive).
A couple Of Tools That Make Google+ easier to Use
Before we even get started you’ll most probably need to tool up a little with a few essentials. If you already have them no worries, we’ll get started right away, if not then make sure you get them as soon as you can. They will make your Google+ experience that much better.
In no specific order they are:
1. One Tab - For me this has been a lifesaver. I get too many notifications to be able to respond to everything in real time. As a result I used to, on average, have upwards of 40 tabs open on my browser. This made my internet experience worse than dial up at times, particularly if I also happened top want to chat to someone on Google+ Chat or have a Hangout. One Tab saves masses of system memory and becomes a handy tool for saving and responding to posts, as we shall see a little later.
2. Google Keep – This is invaluable for me. It makes the keeping and organizing of links, posts, email addresses and all the stuff I need on a transient basis, child’s play.
3. Evernote - I’ve been using the paid version out of principle more than need. I’ve found I really liked the service and at $5 a month it hardly breaks the bank so I subscribed. You don’t have to. It’s still a useful tool to have with relatively few limitations in its free version.
So Onto Google+
Here’s a few of the things traditional marketers advise you to do and I don’t.
1. I don’t post twice for different timezones. I know some people may miss simply something I posted simply because they happened to be asleep or because they were busy or looking the other way when it went across their stream. I don’t care. Much as I love what I write I don’t think it’s Earth-shatteringly important for everyone to catch everything I write. If it’s important enough the buzz and engagement it generates will make it surface at the right time for those who need it (see my article about planned serendipity).
2. I don’t post to circles. Although I have curated the people I follow into three circles now I always post to the public domain. Within Google+ the “conversation” is best when it happens unforced and without having to push content into someone’s stream.
3. I don’t tag a list of people. When I post, I post in a plain-vanilla mode. I may as well be John Doe. This forces me to focus my attention on the content, its structure and introduction rather than the list of those whom I know will engage with me even if I published my laundry list. For me it helps keep things real and down to Earth.
4. I don’t post anything that requires a sign-in, opt-in whatever. Again this, like everything else I do, is by personal choice and preference. I hate having to jump through hoops in order to get to an article so I don’t share anything that requires that.
You do not have to follow any of these. For me these are just some of the choices I consciously made when I started to engage in Google+.
Managing the Conversation
The tools I mentioned just above are part of my survival tactics arsenal. When I start to reply to posts I frequently find that I end up opening 10-12 tabs as one thing leads to another. Then there are posts I do not want to miss and posts that need answering but not immediately (because they may not be urgent or may require a lot more thinking than I am capable of at that particular moment in time). Those I send to One Tab to store and I get to them either early the next day or late at the end of the current day if I have time to spare.
One Tab also allows me to send some posts to it while keeping others open with the “Send tabs on the left/right to One Tab” command. When it comes to keeping up with the conversation in Google+ One Tab is indispensable.
Google+ is a rabbit hole. The moment you start discussing anything with anyone links, ideas, suggestions and posts come your way faster than you can say “Geronimo”. Keeping track of all those is where Keep comes in. I keep everything there that will be useful for research, reference, needs attention at a later day or will be useful for something else I am planning.
Keep’s ability to synch with my tab and phone means I can have these on the go and use them or respond to (if it’s a post) as necessary. Keep adds that extra layer where I will go there only when there is time or there is specific information I need to retrieve. For me Keep, despite the name, is semi-permanent stuff. I keep ideas, notes and lists that get done or used up or written about and eventually deleted. My regular Sunday Read column gets created from stuff archived in Keep.
Evernote is the grand organizer. Anything I want to keep for further reference goes there. Whether it’s a link, a file, a comment, a post or a person’s profile. I have virtually endless notebooks that help me organize the stuff I need and keep track of everything important. Most of the stuff I put in Evernote is permanently archived there.
Connectivity on the Fly
One of the reasons I use what are essentially cloud services to store everything is because I frequently find myself catching up with Google+ in the ‘deadzone’ times between meetings or when I am waiting for someone and they are late.
Having Keep and One Tab and Evernote at hand on my phone and tablet makes for a seamless continuity that allows me to drop and pick up conversations from anywhere as if I was lugging round my desktop with me, everywhere. It also extends, significantly, my ability to be ‘present’ by extending my initial windows at the beginning and end of each day by quite a bit.
And voila, that’s my ‘secret’. Though it feels at times that I am always on, I am just good at using technology to be present while still fitting in writing, travelling, meetings, presentations and a social life that’s getting squeezed into a smaller and smaller timespace, these days.