Earlier this week I crossed the 250 follower milestone on Google+ (at time of writing I am marching towards 300) and I wanted to share with you exactly how I got there so you can learn from my mistakes, experiments and successes.
Now for me this is a big deal, I’ve never had 250 followers in anything. I have tried building a following on Twitter and have a modest collection of connections on LinkedIn (hell, I’ve even got a Facebook Page).
The fact is, I am more of a “behind the scenes” guy. I am quiet by nature and reserved in social situations so I have struggled to build armies of followers. However, in contrast to Twitter where I have had to force engagement and really work for my following, Google+ has felt natural… and fun!
If you are struggling to get off the ground with Google+ this post is for you, but first let me paraphrase +Martin Shervington (who you should be following by the way!)
You don’t need thousands of people following you; if you can get 50-100 people that love what you do, sharing your stuff to their networks, and their networks are sharing it and so on you’ve kinda cracked it because you’ve managed to get this viral effect every time you post something that relates to that initial network.
This point is important. While this post is about building your follower numbers first and foremost, the key message is that numbers hold little tangible benefit – it is the way you interact with them and the levels of engagement your contributions evoke that is important.
Isn’t 250 Followers a Bit Pathetic Rick?
250 is just the start. I know lots of people on Google+ have thousands upon thousands but I think most of them will agree that the first few hundred when they were just starting out were the hardest to crack (and when people are most likely to get disheartened and bored).
As you get more and more, your reach gets further which attracts more followers and so the cycle continues. I’ve seen posts along the lines of “Top Tips to Getting 10,000 Followers”, but they concentrate on generic guidance rather than those early days. This is different.
Here’s What I Did
Profile/Cover Images - I think the way you present yourself as a real person is important and I spent a while choosing it. My old profile picture perhaps didn’t project the sense of professionalism that I wanted to illustrate whereas my new one blends professionalism with a smile – I think it suggests I enjoy what I do which others will hopefully connect with emotionally.
Additionally I updated my cover image to reflect my affinity with Google (by day I am an SEO consultant and a huge fan-boy of Google and while in California in September squeezed in a quick trip to Google HQ!) which I hope others will be intrigued by.
Hover Card – A hovercard is the lightbox summary that pops up when you hover over someone’s name. Following +Stephan Hovnanian‘s awesome advice on Hovercards, I ensured my small blurb showed key details (but it could still do with some work)…
Concentrate On One Platform Only - At first I spread my activity across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and various forums among other things which wasn’t getting me anywhere with any platform. I decided to concentrate my time and ideas solely on Google+ and it has had a marked difference.
I also changed forum signatures to link to my G+ profile, changed my Hellobar on my website to highlight Google+, use rel=”author” links on all of my guest blogs and implemented Google+ Follow widgets at the bottom of all articles written for my employer so that people could find me in as many places as possible.
Large Image Based Posts - When I first started out on Google+ my posts would consist of a line or two of text and perhaps a link to an article. I quickly learned that they would get lost in amongst the visually-rich content from others. This led me to start including large, eye-catching images in posts which blew me away with the reaction.
They quickly garnered far more +1s and shares than previous posts with link thumbnails – probably due to their flexibility (you can create any image you want) and size (they take up more real estate – especially portrait images).
Value-Add to Shares (And Hat-Tips) - Many people rely on others to help them promote their content and appreciate shares. I always include reference to original authors, a hat-tip to the person I found the content through and add my own views and take-aways before sharing it on. I have directly acquired new followers from authors and sharers this way.
This extra value-add not only shows you have actually read and absorbed the content but have gone to the trouble of adding to it for the benefit of your followers – they will love you for it!
Learn From Others - This is an obvious one but worth mentioning. I credit my learning and maturing to several key people including (but not limited to) +Martin Shervington, +Mark Traphagan, +Thomas Morffew, +Stephan Hovnanian and several others. In fact I have an infographic stuck to my office wall by Stephan which inspires my activity every single day and recommend you do the same. You can find it here.
Routined Daily “Must Read Article of the Day” – I read a lot of material on a daily basis so this gives me an opportunity to share my favourite and most important article of the day. This helps me connect with authors who are usually happy that their article has won this coveted prize(!)
Community Participation - One of the most important turnarounds for me and a huge contributor of followers is through community participation. I am a member of 13 communities and try and make time to check in daily to see what’s going on.
I am naturally inquisitive so communities give me an opportunity to ask questions which often get a lot of interaction and exposure to members. In fact my most trafficked/shared/plus-oned post to date was a question posed in a community.
If I find an article that is super-relevant to a community and it is yet to be posted I will share it along with my own insights, ideas and additions and invite others to share their views.
Contribute Constructively to Others’ Conversations - Don’t leave lame comments. Show you know what you are talking about and more importantly demonstrate you are worth following. Help them build buzz around their posts by opening up the conversation and involving additional people if appropriate – they will be thankful for it.
I go for the jugular where possible and start conversations from posts by highly influential and respected individuals as one of my key goals with Google+ is to get on the radar of the best and brightest in my industry.
Follow More People – I have found that every so often when you add someone, they add you back so make sure you keep adding new interesting people – also keep an eye out for pre-fabricated circles created and shared by influential people. Recently I found a post on Mashable that listed several important circles of which I added most of them which lead to a boost in follow-backs. I am now in the process of going through the individuals in the circles and stripping back irrelevant/dormant profiles. Mini Blogs (With Formatting) – I’ve only learnt this one recently when I noticed someone else doing it (below). This example includes an image, a bold title, sub-headlines, formatting (bold, italics), link-outs and mentions, bullet-points, foot notes and hash tags. It’s early days but since I have taken on this mentality towards posting, engagement and shares have definitely improved!
Things I’ve Learnt Along The Way
- Posting to a circle will not push your content to everyone in that circle, it will only show in the feeds of people in that circle that have followed you back.
- Posting something to a community of 000′s will have far more visibility (and therefore attention) than posting to your own profile with a smaller following.
- Don’t stick to boring one-dimensional text; Use underscores (_) either side of content for italics, astrix (*) for bold and hypens (-) for strike-throughs. If you want to discuss this topic further with me or just hang out, please follow me on Google+
My turning point in this adventure was when I just threw myself into it and got involved. I would check in every few hours and see what new things had been posted that interested me, what questions were being asked in communities and basically just play around with the platform. I know my way around features that confused me before and just feel more comfortable with the platform in general. I won’t lie, I have been on Google+ on and off for over a year now and in the past month I have devoted a lot of time to it but as you can see from the upward curve in the opening graph, it seems to be paying off.
Google+ is evolving rapidly and lots of new features and tweaks are coming out all the time so keep on top of it, and take heed of what Mark, Martin, Stephan and Thomas (all mentioned above) are posting and don’t be afraid to ask questions in the Google+ communities. Lastly have fun and enjoy it.
I will sign off with this. Hopefully this post will help inject some life into your your Google+ exploits and help you attain a respectable following. This last link I will share is about how +JesseWojdylo exploded his Google+ follower count from 250 to over 400,000! Enjoy!
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