4 Compelling Reasons for Creative People to Start Using Google Plus

Google+ LogoIf you want the internet to bring you an audience for your creative work, opportunities for your creative career, and/or customers for your creative business, I recommend you get a Google+ account and start using it right away.

I know you’re busy, and it probably feels like another social network is the last thing you need. But this isn’t just another social network. It’s bigger than that, and it can have multiple benefits for your creative career or business.

Here are four compelling reasons why you should start using Google+ now.

1. Everyone’s on Facebook

I hear this a lot, as an objection to using Google+. But in fact it’s one of the biggest reasons why you should be using Google+.

How so?

Picture this scene, from Hermann Hesse’s classic novel Steppenwolf: Harry Haller, bored and disillusioned with his meaningless bourgeois life, is wandering the streets when he comes across a sign pinned to a door:

MAGIC THEATRE.
ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYONE.
FOR MADMEN ONLY!

Of course Harry goes in, and of course it changes his life.

And of course ‘everyone’ has no interest in the Magic Theatre or what he learns there. And of course, once he has made his discovery, Harry couldn’t care less what ‘everyone’ thinks.

You see, if you aspire to doing something creative and original, you probably shouldn’t follow what ‘everyone’ is doing. You should look for the magic doors that open on new worlds.

If you’re looking for an amazing creative job, you shouldn’t be looking in the same places ‘everyone’ is looking.

And if you’re running a creative business, you probably shouldn’t design products or services for ‘everyone’. You aren’t making washing powder. You’re doing something more interesting than that, and appealing to a more discerning crowd.

So when I hear ‘everyone’ telling me Google+ is a ‘ghost town’, and Facebook or Twitter is where the action is, I take it with a pinch of salt.

And when I hear clever people like Brian Clark, Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki, Thomas Power and Penny Power – who have a track record of being right about this kind of thing – telling me Google+ is where the interesting conversations are happening, my ears prick up.

I’ve been here before. In 2007 ‘everyone’ had never heard of Twitter. Meanwhile Brian and Chris were enthusing about it and all my ‘social media friends’ were egging me on to join.

But I was sceptical – it looked pointless and boring. I wondered what they saw in it. Then I tried it for myself, and discovered I had been spectacularly wrong about Twitter.

Once I ‘tuned in’ to Twitter, it felt like being backstage at a gig, hanging out with well-known bloggers, entrepreneurs, authors and thought leaders. People who I’d never dare to email were replying to my tweets.

I made new friends and connections. I found fun and inspiration. Then I got a smartphone and it felt like I had the world in my pocket.

These days I still enjoy Twitter, but it’s not the same. It feels a bit crowded now ‘everyone’ is on it, and it’s harder to have proper conversations. It no longer gives me the magical feeling I’m about to discover something new each time I log on. For that, I go to Google+…

2. Meet people who share your passion

Right now, Google+ feels like Twitter did in 2007. A place where curious, creative, enthusiastic people are congregating, talking, sharing and exploring together.

Not a place for broadcasting to ‘everyone’, or for keeping in touch with the people you’ve known since school. But a place to make connections and have conversations with people who can open doors in your mind and in your career or business.

Guy Kawasaki gives an excellent summary of the differences between Twitter, Facebook and Google+:

Twitter = Perspectives.

Twitter is great for getting or sending immediate perspectives on news and events. In other words, if you want to learn that there was an earthquake in Chile before CNN and you like getting updates from Chileans at ground zero, then Twitter is for you. In short, Twitter is for real-time perspectives.

Facebook= People.

Facebook is the way to learn what’s going on in the lives of people you already know (friends, relatives, and colleagues). It’s great for learning that their cats rolled over, that they went to a great party, or that they had sex, kittens, or children. In short, Facebook is for people.

Google+ = Passions.

Google+ enables you to pursue your passions with people you don’t know. Your fifty friends and family on Facebook likely do not share your passion for photography, but on Google+ you can have a blast with a community of photographers (I’ll explain how shortly). In short, Google+ is for passions.

What the Plus!: Google+ for the Rest of Us by Guy Kawasaki

Whatever your passion, you should be able to find other people on Google+ who share it. And two specific features of Google+ make it easy to make connections and follow conversations by topic:

Circles

Part of the fun of Twitter is that it’s like a firehose of information – people posting on all kinds of topics, streaming past you at the speed of light. But the downside is it’s hard to keep up with your favourite contacts, or to follow the threads of particular conversations or topics.

Google+ solves this problem by allowing you to sort the people you follow into circles, and to view updates from one circle at a time. It’s up to you how you divide the circles, or what names you give them. (Relax, the names aren’t public!).

Here are some of my circles:

  • Following – all my contacts
  • Inner circle – I want to read everything these people post
  • Writers and publishers – what it says on the tin
  • Artists and photographers – ditto

If I’m in a hurry, I’ll just check the Inner circle. If I want to follow up a specific topic or industry, I check that circle. And if I want the ‘firehose effect’, I switch to Following.

Communities

Communities are places where groups congregate to discuss and share information about specific topics – a bit like groups on Facebook or LinkedIn. Some topics are served better than others, but if you find a good community around one of your interests, it’s a great source of news, stimulation and like-minded contacts.

Part of the fun of Google+ is the fact that the early adopters are still working out how to get the most out of it. As Chris Brogan, author of Google+ for Business, said when I asked him if he could sum up the benefits of Google+ for creative people:

“Google+ is a place where discovering information is easy (when shared to the public), and where sharing with others is easier still. People are still feeling their way around, but don’t let that bother you. I’m getting feedback on things I posted 3 days after the service launched.”

Chris Brogan

3. A fantastic platform for sharing creative media

The Google+ interface makes Facebook look like MySpace.

Instead of endless clutter, insipid blue and grey design, and crappy ads at every turn, you get clean white space framing the images, videos and text posted by your contacts. And circles make it easy to focus on the topics you’re interested in at any given moment.

The iPhone Google+ app is a thing of beauty – and the Android app must be at least as good (being made by Google).

If you want to discover interesting creative content, scrolling through your Google+ stream is a pleasurable and beguiling experiencing – imagine the gorgeousness of Pinterest combined with the quality of conversation you find in blog comments or a good forum.

If you’re a visual or video artist, Google+ is an ideal platform to showcase your work. No wonder photographers are one of the groups of people who seem to be doing best on Google+. (Check out photographer Trey Ratcliff as an example of a Google+ power user – with over 4.5 million followers, I doubt he thinks Google+ is a ‘ghost town’.)

And I won’t pretend to understand the technical detail, but apparently Google+ treats your image metadata better than most social networks.

If you’re a writer, Google+ gives you more room to breathe than Twitter. I love Twitter’s brevity, but sometimes you need more than 140 characters. So as well as sharing a link, you can add a few words about why you’re recommending it and how to make the most of it.

Or you can write a longer post. Google+ a great place to road-test new ideas, and write about topics that wouldn’t necessarily make it onto your blog. Like my post about 20 Inspiring Objects from the ‘David Bowie Is’ Exhibition at the V&A.

If you want to have a proper conversation, Google+ makes it easy, with threaded comments and no character limit. And there’s an elegant way to draw particular users into the conversation – mention them with the ‘+’ symbol in front of their name (e.g. +Mark McGuinness) and Google+ will alert them to your post or comment.

If you’d rather talk to people face to face, Google+ Hangouts allow you to video-chat live with other users – not just one-to-one, but in groups. And Hangouts on Air allow you to live-stream the conversation to an audience of thousands.

All of which makes Google+ a lot of fun to use and explore – whatever your favourite medium or style of communication, it gives you the tools to express yourself.

4. Get credit for your work (and higher rankings) on Google Search

If I stopped writing now, I’d probably leave you with the impression that Google+ is merely a very good social network. But Google+ is not just another social network, and the benefits of using it go far beyond networking and sharing content.

Here’s another objection I hear a lot:

“But my customers don’t use Google Plus”

Maybe not, but I bet they use Google Search.

I’ve been hearing the same objection for years, about blogging:

“But my customers don’t read blogs, why should I write one?”

These are the same people who ask me:

“How do you manage to rank so highly on search engines?”

The answer to both questions is the same: good blogs naturally attract quality links from other blogs and websites. The more quality links you attract, the higher you will rank in search results.

Like blogging, building your Google+ network is a powerful indirect strategy for boosting your search engine rankings. It takes time, persistence and patience, but the long-term payoff is worth it.

Chris Brogan has described Google+ as a social backplane rather than a social network – because it integrates with Google Search, YouTube, Gmail and other Google products, it ties together all these services, giving you a consistent identity and making it easier for you to be found.

That’s right: because Google+ is owned by Google, having a powerful network on the former can boost your search rankings and conversion rates on the latter.

So even if ‘everyone’ really is on Facebook, using Google+ can help you reach them, because ‘everyone’ definitely uses Google Search.

So how exactly does this work?

Let’s suppose you’re a creative person publishing media online – articles on your blog, guest posts on other blogs, videos on youtube, and/or images on Pinterest/Instagram/Flickr etc.

Until recently, Google had no way of recognising that all these different works were by the same person – and therefore no way of crediting you as the creator in search results. While there were sophisticated algorithms for ranking websites and web pages, the content of those pages was faceless in Google’s eyes.

Until recently – with the introduction of Google Authorship, a way of recognising authorship of works spread across the web on different sites, tying it all back to you as the Author/creator – and giving you credit and extra visibility in search results.

Here’s how it works:

1. Link your Google+ Profile to your website

You take a few minutes to link your website to your Google+ profile. Then do the same with any guest posts or other content you create for other people’s websites.

2. Your photo appears in search results

Next search for a specific piece of content from your site – when it appears in the search results, it should include your photo and a link to your Google+ profile.

For example, here’s how my article Why Artists and Creatives Have an Unfair Advantage at Internet Marketing appears in Google search results:

Search results showing Mark's photo appearing next to his article title

Notice how my photo makes the article stand out from the others? Because you can instantly see who wrote it, the other results look impersonal by comparison.

Just having your photo pop up like this can give you a significant benefit – people are more likely to click on a link if it stands out and promises a connection with a real human being. Since I’ve implemented Google Authorship I’ve seen a noticeable increase in new business enquiries from search results.

Right now, you can gain this little edge over the competition by spending a few minutes creating a Google+ profile and linking it to your content. Most website owners haven’t done this, so it’s an easy way to stand out from the crowd.

Of course this early-adopter advantage will be eroded when ‘everyone’ realises what’s happening and starts using Google+ in this way. But the SEO benefits of Google+ don’t end with happy smiling photos…

3. Your content ranks higher in search results for your Google+ contacts

Any time one of your Google+ contacts performs a search on Google (while logged in to their Google account), the personalised search experience means they are likely to see your content ranked higher than content from people outside their Google+ circles.

So the more people you are connected to on Google+, the more search results you will be influencing, and the more clicks you are likely to receive, which in turn should help your overall rankings on Google. And of course, when they see your familiar face pop up in search results, they are more likely to click on your link.

4. Your Author Rank will influence your search rankings in all search results

In future it’s likely that the Author Rank of your Google+ profile will influence the search results served to everyone – not just your Google+ contacts. The higher your Author Rank, the more positive effect it will have on the Page Rank of the web pages and sites you create.

In other words, your reputation as a creator (Author) of outstanding creative content is becoming a valuable SEO asset, just as authoritative websites have been for years.

So if you really want to reach ‘everyone’ via search engines, then having an authoritative Google+ account will help you do it – even if ‘everyone’ never cottons on and starts using Google+ themselves.

One really great thing about the emergence of Authorship as a factor in SEO means you don’t have to be the kind of person who can understand the maths and technology of search engine algorithms in order to rank highly. Fundamentally you need to focus on doing two things:

  1. Creating and publishing outstanding media content that will appeal to your target audience, both on your own websites and on other sites that are popular with the audience you want to reach.
  2. Attracting an engaged network on Google+, based on shared passions, stimulating conversations and sharing your own and others’ media content.

For some of the ‘SEO scientists’ this will be a major shift of mindset. But for a creative pro like you, this mix of creative and social skills shouldn’t be rocket science. :-)

For more in-depth information on this topic, read Mark Traphagen’s article about Google+ and SEO, and Demian Farnworth’s series on Author Rank, Authorship and Google+.

“OK, you’ve convinced me. Where do I start?”

The first thing to do is sign up for a Google+ account and start filling out your profile.

In my next article, coming very soon, I’ll be sharing tips on how to make the most of Google+ for your creative career or business – make sure you’re subscribed to Lateral Action to get it.

And if you’d like to connect with me on Google+ and receive bite-sized inspiration throughout the week (inspiring articles, videos, images; and short posts that supplement the articles I write on this blog) you can add me to your circles here.

Are you on Google+ (yet)?

Are you using Google+?

Why / why not?

If you haven’t tried it yet, have I whetted your curiosity?

About the Author: Mark McGuinness is a creative coach and the author of Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success. Having read this article, you won’t be surprised to learn you can circle Mark on Google+.

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Responses to this Post

Comments

  1. I started out reading each word, to see why you were saying something so odd.

    Then I was skimming as I realized what you were saying and then I was rushingthrougeverywordsoIcouldgodoitnow!

    I’m a geek from WAY back, and a poet is teaching me this. H’ray for diversity.

    See you on G+

    • Heh, didn’t you know the poets are inheriting the earth? ;-)

      Really glad it makes sense to you Joel, Google+ will be a better place for your presence. See you there…

  2. Thanks for this informative post! I’ve had a Google+ account for a while now, but never really did anything with it until I started blogging professionally very recently.

    One of my questions is about how I should treat the profile page. Do you recommend using only professional information there, or do you also include personal information?

    I’m also curious about adding people and finding communities. Is there any sort of etiquette associated with adding someone to your circles (e.g. do you need to send them a little note explaining why you’re adding them)?

    • My pleasure Melissa.

      I’m going to cover these questions in more detail in my next post, but here are the quick answers:

      Assuming you have professional goals for using G+, I’d recommend ‘mostly professional with a bit of personal’.

      No need for a note when you circle someone. And adding people isn’t reciprocal (like Facebook) – you can circle people who haven’t circled you, and vice versa.

      Enjoy!

  3. This is really a nice topic. Agree with your all points.
    I know Google isn’t that popular as Facebook. One may not find his friends on this platform. What one will find is new friend with same interest.
    When it comes to Blogging and Internet marketing, then G+ is the best place. It not only drives traffic but also helps in ranking.
    Thanks for nice sharing. And just followed you on G+.

  4. I’ve been on Google+ for a while, but I confess I don’t use it much. Like Melissa, I’m interested to learn more about finding communities, so I look forward to the follow-up post.

  5. You convinced me. I just linked my Google+ account to my blog. Hadn’t done that yet. Thanks for giving me the push.
    Chris

  6. I don’t think that you read or understood Steppenwolf..

    • I’ve read it several times. As for who understands it better, I guess we could argue all day about that. But I find it harder to take people’s opinions seriously when they post them anonymously.

  7. Great, thanks for this Mark. Does the Authorship thing work on results from my Tumblr page?

    • I’m pretty sure you should be able to do that, here are Google’s instructions: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1229920

      I’m guessing this covers it:

      If you publish a blog or site featuring content by a single author, the simplest way to identify author information is to add a link to your Google Profile on every page, like this:

      <a rel=”author” href=”https://profiles.google.com/109412257237874861202″ rel=”nofollow”>About Matt Cutts</a>

      Obviously substituting Matt Cutts’ profile link and username with your own.

  8. How about on Add On domains? Thanks

  9. Vivian Summer says:

    I read the article it sounds wonderful & I believe it could be useful for me but I just don’t know how specifically. I’m not a social media or social utility buff by any stretch of the imagination so I’m at a Total loss for how I could maximize this media resource. I need help. The good news is I’m signed up ;0) I have an g+account

  10. I found this post through Brian’s G+ update, so I guess G+ works :)
    Now, I’ve been working on both FB and G+ for several weeks, and still have mixed feelings about G+.

    Pros:
    * Easy exposure when I post on the right communities.
    * Easy gain of “fans”, just like Twitter.
    * And of course, I hope it boosts my AR. (I implemented it with a plugin on my blog, but Google still doesn’t showcase my face…)

    Potential cons:
    * So let’s say someone like me to the point that they check my profile. They see my previous updates. Is this really contributing to building my brand?
    * The interface is so unfriendly. What’s the big white space on the right side doing?

    I also see different demographic. FB is so American (and some UK, etc) On G+, I see many from India and other Asian countries, etc. I think the G+ people are younger, too. So different exposure from FB.

    What do you think?

    • Welcome! :-)

      * So let’s say someone like me to the point that they check my profile. They see my previous updates. Is this really contributing to building my brand?

      It depends what you are posting in your updates! I’ll talk more about what to share on G+ in my next post, but it’s worth putting some thought into posting updates that WILL help to build your brand.

      * The interface is so unfriendly. What’s the big white space on the right side doing?

      I really like the interface. Come to think of it, I wondered what the big white space was the first time I saw it, now I hardly notice it.

      I also see different demographic. FB is so American (and some UK, etc) On G+, I see many from India and other Asian countries, etc. I think the G+ people are younger, too. So different exposure from FB.

      Yes, the mix of people is one of the things I like about G+. Personally I find quite a few ‘older’ people there too (i.e. my age and above).

  11. Mark: Great article. I was so motivated I just fleshed out my Google+ account that was languishing. I think this may be the social media format I’ve been missing. I’ll keep you posted, Gigi

  12. Brenda Gael Smith says:

    Curiously, I have not been able to find an easy way to claim Google authorship for posts on a multi-author blog on the Google Blogger platform or maybe I am missing something… (yay for Genesis making it easy on WordPress)

    • Hmm, that’s odd, given that Google own Blogger. Afraid it’s beyond my technical knowledge, but you’d think it should be possible on their own blogging platform…

  13. I really like the idea of Google Authorship and working towards building a reputation as a valued author. As well as meeting people with similar passions! Just set up a Vimeo account, but will reconsider now and might go back to youtube.

    • I wouldn’t rush to delete your Vimeo account – I’ve got one and it’s a great service. Better than youtube in lots of ways. But if you can stand the extra work, it might be worth uploading your videos to both places.

  14. I wouldn’t mind uploading them to both, I do like Vimeo so far. Found Juxtapoz Magazine as one of the first people to add to my circles. You’re right, it does feel like Twitter before it got so noisy!

  15. I would use Google + but I write under a pen name-that seems to be a problem in the Google system.

  16. Thanks Mark, I have been meaning to get a Google+ account but there always seems like something else to do. The idea of going were there are less people seems great to me. In fact I’m going to do it now.

    Were do you stand on LinkedIn by the way?

    • I think it’s worth having a linkedin profile and having a reasonably up-to-date network there. I know some people who get a lot out of the groups, but it doesn’t excite me as a place to go.

      • doesn’t excite either but I can see the potential

      • I ignored LinkedIn for a long time. This past year we’ve started a campaign of answering every question within my areas of expertise and interest anyone posts. It has directly led to multiple clients.

        Some of the writing groups are particularly helpful and inspiring.

        • Where are you answering questions Joel? In group forums, or the LinkedIn Q&A section? (Or did they get rid of the latter?)

          • Forums. When they first introduced the Q&A I spent some time there but it felt very hit-and-run.

            In the fora (isn’t that the plural of forum?) folks are looking for a conversation, not just an answer.

            • Heh, yes, ‘fora’ is technically right. Just like ‘stadia’, but ‘forums’ and ‘stadiums’ are everywhere these days. ;-)

              Yes, that was my impression of the Q&A section, probably why (I think) they discontinued it.

  17. I here you loud and clear Mr. Guinness! I have been using Google+ since it was in beta and just recently tapped into the power it can have as a marketing tool and creating connections.

    What I found on Facebook was that I couldn’t connect with new people unless other friends suggested them to me. I found this completely backwards. When FB tried to rectify this problem with “subscriptions” it was far too little, far too late. Google+ filled that role perfectly.

    I’m into a multitude of areas and although Google+ is maturing quite nicely. The potential of G+ is near infinite, but it’s more focused, clean, and easier to navigate. Once you get used to it, you start asking yourself why no one else is switching, but then you realize you don’t want everyone to switch. G+ is a place to find QUALITY people, not everyone. That is what makes it incredible.

  18. Just a side note: “compelling” is quickly becoming one of the overused buzz words in advertising, along with amazing, spectacular, once-in-a-life-time, and epic.

  19. Nice article Mark
    Clear and concise with a good overview of the service.
    I like how it can help with search rankings and ctr by splashing your picture up there. Very cool.

  20. Just read this article and loved it!

    Thanks Mark!

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