Five ways to get the most out of Google+

Five ways to get the most out of Google+

The internet and innovation continue to change everything around us, and the current wave seems to be changing the way we consume and discover media.  To me, it’s the most exciting time to be alive. As an artist on the internet, it’s extra exciting.

Trey Ratcliffe Google Plus tips

An artist has two motivations: creation for the sake of creation, and sharing for the sake of connecting with the world. And now that the infrastructure of the internet has been built, it’s time for the cultural wave to layer upon it – an era of creativity. More people come online every day, and they want to be inspired with art and ideas.  We’re in the middle of the Neorenaissance.

For me, Google+ has proven to be an ideal platform to extend my digital self to new audiences. Here are a few of the techniques I’ve found to be successful on Google+ – though you’ll note that as these social networks become more and more “human”, a lot of this stuff is just common sense.

Great content does the work for you

If you make awesome stuff, the internet will eventually find you.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re a photographer, a painter, creating recipes or sharing ideas. Google+ makes sharing so easy and natural that if you make interesting, original content, folks will pass it around without much effort on your part.  This is how a painter named Daniel Ibanez ended up with over 1.5 million followers on Google+. He shared his work online, hosted hangouts where he taught painting, and continued to engage on a human level until his work was noticed and spread around.  Social media is basically word-of-mouth, on steroids.

Stay fresh and don’t be annoying

Be totally authentic and brutally honest. The internet can sense a “faker” in a New York minute. You don’t have to “pretend” to be yourself. Keep the authenticity going with fresh ideas, thoughts and creations at regular intervals. To me, more than three or four posts per day can be a bit annoying. Also, I try to do things that are exclusive or “first” just to Google+, so people there get special treatment and keep coming back for more.

Engage and respond – online and off

Building relationships is a two-way street. Don’t just ask questions, but answer questions when you get them.  Once your audience reaches a certain size this gets a little difficult, but always try your best. I’ve taken to organising Photo Walks when I visit various cities around the world – photography enthusiasts meet up in the real world to take lots of photos and spend time together, then we post all our photos back online.  We’ve even done three in New Zealand already, in Auckland, Christchurch, and Queenstown (with more to come!) It’s a great way to strengthen the relationships I make online, and meet new people who I can add to my circles online.

Just hang out

I meet all kinds of wonderful and interesting people through Google+ hangouts, which let up to 10 people join a live video chat conference. I hold a series of regular Hangouts on Air on photography called Trey’s Variety Hour (I set the topic and invite folks to join; it’s been a great way to make new friends and connect with fans) and publish them directly to my YouTube live channel. There’s nothing like face-to-face interaction to get to know people, have meaningful discussions and share ideas back and forth. You can give your fans a behind-the-scenes look at your creative process or use a Hangout to unveil your latest news.

Add a +1 button to your website

I consider my main site – my digital motherlode – to be my daily photo blog.  I put a +1 button at the top of all my posts so that people can share them and/or click the button to show their approval.  When people +1 my posts, this tells Google that my article has valuable content, which improves my placement in search results. The +1 also shows up next to my sites in Google search results, making it more personal and appealing to users. Adding the +1 button is as simple as adding a small snippet of code to your website (instructions here) and lets you carry user recommendations across the web.

Overall, I think it’s best to use Google+ with a childlike sense of fun and experimentation.  It’s still the Wild West of the internet, and all of your traipses into social media should be approached with a with the end goal of having fun. Don’t just sit there and worry about promoting this or promoting that. Find a bunch of inspirational and interesting people to circle and follow their streams to see how they are engaging with the digital world. Then use that inspiration to make your own world more engaging.

Trey Ratcliff is a travel photographer and author of the blog Stuck in Customs who recently moved with his family to Queenstown. With almost three million people subscribed to his posts on Google+, Trey is the most-followed Google+ user in New Zealand

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