How I'm Using Google+ (Hint: It's About Relevance)

If you were to glance at my Google+ profile, you’d probably think I’m practically inactive. But what you’re seeing is the public view of a very targeted set of actions, based on relevance.

I like to have different kinds of conversations with different people, so when I share content it’s with circles that designate not only relationship but topics too, and Google+ makes it really easy for me to be highly relevant in this way. Take, for example, politics. I like to talk about it, but I’m rarely interested in fighting, so when I share a politically focused news article, it’s not enough to be in my Friends circle. To see it, you have to be in my Friends-Politics circle, where I’ve included people who I know I’ll have an interesting conversation with that won’t result in insults and multiple exclamation points. 

There is one thing missing if relevance is an aim of the platform. As of today, my relevance-based circles only apply to what I share with others. What would be especially helpful would be a way to limit the content I see from others in that circle to the topic I’ve assigned it. For example, I’m following Christian Oestlien, one of the Google+ product managers, specifically for updates about Google+. So while the YouTube music videos and Onion articles he posts are probably funny, I can’t say I’m particularly interested in seeing them from him. Now, if one of the people in my Friends-Hilarious circle posted them, that’s another story . . ..

So what are the implications for brands?

Once business pages become available, brands may get the most from Google+ by prioritizing relevance over scale, regardless of how quickly the user base grows. If your audience uses the service like I do, it’s going to be in your best interest to get your brand in our Brands-Deals I’ll Use or our Brands-Great Links or our Brands-Things I Want For My Birthday circles. You’re not going want to end up in Brands-General.

Since business pages haven’t been revealed yet, I can only offer ideas on how brands might be able to accomplish this, but 2 possibilities come to mind:

1) Brands can launch their Google+ presences with a single, focused content theme first (deals, links, new products, etc.). This would mean that users who add you to their circles are interested in that specific content. Then your interaction with customers will be around that particular content theme so engagement expectations will be set on both sides.

2) Consumers could tell the brand what type of content they want, and the brand would create circles and share content accordingly. If business pages work mostly like consumer pages do today, then this would be a manual process involving something like comments from users, spreadsheets, and manual circle creation -- probably not something a lot of brands will have the time and energy to do. But this could be a really compelling strategy if Google were to build an easy way for marketers to collect content-theme “opt-ins” and auto-populate circles based on that info. That would allow marketers to diversify the content they’re sharing to maximize the size of their Google+ audience, while still respecting relevance needs.

What business pages will do remains to be seen, and it’ll be some time before true user trends emerge that will show whether I’m alone on the relevance thing or not. In the meantime, what do you think? Is Google+ all about relevance for you? How are you using the platform?

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Comments

How I'm Using Google+

Great post, Melissa. (BTW I appreciate the pressure you've been feeling to issue a post about Google+. The volume of Google+ commentary has been astonishing.) I suspect many brands will take the path of least resistance by simply posting content they'd normally post on Facebook, assuming that their followers will curate that content through their Circles (Possibility 1 in your post).

From a personal standpoint: this is going to sound self defeating, but I sort of like having a random river of ideas from my Google+ friends flowing through my Google+ content stream. So I do not curate with Circles to the extent that you do. However, I suspect I will do so with brands and sources of news like I do with my iPhone apps.

I freely admit that I use Google+ as one more platform for hustling my own content. I was just blogging about being a content hustler Sunday -- I am linking to the post here because I do think it's relevant to yours (http://superhypeblog.com/?p=5175). It's ironic that Google has asked brands to hold off getting involved in Google+ because the early adopters (like me) who were allowed into Google+ wasted no time building our personal brands on it.

Thanks, David!

I think you're right that most brands will just publish what they'd normally post on Facebook when they start out in Google+. Seems like that's likely to lead to a similar cycle to what we've seen in the past with social content experimentation: a few widely publicized missteps will lead to more careful strategizing by the second wave of brand adopters. If we could skip that first misstep phase though I think everyone would be thrilled-- the brands of course, but also us as users.

Great post Melissa. I was

Great post Melissa. I was wondering how to utilize Goggle+, thanks for the pointers!

Michele
SBrownART

Thanks for the post and your

Thanks for the post and your take on G+ Melissa. I too find myself with an ever increasing number of more topic specific Circles. It's great to be able to limit and filter what broadcasts we see commercially. The only problem I see with that is we are increasingly only exposed to viewpoints that we know match ours. I wonder what the long-term effect of that is socially. I want to limit what I see from Budweiser, but what happens when I filter my social community to only the viewpoints that match mine. I don't have the possibility to view something that would change my mind or re-think the way I see things if I never have a conversation with someone with diverging views. I feel the bigger problem is that we try to connect with so many people via social media that we lose track connecting with civil people. Connections that are civil even if it's only a few people allow us to converse, debate, and disagree. That's social! (only one exclamation)

Thanks for your comment! I

Thanks for your comment!

I agree that online, as in life, it's important to be open to multiple points of view. But I also think that it's good to use different types of media-- or platforms-- in different ways, allowing specific features and and functionality to guide you toward targeted experiences. For example, I get to see a lot of opposing viewpoints, interesting links I never would've found, and issues I wasn't aware of thanks to my very active Facebook stream. But I don't see those things on LinkedIn because I use the professional social service quite differently than Facebook.

The Google+ distinction isn't quite as cut and dry as that example or course, because it's not trying to serve a specific social segment or need like LinkedIn does. But I think that if I use each site in a way that plays to its own strengths, I'm actually exposed to more content and different types of thinking because I don't feel like I'm drowning in conversation wherever I go.

Thanks again for taking the time to post your thoughts!

Good points, Doug

I appreciate your reply to Melissa, Doug. I also worry about over-curating my content. There is a risk here: allowing Google+ (or Facebook, or any platform) to guide us by the nose and segment our thinking. I like to keep an open stream of content flowing through my feed. I enjoy leaving room for the unpredictable and random idea in my life.

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Re: SMB thread

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