6 Ways a Formatted Google+ Post Will Increase Engagement and Interest
One of the major differences we've discussed in the past between Google+ and other social networks is the ability to format your posts. I've shared tips and techniques, and the renowned Peg Fitzpatrick recently ran through her style for creating the perfect Google+ post, and it's right in line with how I share new blog posts.
But why does it matter?
Businesses and bloggers using content and social media should be working to achieve the following:
- Increase Readership and Traffic
- Increase Authority
Correctly formatting your Google+ posts can help you achieve those goals, far better than posts to other social networks can. Just like starting your day off with a fresh cup of coffee to help wake and energize you, give your Google+ Posts some extra love and attention and start them off right.
How to Craft Google+ Posts
As Peg correctly states, there are a number of elements to the "perfect" Google+ post, including:
1. Title Your Post - Use a * around your first sentence of text to make it bold, and treat it like a blog post title. It can be the same as your blog post, or something different. I generally take a specific point from the post or a different perspective in order to spark discussion.
2. Introduce Your Post - After your title, provide some information as to what your post is about or what kind of discussion you'd like to start. You can handle this a number of ways, and can change it up depending on the nature of the specific post. Sometimes I will summarize the post, and other times I will discuss a different topic entirely and relate it to the blog post. Either way, make sure that you're offering your Google+ followers a reason to get involved and read your post.
3. Ask Questions - Either within your commentary or at the end, make sure that you ask questions specifically designed to spark conversation. People on Google+ want to talk to you and other people. Encourage that!
4. Include an Image - Every one of your blog posts includes an image, right? RIGHT? This is just one of the many reasons why it should - so that your social shares can also include images. In the case of Google+, you can choose whether or not you share your link and have your image included in the link preview, or share the image as an image and include a link to your post within the commentary. There are pro's and con's to each method, as a larger image can increase the visibility of your post, but risks fewer click-through's since the image is not linked to your blog post. If you're taking the time to find or create great images, I'd recommend sharing them as full images.
5. Mention Influencers - When appropriate, make sure that you mention key influencers in your post. When sharing this article, for instance, I'll mention Peg in the commentary which will draw her attention to the post and acknowledge her contribution to the content of the piece. This serves as a public thanks for her input, as well as provides an opportunity for her to leave a comment or some other social signal, helping me. But note that I have a perfect and legitimate reason for mentioning Peg. Don't mention other people for your own purposes - use it to thank, reference or acknowledge others and watch what happens.
6. Include 2 - 3 Hashtags - Always make sure you tag your posts with (no more than) 2 - 3 hashtags that will tie your post to other related posts and discussions. (though it's OK to break this rule now and then)
7. Share to your Blog Notification Circle - Huh? What's that?? Well, Google+ allows you to share posts to Circles of other people that you've put together, and you can choose to send a notification to those people when you publish your post. However, this is NOT a technique that you should use with just any circle you want. You must set up a Blog Notification circle where you specifically ask people if they want to be notified of your new posts, and you only add them to that circle if they respond that they do. It's essentially an Opt-In list. If you take the time and care to compile and nurture such a circle, each of your new blog posts and subsequent Google+ posts will be set up to immediately ping dozens and dozens of people, getting a great start on your +1's and other social signals. Here's the more detailed instructions I wrote up on this technique.
8. Respond to Comments - Once you've shared your post, make sure that you take the time to respond to people who take the time to comment and engage you. Show your appreciation, answer questions, and demonstrate your expertise. Each comment also serves to further increase the level of activity and engagement on your post, generating more +1's and interest and virality. If you want your posts to get on What's Hot, don't neglect this step!
BONUS: Include a Pin It Link - Peg and others have correctly noted the great synergy that can come from having a strong Pinterest presence alongside Google+. Both platforms support sharing great images, and you should already be sharing your latest blog posts to your Pinterest boards. Make it easy for your Google+ followers to curate your blog post onto one of their own Pinterest boards by providing a link.
I recommend that you share your Google+ post with ONLY your blog post link at first, and then edit it to include the link to your Pinterest pin (or any other links you wish to add). One of the benefits of sharing a blog post to Google+ is that when someone +1's your Google+ post, they're also +1'ing your blog post itself, as far as Google is concerned. That +1 is passed to the blog post (or webpage or whatever link you shared). However, when there is more than one link within a Google+ post, no +1's are passed as Google would have no way to determine which of the links deserved the +1. However, if you edit a post and add more links after the fact, Google knows which link is the original link and +1's will be passed accordingly. (h/t to Alicia Feliz and others for researching this aspect of +1's.)
UPDATE: It has been determined that this technique no longer works. If you edit a Google+ post and include one or more additional links, the +1 flow to the original article wil stop immediately. If your goal is to increase traffic and engagement on both Pinterest and Google+, than by all means continue to include a Pin It link. But, if you're looking for greater social signals and social proof on your blog posts, I no longer recommend this, and have decreased dramatically how often I use it.
Using Social Media Management Tools to Post to Google+
If you're using tools or apps to assist you with your social media management, it's even more important that you take a little extra time to format those Google+ shares to make them stand out. Don't be tempted to cut corners and just spam links simply because you can.
Fortunately, the social media management tools that I typically recommend, HootSuite and Buffer, have complete support for formatted Google+ posts. You can include page breaks and styling and links and hashtags. You can even mention people if you grab their Google+ ID number, and here are instructions for how to do that with HootSuite and Buffer, specifically.
The real benefit to using one of these tools is the fact that your formatted Google+ post can then be scheduled. For a complete list of tools that support Google+ scheduling, click here. The report also indicates which tools support formatting and styling.
How do Formatted Google+ Posts Increase Engagement?
So now that you know how to craft that perfectly formatted Google+ post, let's dive into the benefits.
First, these posts stand out in the stream. Anyone can share a link. A post that has a nice, large image and a bold title draws more attention to itself.
I will mix posts up and share different kinds of posts. Sometimes it's just a picture, sometimes it's a "naked" link. But when I have a post that I'm really interested in getting people talking about, whether it's one of my own or someone else's post, I always add a title to start it off right.
Second, the commentary or introduction gets people thinking and talking and sharing. If you ask a compelling question, I won't be able to stop myself from answering it! The masters at Google+ get this and are regularly creating really interesting posts and asking great questions.
This is a technique that will take practice. And when you've published your blog post and now you're ready to share it to Google+, give thought to this part and set aside some time for it. I've mentioned before that sometimes creating the Title for your blog post can take longer than writing the post itself, because of the importance of that title, and this is no different. The Title of your Google+ share and the commentary you add are just as significant as the rest of your article. It's been said that your Title should be compelling enough to get people to read your second sentence, and then your second sentence should be compelling enough to get people to read the next, and so on through your entire post. Your Google+ share works the same way.
Third, when you're able to bring influencers into the conversation, this does two things for you:
- You gain reputation from your perceived association with that influencer in the eyes of other readers.
- You potentially gain exposure from influencer +1's and Shares (don't forget that +1'd posts can appear in streams just like shares!).
If you carefully develop a strong relationship with influencers by engaging them on their own posts, asking smart questions, and resharing their posts, they'll reciprocate.
Fourth, when you include hashtags, as I mentioned, you link your post to other posts and discussions that have taken place, are taking place, or will take place in the future. It allows your post to have a far greater reach and audience than just your own follower base. Just like getting into What's Hot, it gives you an opportunity to engage new people who have never talked to you or seen your posts before.
If you haven't already, take the time to do some searches on specific hashtags and make sure you have a good understanding of the specific hashtags that you want to target and use in your posts. It doesn't do you much good to tag your posts with a hashtag no one else is talking about (unless you're deliberately trying to claim that hashtag for a specific purpose, like an event).
Fifth, sharing to Circles, particularly a Blog Notification Circle, is a brilliant way to start the discussion with your interested followers, and that's an option that just doesn't exist on other platforms. People can follow you on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn and even put you into lists, but it's a lot easier to get someone to agree to be in your Notification Circle than to encourage them to put you into their Close Friends list on Facebook, right?
My own Blog Notification circle has over 100 interested readers. As soon as I publish a new blog post and share it to Google+, they get pinged, and my post immediately starts to get attention. Rapid views, +1's, comments and shares are the key to getting into the What's Hot stream so take advantage of that fact and build your own notification circle.
And sixth, the simple nature of Google+ is that it is far more conducive to discussions and conversations than other platforms, even Facebook. That's not to say that discussions don't happen on other networks - it's just easier and expected on Google+. Give your followers the slightest reason to comment or discuss a point and watch as your Google+ post receives exponentially higher interest than comparable posts on Facebook or LinkedIn.
This is partly due to the mechanics of Google+ - the ability to format posts and comments with paragraph breaks and minimal styling makes it easier to convey thoughts and encourages discussion. But it's also the culture that has developed around the network. Each social network is really it's own micro-society, with it's own set of social norms and mores. Understanding and building off those cultural preferences can really help you be successful on each network. Google+ certainly has it's own set of norms, and creating rich discussion rather than simply sharing links is definitely one of them.
Is that all there is to it?
Um, no. There's definitely more to it than that. These are simply the techniques and methods you can use to generate interest based on a blog post. It still requires that you blog regularly, offer excellent information and insights, and work to develop strong relationships on Google+ and other social networks with your followers and influencers.
And I'll be the first to admit that's not easy.
It's hard work creating not just content, but great content, the kind of content that other people are interested in reading and discussing and sharing. It also takes time and patience. If you're just getting started on blogging and Google+, hang in there! Subscribe to my newsletter to make sure you catch future articles on content marketing and social media.
If you'd like more one-on-one training and mentoring in blogging, or if you need someone to help with the actual writing and promoting, please get in touch with me. We can schedule a Google+ Hangout to discuss your unique needs and see if Blog Coaching or Writing or Social Media Management would be a good fit for you and your business.
If you have any questions at all about how or why to format Google+ posts, please leave them in the Comments below. Thanks!
By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.
Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."