If 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+.
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:
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 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:
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 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.”
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:
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:
- 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.
- 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. 🙂
“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+.