19 April 2012

How to best use Google+

Google+ is fast shaping up as meaningful forum to discuss current affairs and explore science and culture. After one year it hasn't yet been flooded with provocateurs and spammers. But with an estimated 100+ million users, G+ seems to be a hive of intellectual activity that goes beyond early adopters and the intellectual elite.

A significant number of journalists, politicians, educators and community leaders are using it and some are declaring Google+ to be their primary social network. G+ is both a useful source of information and an opportunity to raise awareness and engage with audiences.

To demonstrate this, G+ user Ole Ole Olson has developed a very helpful guide for activists and non-profit organizations to use Google+ effectively. His Progressives Guide to Social Media also covers Facebook, Twitter and sites such as Reddit and Digg. 

The G+ guide includes tips on using circles for selectively finding and sharing information, and he links to some existing circles of key influencers, ranging from journalists, activists and scientists through to specific interest groups such as vegetarians. He also provides links to the institutional pages of major institutions and campaigns, from Mother Jones, Wired and Wikileaks, to Amnesty International and Change.org.

“A good tactic is to write a thoughtful short paragraph about a news article, then paste that comment on every social media site.  If you are reposting something shared with you, always make sure you follow etiquette by attributing where you found the information.” Since circles allow you to share information selectively, I also recommend you also ensure that what you post is relevant to each of your audiences.

As Olson notes, there is a lot of functionality in Google+. Search is a given, and there is also on-demand video conferencing (hangouts), chat and photo and video storage. Since YouTube is owned by Google, YouTube videos are better integrated and play within the G+ site. Others, such as Vimeo, take users to a new web page. 

Some of the basics are also covered in this guide, like the requirement for a Gmail account and the need to use your real name: a potential sticking point for repressed activists needing anonymity (tip: a feasible alias can be used). Google has also streamlined its privacy policies and integrated its accounts more, so you can link your YouTube account to your Google+ account, if you wish.

To make best use of the site, Olsen suggests a clear profile and photo, plus external links. Adding pre-made circles can quickly create an audience as members follow you in return. 

Posting original or useful content can raise your profile, and some users develop community by prompting discussion around specific issues. While that can be an opening for spammers and others to add provocative or irrelevant comments, G+ allows you to block malcontents. On the other hand, you can also see who is voting for you (+1) and re-sharing your posts. Ways to share your G+ posts with your Facebook and Twitter accounts are also discussed.

Find Scott McQuade on Google+ here: http://goo.gl/vLIjk

See also: 10 ways to influence with social media