Getting Started On Google Plus (Part 4)

Getting Started On Google Plus - A Geekalicious series
This is the final part in my four-part series, Getting Started With Google Plus.  This four-part series is designed to help you learn to love Google Plus and enjoy your time on the platform.

We have already covered setting up your profile (Part One), sharing content with relevant circles (Part Two) and using images and text formatting to help your updates stand out (Part Three) so we will move on to some final tips, tricks and recommendations. 

Part 4. Tips and Tricks


Notifications

Google Plus circle notifications
Now you are sharing great content with images and formatted text, have people in circles and are a member of a couple of communities you may have noticed that you are receiving lots and lots of notifications that are driving you mad or are pinging through to your email or phone. Within each circle and community you can control the amount of notifications you receive by adjusting the settings for each one individually.  Whilst viewing the timeline of each circle you can toggle the 'bell' on and off for notifications pushed to your email/phone and you can decide how many times you would like to see updates from that circle in your main timeline by hitting the cog and and personalising the selection shown.  The same adjustments can be made from the main page of a community.

Communities

Google Plus community threads
Please remember that when you first view a community you are looking at the main timeline of that community, i.e. everything that has been shared by the members. Take a look to the main information box to the left of the community and see if the owner has started any "threads" (discussion topics).  Conversation and/or links may be more relevant in these areas.  

Picture This

As mentioned in Part Three, Google+ thrives on images and their incorporation with Picasa means that some editing tools are available in Google+ and you can share to G+ direct from the desktop version of Picasa editing suite. Photo and Video options are available in your G+ settings and you are provided with 15GB of free storage. 

It is worth noting that if you blog on Blogger, images uploaded to your blog are automatically included in a G+ album and this count towards your free photo storage space. You can share your albums or individual images to your G+ stream and you can also use pictures from your G+ albums to help enhance your udpates - this includes any auto-awesome pictures that you may have created as these are stored in your Google Albums too.

Spending a little extra time creating 'call to action' type images is worth thinking about. You can easily overlay text on an photgraph to create a really striking lead image using Picasa or non-Google (free) photo editing websites such as PicMonkey or Photobucket.

.Gif images (moving pictures) work brilliantly on Google+ and generate a fun, eye-catching addition to your update. I'd be wary of using them consistently because they can become a little annoying.  A great place to find .gif images is by filtering the Google Image search down from the Image tab with Search Tools > Type > Animated.  Right click on the image and save it to your computer then upload as normal.  Please ensure you check usage rights before using any image you find and always credit the source.  You can also create your own .gif images by using this nifty little (free) online tool

Finally, for images, Auto Backup is worth exploring if you take lots of pictures on your phone. You can automatically back up all your mobile pictures as you take them by using a setting built into the G+ mobile app on your smart phone.  You receive unlimited free storage at the standard size of picture (2048px) - more information here.

Apps

There are a few apps that I use to help me out with my Google Plus experience.  
  • Friends+Me is a social sharing tool which allows you to share public posts from Google+ to your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.  There are many source and destination settings and this app uses hashtags to control these settings.
  • Bit.ly is my weapon of choice when it comes to shortening links because you can edit the short link name and follow the life of the link with embedded statistics.
  • +1 Chrome Extension can be used to recommend and share articles directly from the webpage. This will display a 'rich snippet' social share on Google+
  • Buffer is another social sharing and scheduling tool and you can push articles to a Google+ page (not a profile sadly) either by setting up your own personal schedule or by sharing immediately.
  • Circle Count is an metric that measures a person's influence on G+. By counting the number of circles you are in and including the +1's, comments and shares the higher the influence is expected to be.  It's worth noting that currently you can only circle 5000 people but you can be in many more circles.
(Note: both Buffer, Circle Count and Bit.ly also have Chrome Extensions available)

Do's And Don't's

DO check your updates for good grammar and spelling.  People will be reluctant to recommend or share updates that don't read well unless the content is absolutely awesome.
DON'T share the same link across all social media networks and expect it to ripple on its own. You need to engage with your connections as yourself on each social media platform. Time management is key here and updates should be tailored to the platform too.
DO use the search bar at the top of your Google+ timeline to find content, people, places, photographs and more.

Links and Additional Reading

It is important to have a great Google+ profile photo (head and shoulders is recommended) and cover image. Find out the optimum size and measurements for Google+ profiles and how they convert to the mobile/app version (written by Andew Macarthy of +500 Social Media Marketing Tips). 

If you are still stuck for inspiration or new people to circle then take a look at the Explore section of Google Plus - it is also called "What's Hot" in your G+ menu.

You can read a full article about the anatomy of the perfect G+ post (written by +Dustin W. Stout).

If you own a website or a blog then you should connect your content with your Google Plus profile.  You can find out how to claim your Google Authorship here.

Google is now promoting a 'one account for all' meaning that you only need one log-in name and password to access all Google's products.  Find out how Google integration helps with your Google authority, especially when using YouTube.

This series in full

Part 4 - Tips And Tricks



Getting Started On Google Plus (Part 3)

Getting Started On Google Plus - A Geekalicious series
Thanks for returning for part three of my Getting Started With Google Plus series.  This four part series is designed to help you learn to love Google Plus and enjoy your time on the platform. 

We have already covered setting up your profile (part one) and starting to share content with relevant circles (part two) so we can now move on to improving the look of your G+ content which will increase engagement and interaction even more.


Part 3. The Bigger Picture


Formatting Your Updates

Online engagement is enhanced by images so with a fast paced social media platform it is important to create updates that stand out in the crowd.  Google Plus is very intuitive and it is worth taking a couple of extra minutes to structure your update so that it is shown off at its best. You can use bold, italics and strikethrough in your updates as follows (you can use any combination of this formatting to create really great, eye-catching updates):
  • Adding an asterisk ( * ) at the beginning and end of a section of text will create bold text
  • Adding an underscore ( _ ) at the beginning and end of a section of text will create italic text
  • Adding a dash ( - ) at the beginning and end of a section of text will create a strikethrough effect

Images

Google Plus is a great place for images.  It is really worth using the Google Plus photo tour to understand what is available for your images. This includes introducing auto-backup (saving photos as you take them on your phone), auto-enhance (showing your image at its best) and auto-awesome (stitching continuous images together to create a mini-movie or panoramic view).  As these images are created and saved within your Google account you can use them all within your Google Plus updates.

Using Formatting And Images In Your Updates

The anatomy of a G+ post is something that is much discussed but it is without doubt that Google love original content and there is so much more room to "talk" than on Twitter (for example).  If sharing a link then it is expected that you introduce the link (a title - maybe bold that text), write a summary explaining the reason for sharing the link (I have even reproduced an opening paragraph or important part of the article), link to the article itself, use hashtags to really specify the theme of the update and include an image.

G+ automatically links any URLs that you include in an update and creates a 'rich snippet'.  This is where the title of the article is hyperlinked and a small image included.  To create an even more striking update you can remove this rich snippet and include a larger image:

Formatting your updates in Google Plus
Please click on the image to enlarge it
  1. remove the auto-link
  2. choose an image from your Google photo albums or your computer
  3. auto-enhance the image

Using this technique has its pros and cons.  Rich snippet links links are given a 'follow' attribution which helps with search engine optimisation (SEO). Any additional links within a G+ update are given a 'nofollow' attribution.  This was introduced to prevent people from filling G+ updates with links just to gain PageRank or SEO juice. However, it is noted that updates with a large image are much more likely to invite real interaction.  These can include +1's, conversation and social sharing which all count towards the SEO and SERPs (search engine results page) for the original article.  Here are examples of both techniques from my own Google Plus profile.





So now it is time for you to go and try out these different engagement techniques and see which ones work best for you. Tag me in one of your updates - I'm +Nickie O'Hara - and let me have a look at what you're sharing.  Please come back tomorrow for the final section of this series which will provide some more tips and tricks, more circle recommendations and some apps that can be used to save even more time.

Please also read: 

Part 1 - Sharpening Your Settings And Preparing Your Profile 
Part 2 - Getting Social Without Getting Sucked In 
Part 4 - Tips And Tricks


Getting Started On Google Plus (Part 2)

Getting Started On Google Plus - A Geekalicious series
Welcome back to my Getting Started On Google Plus mini-series. This four-part series is designed to help you learn to love Google Plus and enjoy your time on the platform.

The reason Google Plus feels daunting to some people is because it's all so new and empty and quiet.  That blank canvas is the perfect place to start to create a timeline that is full of two-way interesting and engaging content. If you have completed part 1 then you will now have adjusted your settings and prepared your profile so it all looks awesome and you are ready to start meeting and greeting.


Part 2. Getting Social Without Getting Sucked In


Public versus Circles

Now that you have some people in circles then you can start sharing content with them.  It is important not to make people feel as though you are forcing them to read your updates but to tailor those updates towards the people you think may be interested in them.  As mentioned in Part One of this mini-series there are a number of ways in which you can make your update visible by using the "Public", specific circles or private messaging options.


I will stress that you use the "Also send email to x circles" option sporadically and only to people who you really need a response from (i.e. a small specific circle of users).  Having many emails ping to your inbox during the day can feel over-enthusiastic and may lead to you being blocked.

To check what the people in your circles have been saying on G+ you can view each circle as an individual stream by clicking on the circle name at the top of your G+ timeline.  This means that you can allocate time to specific actions on G+ if your social media time is limited.  

Profile versus Page

There is a clear definition between personal profiles and brand page identities.  You will communicate and interact on a profile using your own name (or the name you registered with).  On a page you can choose any name or trade name to coincide with the reason for your page.  Your G+ page is completely separate from your G+ profile and you can access many of the Google facilities separately (YouTube for example) using both identities.

Only you (as an individual) can manage your personal profile however you can have up to 50 'managers' of a brand page and you can switch between 50 pages from one Google account.  You can read more about this here. To create a G+ page you initially need a G+ profile but the connection between the two is not public.

Many bloggers like to have a separate page for their blogging interaction so that they can be 'themselves' on their personal profile. There is no hard and fast rule for having the separation but it is a bonus for people who prefer to blog anonymously or under a pseudonym.  To make G+ work for you you have to be prepared to invest time into either or both to make them interesting and interactive. 

Hashtags

Adding relevant hashtags to your posts will help with searches and similar posts will be grouped together. Three hashtags per interaction are recommended and there is an option in the settings for hashtags to be taken from the keywords in your update but I suggest adding your own. All hashtags are converted into clickable links and when you 'explore' a hashtag you will find related suggestions at the top of the page. Click on a G+ hashtag and see what happens.  A really good one to try first is #Caturday (cat-related posts on a Saturday).

You don't need to add hashtags to continuing conversations - just to the initial update.

Communities

Communities are a fabulous place to use as a base for a specific topic.  You can connect with people all around the world, create discussions, post photographs and arrange video Hangouts.  Communities can be both pubic and private and anyone can create one.  It is the responsibility of the Community owner to control the privacy settings.  Community owners and members can invite people to join and you can share  Find communities that you can be an integral part of rather than just leaving links to your blog or business.

Here are two communities that I am a member of.  Join them to get a feel for how communities work in totally different ways.




Go and share some relevant content with your circles (from your profile or your page) and join a couple of communities.  If you have any questions please ask me on Google Plus - I'm +Nickie O'Hara - or leave a comment below this post.

Getting Started On Google Plus (Part 1)

Getting Started On Google Plus - A Geekalicious series
Google Plus earned an early reputation as being the social media platform to use if you are a geek or a blogger. In many ways, that was true because those are exactly the types of people who seek to know about a new way to connect with other people. However, there are many others that are opening Google Plus, staring at the screen and closing it off again because they have no idea what to do with it.

Question: Why should you be using Google Plus?
Answer:  Any content you share on Google Plus gives weight to that webpage in terms of Google's Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).  Also, people who follow each other on Google+ will see each other's posts higher in their search results (when logged in to Google).  Any content that is given a +1 recommendation makes that link more 'visible' and allows it to become more authoritative, therefore it will rank higher when a search is conducted.  Part of Google's recent Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) update was to allow Google to process links from social media platforms. Of course they include their own platform but other social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) are not as keen to share this information.

This four-part series will help you get to grips with your Google Plus experience and teach you to love it.

All Google Products are connected now with a "One Account For All" implimentation.  You can read about how this improves your authority but it also means that if you have a GMail or YouTube account then you can use Google Plus without having to create another login.


Part 1.  Sharpening Your Settings And Preparing Your Profile


Your Settings

Make sure you get what you want from Google Plus.  This includes honing who can send you notifications, who can comment on your public posts, settings for photos and videos and which of your own personal activity to show in the main timeline.  You can reach the settings page by hovering over the word "Home" in the top left of your screen - "Settings" is the last option on the list. All adjustments are saved automatically.

Your Profile

You need to ensure that your Google Plus profile is optimised as best as you can to enhance your visibility in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) but also so that you don't appear to be spamming with your own links. Where prompted upload a great cover photo (the large header image) and a nice personal photo (head and shoulders is best) and then check what your own profile looks like to others.  The default setting is viewing the profile as yourself (i.e. so you can see everything you have posted) however only "Public" posts appear in the main timeline.  You can view your own profile by hovering over the "Home" button in the top left of your screen - "Profile is the second option on the list.  You can then use the drop-down menu at the top of the page to view your profile as yourself or as Public.  If you need to change anything go back to your settings and adjust accordingly.

Your Circles

You do not have to be friends with people on G+ to engage with them.  If updates are 'Public' then anyone can interact with that post.  When you engage with someone on G+ you can hover your cursor over their name and you are given the option to add them to a Circle. The Circle Concept is exactly the same as creating themed groups but it is worth noting that one person/connection can be in more than one circle. You can also add brand pages to Circles too.  Circles give you the flexibility of checking updates from groups of people and targeting updates towards people who want to see them and who will engage with them.

Google Plus update box - getting started on Google Plus

There will be more about the difference between a +1 and sharing an update and how to create eye-catching and engaging updates in the next part of this series but you should note the following:

  • updates with a "Public" label can be seen by everyone
  • updates with a "Public" label and Circle labels can be seen by everyone but the people in the named and tagged circle will receive a notification to say that you have highlighted an update that may be of interest to them
  • updates with just a Circle label can only be seen by those in that Circle and they will receive an notification to say that you have highlighted an update that may be of interest to them
  • updates with a "Public" label and a name (i.e. +Nickie O'Hara) can be seen by everyone and the person tagged will receive a notification to say that you have tagged them in an update
  • updates with just a name are treated as private messages and cannot be seen by others

Find people from all walks of life and from every genre you want to connect with and group them into 'circles'. Public updates from people you have in circles will appear in your main timeline however if you search within G+ for a specific subject results will show all related public posts (more on this in Part 4). To help get you started on Google Plus I have shared some of my favourite circles below. Click on each circle to see the options available.








Go and set up your Google Plus profile and please ask any questions in the comments or have a practice and tag me in an update or send me a message on G+ - I'm +Nickie O'Hara.

Please also read: 

Part 2 - Getting Social Without Getting Sucked In (creating updates that can be found and will be shared)
Part 3 - The Bigger Picture (images and links)
Part 4 - Tips and Tricks (individuals to circle, great apps to use, SERPs and integration)


[REVIEW] RAVPower Luster 3000mAH Compact External Battery Pack and Charger

RAVPower Luster 3000mAH Compact External Battery Pack and Charger (boxed)
I use my phone a lot during the day to whiz through my social media channels and to check my email (and occasionally make calls and send texts) and by 3pm it is usually gasping for breath, ready to give up the ghost on battery life. If I'm lucky I can usually plug my phone into a laptop somewhere and give it a bit of a boost but that's not always possible so I am a huge fan of portable battery chargers like the RAVPower Luster.

RAVPower Luster 3000mAH Compact External Battery Pack and Charger
This is a dual power bank and torch/flashlight with three modes (high beam, low beam and strobe). The fully charged battery pack will enable you to run your phone for approximately six hours and is true plug and play. The power bank will automatically detect when your device is fully charge and put itself in standby mode to avoid over-charging. If you disconnect the power bank from the device it will wait about 5 seconds and (again) automatically switch to standby mode.

When you receive the RAVPower Luster it is pre-charged but I suggest giving it a boost before you use it. It comes with a USB-to-micro-USB cable but any mini AC power adapter (wall plug) that came with your phone/tablet. It is noted that charge time via USB is slower than using a power adapter.*

Recommendations:  I would like a charge indicator on the power bank simply to tell me how much "juice" is left in it and to remind me to recharge it.

The spec says that it is the size of a lipstick but I'd suggest more the size of a mascara or a roll of coins (12cm in length) and it weighs just under 3 ounces. It fits perfectly into your pocket or bag and is available in five colours (as you can see from the picture of the box - blue, pink, black, gold, silver).  It has been a handy piece of kit on a few occasions over the past few weeks.

RRP is £39.99 but, at the time of writing, you could purchase it for under £15 on Amazon.

*The Apple 30-pin charging cable is not included however you can use any original 30-pin to USB cable provided by Apple. Also if your mobile devices do not have a Micro USB port then it is recommended that you use the original charging cables that came with your mobile device.



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