After great reluctance, I’ve decided that our customers need to get on Google+. Yes, they are already far too busy. No, they don’t have time for more social media. Yet I think it’s crucial they do this.
Google is the #1 search engine. YouTube is the #2 search engine. YouTube is owned by Google. Like it or not, Google will favor itself in searches. Google+ results have already been indexed faster and higher than other search results. Also, if you type a + in front of a search word, Google knows that you want to focus on Google+ for your search. That means finding your Google+ page will be easier for a customer than finding your Face book page.
Google+ is much more public than Face book. It is easy to mark your information on Google+ as either public, private or semi-public and search engines will search accordingly. Face book doesn’t offer this feature.
Google+ gives you more control on categorizing and listing who you follow and their status updates.
Google+ does not violate your privacy like Face book does. Google+ does not own your information like Face book does.
I will do a post later about starting your Google+ brand page. For now, let’s focus on getting your personal Google+ page.
After set-up, sign in and fill in your personal details including a photo.
Profile: When a person hovers over your photo in Google+, your bio will appear. If a person doesn’t know you or your business, this is the first thing they’ll see. Give considerable thought to what you place here. Use it to your full advantage – whether you want to plug your business here or list your skills if you are looking for employment, etc. You may want to list your hobby if you are looking for fellow enthusiasts.
On the Edit Profile page, you can enter a long bio and you can insert links here to your business page or blog or places you find interesting, whatever you want.
Employment. Part of your profile includes employment. On first glance, you might simply list where you work. However, it is wise to go ahead and write a brief description of yourself in the first employment block. What you write here is what will show up when people hover over your name or image. People will hover to get a glimpse of who you are and whether they should add you to their circles or not. Most decisions are made based upon the hover information and so you should write something helpful in this tiny employment block. This is probably the most important thing to do on your profile.
Privacy. Go to your profile. On the bottom left sidebar, click on “Change who is visible here.” You can limit who sees your circles and you can select which circles they see. You can opt to keep it all private if you like. You have many privacy options with Google+.
Status Updates. When you type in a status update, you have to select which circles get to see that update or you can select “public” and the whole world can see it. Clicking on “public” will also enter it into search engines.
Editing Status Updates: To make something bold, put an asterisk (*) before and after the word. To use italics, place an underscore (_) before and after the word or phrase. To use a strikethrough, place a hyphen (-) before and after the word.
Sharing Status Updates. Click on the time stamp at the top of your status and this will take you to the permalink for that one individual post. Use this permalink for sharing capabilities.
+1 Button. When you click the +1 button at the bottom of someone’s post, you are “liking” that post, you are giving it your approval. You can share that post, add a comment and send it to certain circles if you like. All your +1s will be in a list you can see through your profile. You can make your +1s public or private.
Circles. After the public search capabilities, the circles are the best feature of Google+. Organizing the people you follow into different circles is similar to using lists in Twitter. You can “quiet the noise,” divide the posts into categories and only read the ones you are interested in at any given time.
You will find the Circles Homepage Icon on the top of your Google+ Screen. It is an image of 2 circles linked together. Click this to go to the Circles Homepage where you can find more feeds with like interests by clicking on the Find icon. The top row is listed as Find People. Google will suggest people you may be interested in following. You can search by name or relevance under the relevance tab. You can see who you’ve blocked or ignored under the More tab.
Click on a circle and you’ll see all the members in that group. Here is where you can do some editing – name changing, circle changing, etc. On the left sidebar you can click on “Your Circles” to see who you have put in which circles. Also you can rearrange things here.
On your left sidebar you can click on “have you in circles” to see who has you in their circles. This information will be sorted so you can easily see which ones you have added to your circles and which people you have not yet added to your circles.
Finding people is kind of fun. One way to do this is to go to your circles homepage. On the left sidebar click on the menu item “Find People.” Google will peruse your email accounts if you’d like. The fun feature here is the click and drag feature. Google will put the name and image of suggested people for you to find. If you click and drag a person’s image up to the top, Google will suggest people for you to follow that this person already follows. Double click on the image and you’ll go to their Google + page.
Hangouts. This is very unique to Google+. Hangouts are a video networking tool you can use as a video chat room or video conferencing. Click on the Start A Hangout tab in the right hand column of your Google+ page and it will walk you through the process. I’ve heard musicians are really enjoying this feature.
Also along that right column, you’ll find tabs to find people, send Google+ invites, get Google+ for your mobile and create your Google+ business page.
Along the top of your Google+ page are tabs such as the Circles tab I’ve mentioned. There is a photo tab that will let you see only photos that people in your circles have posted. The gaming device icon will lead you to games, which I’ve heard are great, but I don’t play games.
On your left column, you can select which circles you view in your stream at that time. This is how you can filter out the noise and focus on what you’re interested in at the time. Under the circles list, you will see a place to check your Notifications, see What’s Hot, and enable your Chat feature.
QR codes are not seeing the rate of success I expected when they first hit the scene. I'm not surprised to see businesses using them poorly, however I am surprised to see a large group of people who still don't know what a QR code is.
QR codes are basically square images that, when scanned with a smart phone, will take you directly to a web page with information you are seeking at that point. QR codes should be helpful and rewarding to the customer while building brand awareness and revenue for the business.
I have been increasingly frustrated at the amount of QR codes being used improperly. It takes a little time to use a QR code and a person should be rewarded for the effort. Using the QR code takes a few minutes - you have to dig out the phone, slowly focus and take the photo of the code, then wait for your phone to get to the website. When you finally arrive, if the destination is disappointing, you probably won't want to bother with a QR code in the future, thus giving the QR codes a bad rap and tossing the baby out with the bathwater as grandma used to say.
From my experience, here are some good and bad uses of the QR code.
Great uses of the QR Code:
State Fair. Signs around the state fair had QR codes on them. The codes included links to a map of the fairground, a schedule of events for the day and a listing of vendors, among others. When I really needed a restroom, I scanned the QR code and quickly found the nearest restroom.
Events. A few signs with QR codes can give attendees quick access to schedules, meeting times and locations, speaker bios, after-parties, etc.
Magazines. I loved a QR code at the end of a magazine that led me to the author's bio on his/her website.
Coupons. If your QR code on your store window or in your magazine or newspaper ad leads me to a coupon I can use in the store by just scanning my phone at the checkout, I love you.
Instructional Video. Place a QR code next to a product -- say a Husqvarna Chain Saw -- and have that code lead me to a video that explains proper use and care for that product.
Customer Reviews. Place a QR code next to a product that leads me to online customer reviews.
Email subscription. A QR code that leads me to the place to quickly subscribe to your email is very helpful for both of us.
BAD, BAD ideas for QR codes:
On a billboard. I can't possibly scan the code from a mile away going 60 mph.
On a website. I'd rather click a link than scan a code if I'm already at the computer.
Non-mobile websites. Don't let the QR code lead me to a place that is not smart-phone friendly. For example, while I was on the beach, I scanned a QR code in a magazine that led me to a helpful how-to video. However, once I got there, the video would not play properly on a mobile device. I was disappointed.
Unrewarding destination. If the code just leads me to your website or to something boring, forget it. Make it worth my while, give me fun trivia or videos, helpful tips, or a coupon.
I thoroughly enjoyed Scott Stratton's 2-minute video (see below) explaining the great QR code frustration. He is my hero for making this video, I hope people pay attention. Happy Coding!
Update, 10/11/2011: Facebook has postponed the beta version of timeline afterTimeline.comfiled a lawsuit. Timeline is currently only available to those who have Facebook’s Developer application installed.
I've been playing around with the Facebook changes recently announced at f8 in San Francisco and freaking most of the public out soon thereafter. The real-time ticker and subscribe button makes sharing quicker and easier. The popular stories and recent stories seem to be confusing.
The feature that's really caught my eye is the timeline. The timeline rolls out to the public around October 6. To sample it ahead of time, you can access it through the developer apps. For personal users, the attraction of the timeline is obvious: it's attractive, artistic, much like a scrapbooking page layout. The timeline is fun – with one click you can go back to any year, any month and see status updates, photos and important events. It was described by Nir Refuah, vice president of McCann Digital in Israel, as “a digital autobiography.” Refuah said, “First Facebook became the digital ID of everyone, and now it will try to gather our whole life story,”
For brands, the attraction is more subtle. I had trouble at first understanding why a brand would like the new timeline, then the content developer in me kicked in. The timeline's all about story – history -- content. Acquiring as many 'likes” as you can is no longer a driving force. For content-driven non-competitive people like me, that is great news. Awesome content is what will get you in the stream. The popularity contest is no longer about star power, it's about authenticity and the human component of your business. Campaigning for the most “likes” won't do much for you.
To sum up what I've learned so far, the timeline benefits for your business include:
The cover. The cover is a big photo across the top of your page. It is prime real estate and very easy to change. This will be great for promotions and product roll-outs.
The Information blurb. Currently, a viewer has to dig deep to find a company's information tab. When found, it is surprisingly limited, weak and bland. The new timeline will feature the information right under the cover, above the fold, in an easy-to-read format, easy to click through to more info.
Infographic format. The new timeline format will propel brands to focus more on engagement and back story rather than getting more likes. Getting more comments and likes becomes less valuable than sharing authentic content. I believe the mom and pop shops that I serve will benefit more from this than the big corporations. Mom and Pop have real stories involving real people. Mom and Pop shops have a back story and biography that is generally more personable than the giant conglomerates. Admittedly, I'm a little biased on that.
The timeline rolls out soon for personal facebook pages. I'm not sure when it rolls out for brands and business pages.
Just when I was starting to flirt with Google+, Facebook has gotten back in the game and lured me back. Imagine that.
Sure.... your customers like you. Your friends like you. Your mom likes you.
But does Facebook like you?
Edgerank is Facebook's way of "liking" you. Edgerank is a search ranking algorithm designed to help Facebook choose which posts should be placed on a person's feed.
Creating a business page and updating your status does not necessarily mean all your fans will see that status update in their wall feed. The default view for all personal facebook accounts is the Top News view rather than the Most Recent view. The Top News will show the updates that Facebook has determined the viewer is most interested in.
There are several things you can do that will increase the chances of your page landing in the status stream on a person’s facebook page.
Post a video with your update. Posting a link doesn’t help that much anymore, but photos and videos are still effective. If you don’t have a video to upload from your site, you can go to any video site like vimeo or youtube and get the embed code. Include that embed code right in your status update.
Post a photo with your update. A small thumbnail will automatically appear if you include a link in your update, but simply using the thumbnail is not as effective as using a different photo. Using the “Upload a photo” button is much more effective. Either load a photo from a file on your computer or you can go to your website and take a screen capture photo and upload it to facebook.
Post an update that will encourage your fans to interact with your update. If it’s not interesting to you, it’s probably not interesting to them either. Interaction includes when a fan clicks “like” or “share” or clicks the thumbnail, clicks through to your page, or comments, etc. Comments carry the most weight -- asking a question is usually very effective. The more popular your update, the stronger the edge rank and the more likely it will get into the Top News feed on your fan’s wall. Everytime a fan interacts with an update, it increases the edge.
Post daily if possible. The frequency of activity on your page will increase your EdgeRank. Having said that, you don’t want to post too often. You’re a business, not a “friend” and facebook users will just get annoyed and block you if you fill up their feed with your updates. Also, don't let the pressure of posting daily cause you to post dry, boring updates. You have to up the awesome, social media marketing loves awesome and is brutal on boring.
Google’s Instant Preview feature gives new meaning to the phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
The Instant Preview feature was rolled out without much fanfare so you may or may not be aware of it. Opinions vary on how much it affects SEM (Search Engine Marketing) or SEO (Search Engine Optimization,) but most strategists agree it places much more importance on design than ever before.
The Instant Preview feature provides a graphic overview of search results and enables people to preview the results right on the results page. This is done through the use of a magnifying glass icon to the right of your search results.
When you search on a word or phrase, a whole page of search results will be produced. To the right of each result is a magnifying glass icon. Click this icon and a preview of the website appears in a pop up with a snippet enlarged that contains your search words highlighted. Once activating Instant Previews with that one click, you can hover over any other search result to see a preview of the web page. It is easy to skim down the page quickly and glance at the websites, almost like flipping through a magazine.
The benefits of Instant Preview:
Saves time. You can quickly compare between search results before clicking on any.
Accuracy. You will know at a glance if this site is what he/she is looking for. Also, this feature will decrease the bait and switch tactic of using keywords to lure traffic only to disappoint upon arrival.
May reduce Adwords charges. Currently for Adwords, you pay per click. The Instant Preview (free) will prevent clicks as searchers see the site before going there.
Should increase CTR (click-through rates) and decrease bounce rates.
How can you take advantage of Instant Preview:
Fix your landing pages. More images, less copy writing. Larger headers. Small print won’t show up on the Instant Previews, but the headlines will.
Design matters. Does the look of your page convey your message? Potential visitors will decide whether to visit your site without even reading any content, they’ll decide from just one view.
Reduce your clutter. Sign Up boxes, social media icons, ads, sidebar clutter will not show up well on the preview. Put them near the bottom of the page. Get rid of rotating flash headers.
Eliminate Forms. Nobody is attracted to a site where they have to fill out a bunch of information.
Clean-Up a little. Eliminate a few colors and typefaces, be consistent.
I peeked through some of our sites to see how we were holding up. I was very happy with The Race Shop’s look:
I think Tyler Brothers has an appealing look and is very clear on what you’ll find at their site, however, the slideshow at the top doesn’t show up. There’s just a blank white space. The video shows up as black space, too, but I can live with that. The white space has to go though.
When I search on TroutU Perfect Fly, one result looks great, but another doesn’t look so great. The first is their facebook page:
The second is a page that discusses Abram’s Creek, it’s all text and not visually obvious that I can purchase Perfect Flies here. The highlighted snippet, if I read it, tells me where to go to purchase the flies. It’s just not obvious that this is the site I need if I want to purchase a Perfect Fly. But honestly, that’s not the purpose of that page anyway, it just got sucked into the keyword search vortex.
I had one glitch in my Instant Preview experience – I could not get it to work on IE7. Apparently, this is common. If you experience this, you should be able to click on Tools > Compatibility View Settings and uncheck the "Display intranet sites in Compatibility View" checkbox. I still could not get that to work and I think it’s because on my computer, the system administrator controls that.
Go out and play around with it, see what you think. Is this a strong enough tool to affect website design and banner advertising? Maybe. Maybe not.