How Not to use Google+
Have you noticed some people on Google+ doing the same annoying thing, over and over? For most, it's not on purpose. It's not their fault that they don't know any better. But the fact is, there's something they're expected to do, or expected not to do, and they're messing it up.
Sociologically, we refer to these as Norms, and there are four different kinds of norms: Folkways, Mores, Laws and Taboo. Unfortunately, while Laws and Taboo are generally documented, Folkways and Mores are less understood and often poorly communicated. As a result, particularly in developing environments like social networks, it's difficult to grasp at first what is and isn't expected of you.
Here are some of the most common mistakes people make on Google+, and what they should be doing differently. See if you can spot a few you recognize.
Sharing With and Notifying Circles
There's a lot of confusion over how to use circles and notifications - and of course there are a few people who know what they're doing, they know that they're essentially spamming people, yet they do it anyways. Here's how it works:
When creating a new post on Google+, there's an Audience field that is set to Public by default. You can also select specific circles and individuals, or one Community.
If you remove Public and select one or more circles or individuals, than your post will only be visible to your selections.
Once you've selected one or more circles, a check box will appear asking if you want to "Also send an email notification" to your selected circles. If checked, once you publish your post, everyone you've selected will receive a notification (via email or otherwise, depending on their settings), stating that you've shared a post with them.
The problem is, unless these people have asked to be notified of your new posts, you're spamming them. Do not notify everyone you've circled of new posts! If you want to be able to notify people of your new posts, try setting up an opt-in circle for that.
Forgetting to Mention People
The tagging system in Google+ is a little different. If you're composing a comment or a post and need to reference someone in the text, you need to type a + followed directly by their name, like +Mike Allton. As you're typing the name, Google+ will suggest possible people and you can hit enter if yours is selected, or click on the right name.
Mentioning people, the correct way, is the only way to ensure that that individual will get a notification that you're talking about them or asking them a question. Therefore, it's considered good form to use someone's name each time you're starting a new comment addressed to them.
Forgetting to Credit People
It's commonplace on Google+ to share interesting or funny posts you might see in your stream. And when you share someone's post, they can see that you shared it. But what happens when you share a share? If you see a post that I shared, and it was originally an article someone else wrote, when you share it, you're sharing the original. My part of the action is completely left out. But yet, I'm the one that brought that post to your attention. You might not have seen it without me, so the proper thing to do is to give me credit.
It's a simple thing, and there are a number of ways you can do it. The most common is to type h/t +Mike Allton, where "h/t" stands for "hat tip." You can also thank the person or mention them in some way - just so you acknowledge that they found the original post, and you correctly tag them.
Giving appropriate attribution to other Google+ users is all part of being a good social citizen.
Always Sharing Links Without Commentary
Google+ can be a great place to share links to your latest blog posts and articles to help bring traffic to your site. However, it's not a place to dump links. If all you ever do is spam links without any additional text or commentary, people will not be interested.
Instead, share your links, but always add some additional comments to preface the link. Tell people what you're talking about and why they might be interested, and try to start a conversation. It's also a good idea to take advantage of Google+ formatting options like *bold* and _italic_ and paragraph breaks to make your text more enjoyable and interesting to read.
Sharing the Same Links to All Communities
Like LinkedIn Groups, Google+ members can join all kinds of great Google+ Communities regarding their personal and business interests. Having access to a Community where thousands of other people with similar interests are members is a tempting prospect for sharing links. But abuse that capability, and you're once again falling into the spam trap.
Nearly every Community has certain rules and guidelines with regard to sharing links. Most are happy to accept links to great content that would naturally be of interest to Community members (see adding commentary above), but most Communities would prefer that you refrain from spamming your links to every Community you're a member of. What's more, if you do it too much, Google will automatically hide ALL of your posts.
Instead, share sparingly and selectively, and spread your shares out. And do not share links to communities in which you aren't active. If you don't have the time to at least glance through some of the posts once in a while and make an effort to engage, do not expect other community members to care about your own posts.
Not Using a Profile Pic
Google+ is a social network. As such, every members has certain expectations, and one of them is that they will use a real profile pic. Not everyone does, but serious Google+ users are not interested in engaging with people who can't be bother to upload a pic, or are hiding behind an avatar of some kind. Some may even block you.
Now, if you're on Google+ just for fun, then by all means, use whatever you want as your profile pic. It's your call. But if you want to develop meaningful connections, particularly for business networking, use a real photo of yourself.
Always Leaving Terse Comments
This isn't Facebook. Google+ is about driving conversation and discussion. Typically, the people who always leave terse comments like "great" are just looking to create a false sense of connection to the post author. Don't do that.
Brief comments are certainly fine once in a while, particularly with people you know, but if you're trying to make an impression on an influencer, you're going to have to do better than that.
Never Sharing Other People's Posts
So here's the thing. People who only ever share their own links and talk about themselves are not interesting. Sure, they might have something clever to say once in a while, but that kind of narcissistic attitude gets old after a while.
Instead, be a good social citizen. Share other people's posts. Promote them. Help other people. Then watch what happens!
Never Acknowledging Other People's Mentions
Just like it's expected that you'll credit other people when appropriate, it's also expected that you'll acknowledge it when someone else mentions you, whether it's just a +1 or a comment or even a share of their post if they're quoting you.
Certainly, if someone is tagging you just to get your attention, please feel free to ignore it. But if someone has genuinely thanked you or gone so far as to quote you in a piece, thank them! And if someone's going out of their way to evangelize your brand, look for other ways to show your appreciation.
If you're like me, many of these "unwritten rules" weren't obvious at first. Frankly, I'm aware of all of these mistakes because I've made most of them myself. If you've stumbled into any of these before, hopefully you'll have a better understanding now and can avoid doing them again. And for the guy you know who's always sharing posts directly with you, share this one with him.
UPDATE: Soon after posting this, it went viral on Google+. If
you're interested in reading why, check out Anatomy of a Viral Post.
Image courtesy of levendis, Flickr.