Back in the 1800’s, settlers began streaming West in hopes of finding land and prospects for a better life. They often passed through my own St. Louis before embarking in various directions. In 1844, one of these settlers, a 34-year old man named James Marshall from New Jersey, had started to farm some land in Missouri along the river, but contracted Malaria. On the advice of his doctor, he packed up and headed further West, all the way to Oregon. That took him about a year, and once he got there, he headed South into California and eventually made it to Sutter’s Fort. Sutter hired Marshall and eventually helped set him up with some land of his own and some cattle, but not long after that, the Mexican-American War started and Marshall joined the military. He fought in the war but when he returned to his land after the war was over, he found all his cattle had wandered away and his land was lost to him.
Fortunately, Sutter was still there and he brought Marshall in to help with a new project, a new Mill that was being built up stream. They started construction in late 1847 and continued into early 1848. Marshall was in charge of the project and one of the issues he had to deal with was that the ditch that drained water away from the waterwheel was too narrow. Marshall wanted to use the river itself to widen the ditch, but that meant diverting water at night, when the mill wasn’t in operation. So each evening they’d divert the water, and each morning Marshall would inspect the ditch and see how much it had widened overnight.
On a January morning, while walking along the ditch, Marshall noticed some shiny flakes among the pebbles and dirt. He recalled,
I picked up one or two pieces and examined them attentively; and having some general knowledge of minerals, I could not call to mind more than two which in any way resembled this, sulphuret of iron, very bright and brittle; and gold, bright, yet malleable. I then tried it between two rocks, and found that it could be beaten into a different shape, but not broken. I then collected four or five pieces and went up to Mr. Scott (who was working at the carpenters bench making the mill wheel) with the pieces in my hand and said, “I have found it.”
“What is it?” inquired Scott.
“Gold,” I answered.
“Oh! no,” replied Scott, “That can’t be.”
I said,–“I know it to be nothing else.”
At first, workers at the mill would pan for gold in their free time, but as word spread, more and more people headed West to look for gold. By 1849, the rush was on.1
Google+ is just two years old, and in that time, many of us have discovered rich gold veins racing through the network’s streams. As Google+ continues to grow and the Google team announces larger and larger numbers of users, more and more people are going to be looking for the gold. Are you?
What is the Gold within Google+?
While actual gold is a valuable metal, when we refer to mining for gold as a metaphor, it’s usually in reference to finding something of great value, right? The thing is, there are a lot of different aspects of Google+ where immense value can be derived.
First, I consider many of my connections to be as valuable as gold. The fact is, it wasn’t until I started following really great and interesting people that I started to really enjoy and get real value out of Google+. I have now progressed to the point where I believe my circles to be carefully curated collections of experts and influencers. If I circle someone, it’s a very particular and deliberate decision. As a result, whenever I log into Google+, my home stream is a remarkable collection of brilliant posts and links and commentary.
Second, the articles themselves and the information people share is incredibly valuable to me. Like Marshall picking nuggets up out of the stream, all I have to do is look around and there are compelling blog posts and commentary, interesting new items, and plenty of fun and entertaining pieces.
So the third kind of gold that I get from Google+ is actually a combination and result of the first two. By following interesting people, and paying attention to the stream of interesting articles and discussions that are getting started and shared, I am giving myself an opportunity to learn. This is a subtle benefit, but one that I cannot stress enough! Every day, because I’m following the right right people, I learn things that help me both personally and professionally. It’s a free education, and it’s unlike anything you might get from other social networks. And this goes beyond just finding an interesting article because it helps me grow, gives me opportunities to participate in discussions, and allows me to continue to sharpen the axe as Dr. Covey would put it. This is essential to anyone who wants to be successful in content marketing long-term. If I were to stop learning today, how long do you think would be able to keep writing and blogging and teaching?
Which leads us into the fourth nugget of gold: teaching. Google+ is really an outstanding vehicle for teaching and helping others. You can craft compelling posts, join niche communities, participate in discussions and Hangouts, and even offer your help within Google Helpouts. You can join panel discussions and HOA interviews and share your expertise with many, many people. If you aren’t mining Google+ for these teaching opportunities, you’re missing out on valuable chances to create connections with peers and potential colleagues, and build your online authority.
And Authority is the final nugget of gold that Google offers us. When you begin to connect with other people, share interesting content, and actually offer help and teaching to other people, you build your Authority. This encompasses both perceived authority and actual authority. The people who follow you and read your comments will appreciate your insights and the help you’ve provided. And you also gain the benefit of Google Authorship in Google search results. This is the kind of Brand Recognition that businesses might spend small fortunes to achieve through traditional advertising.
How to Mine Google+ For Gold
So there are several layers of thick gold veins running through these Google+ streams. But how do we get to them? It’s too bad Google doesn’t use a pan or a pickax icon anywhere, so the metaphor begins to break down at this point, but there still several things you can do to get to these nuggets.
If you’re interested in mining Google+ for great people start by cleaning up your circles. You don’t have to uncircle everyone you’ve circled, but you should take the time to review the settings for every circle you currently have. Make sure that only the most important circles are showing up in your Home stream. I have a number of circles for specific interests and industries, and those circles don’t get into my Home stream at all, as I can check out what’s going on whenever I’m interested in a specific circle by looking at the posts from that circle. Instead, I have circles based on the volume options afforded by Google+: Notify Me, All Posts, Most Posts, Some Posts. When I find someone that is providing a non-stop steam of invaluable content, they get into my Notify Me or All Posts circles.
Once you’ve cleaned up your existing circles, start expanding and growing them by finding new people to circle and read. Find a few experts in your industry and see whose posts they’re sharing and talking about. Circle those people, and continue to pay attention to who is being shared and recommended. As your stream becomes richer and richer, you will be exposed to more and more great posts and great minds to follow.
Join communities on Google+ to instantly find people with common interests, and these people may be both peers and potential prospects and clients. If you’re on Google+ for business, what could be more valuable than finding new clients and contracts?
And when you’re interested in reading more about a particular topic, all you have to to do is a quick search or click on a hashtag and just like a Google search, suddenly you have a wealth of information and results. But what’s interesting is that, depending on the topic, as you sift through posts you can also get back to mining for great people as well. You might find a golden nugget of information that you were looking for, and now you have a brilliant mind to circle on Google+ as well.
As you’re following great people and soaking up all this wonderful information, begin to share the articles and discussions you find. Work on providing your own introduction and commentary that adds value to the topic. Begin to share information and teach people about the topics that you’re most interested and knowledgeable in. Blog. Write about your business and industry and become a resource on Google+ that your followers can rely on.
Connect your Blog to your Google+ profile. Make sure that you’ve put a link to your blog on your About page under Contributor To, and make sure that you have a byline on every blog post you write that is linked to your Google+ profile. That two-way linkage is what will identify to Google that you’re the author of each of those posts, giving you Google Author status and credibility.
What’s fantastic about Google+ is that, unlike real gold, there’s no end in site. Real gold is a natural element that is finite. There’s only so much gold to be found in veins and deposits, and once you’ve dug it all up, it’s gone. However, as more and more people get on Google+ and begin using it for the fantastic networking and learning tool it can be for them, they’re creating even more value for other people. As long as you continue to be selective and deliberate about the people you follow and the discussions you participate in, your overall experience will get richer and richer. Keep mining, keep sifting, and you’ll continue to find more and more nuggets of gold.