Have you ever been to a party? If so, you'll probably remember one of two situations: The first is where you knock on the door, your friend the host greets you, and as you walk in you're surrounded by friends you know and you blend right in. The second is where you knock on the door, your friend the host greets you, and you walk in realizing that you know absolutely nobody.
The second situation is far more common for me and also reminds me of joining a new social media platform for the first time to. You join, and you're presented with that blank "Share what's new" or "What's on your mind" prompt, and your stream is empty. Much like standing the inside the doorway at a party. Now what?
I've never been a big party person, and as a result the second situation was a pretty common occurrence for me. I've also never been fortunate enough to have a host like Louis Tully (played by Rick Moranis) from Ghostbusters where as he takes the coats from his guests and then announces them to the party goers. Myself and my wife were usually left to fend for ourselves. Both of us being a bit of introverted in large social settings, this was never a comfortable situation for us.
Here's the clip from Ghostbusters I'm referring to...I so love this movie.
How to begin building social media relationships when you don't know anyone
I joined Google+ early on in July 2011. At the time, Google+ truly was a ghost town. I checked in every so often, and even posted occasionally, but I wouldn't say I was active by any stretch. Regardless, I saw the error of my ways and returned to Google+ in early January of 2012.
As I began participating in communities, posting updates and trying to build relationships, I felt like I was once again at a party, standing at the door and didn't know anyone. I didn't really have anyone like Louis Tully to introduce me, nor tell anybody one. I was on my own.
Google+ can seem like a lonely place until you figure out who's there and where they are all "hanging out", pun intended. Here are just a few tips I learned for how to getting noticed on Google+, how to build relationships and how to grow your Google+ following:
Add a profile pic, and update your profile page
The absolute very first thing you need to do is head over to your Profile About page, and change the "blue Smurf head" to a real picture of yourself. A few tips on what picture to use:
- Use a headshot or crop an existing picture to a headshot. You really want to focus on your face so people can see you.
- Be sure the picture is high quality. People want to be able to see you, and a grainy, pixelated picture just screams unprofessional.
- Smile! Don't look be grumpy cat, look friendly.
- Don't wear sun glasses or hide your eyes. Eyes are the window to the soul. People need to see your eyes to connect with you. Studies have shown that people perceive those that hide their eyes as not being trustworthy.
- Make sure the picture is properly exposed and clear. Using a little depth of field (blurry background, clear you) draws attention to you.
Next, spend time updating all of the information in your profile. Tell people who you are, and why you're there. Tell people what they can expect from you, and offer some suggested circles they should consider adding you to based on your interests and the types of things you will be posting about. Add links to your blog and other social media profiles.
Don't obsess with making it perfect, you can always go back and adjust it. I tweak my Google+ profile all the time.
Join Google+ Communities
Joining Google+ communities was one of the key steps I took to to get noticed and to start building relationships. One of the first things I did in January was navigate over to the Google+ Communities page and searched on "blogging". I was looking for general blogging communities, and also did more fine grained searches for communities more closely related to my niche (earning income). I used both the topic and number of current members to decide which communities to join. I ended up joining about five different communities initially.
If you're a blogger, a community that I would highly recommend you join is the Zero Links Blogging Community. There are no links allowed, so it's pure blogging discussion, without all of the spammy links found in many other communities.
The first thing I did when I joined was read the community guidelines. This is critically important. Nothing will hurt your credibility more than jumping in and creating a post that violates the community guidelines. The first post I made was generally an introduction post. Some communities allow this, others don't so pay attention.
Do not include a link to your blog or to your latest blog post in your introduction post. Nothing screams "Hey, I'm just hear to get traffic to my blog" more than including a link in your very first post. Instead, tell people why you joined, and what value you hope to add. Share what you hope to learn. If people want to see your blog, they'll navigate to your profile page and find your blog link.
Find influencers and build relationships with them
I know, this one is going to be a bit controversial, but before you jump the gun, hear me out. Let's return to the party for a second...
We're inside, the host takes our coats, and points out where the food and drinks are and heads off to greet the next person arriving. What do you do? No, no, you don't head straight the bar...ok, well maybe. But after that, what do you do?
Here's a trick I learned a long time ago that most of you have probably figured out too. The first thing I do is look around, and see where people are clustering. I generally look for the biggest cluster and head over that way. I hover around, which ironically is usually a "circle", and listen in on the conversation. I also try to pick out who the circle is centered around - there is usually one or two people that everyone is engaging with. Those are the people you also want engage with, assuming of course they seem to fit in with your interests. I usually wait until they hit on some topic I have an opinion about or can add value to, jump in and express my view on the topic, then follow-up with a "Oh by the way, I'm Larry...<insert elevator speech>".
Social media is no different. The way you get to know other people and begin building relationships is by starting with people that are influencers and have a large following. Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying following anybody with a high follower count, I'm saying find people that have similar interests as you and engage with them. By doing so, you'll not only make a new friend, but you'll be exposed to others with similar interests and become friends with them too. This strategy is one of the most effective ways to meet people.
Look at it this way, if you walk over to that lonely person sitting in the corner by themselves, sure you might make a great friend, but you missed out on meeting and being exposed to many other friends. Some you may like, others you may not, but to build your circles you need exposure and the best way to get it is to engage with influencers and people that have a large following.
I'm not advocating "sucking up", I'm just advocating exposure. You might find that the person you started talking to, that you thought was an influencer is just a loud mouthed jerk, and really isn't an influencer at all. My advice in this situation, move on to the next "circle" at the party. Lather, rinse, repeat until you find someone you can relate to, who has people around them that you can also relate to. This is your best case scenario.
Do this, and your circles will grow and so will your following.
Add value and engage
I know, this one is "obvious" right? You would think so, but it shocks me at the number of people that I see not doing this on a daily basis.
I see posts in my stream multiple times each day where someone shares a link...and that's it, or worse they say something like "Heading to the store." I don't mean to be rude, but why would you think someone cares if you are going to the store?
To be successful on social media, and in particular Google+ you have to add value and engage in conversations.
Here are just a few ways you can do this:
- Post great content - No, don't just promote your own, but the content of others as well. Find great and valuable content that is unique and beneficial to those that follow you and share it. Doing this makes you valuable.
- Do more than post links - Don't just add a link, use the text area to tell people why you found the content beneficial and why they should read it. Maybe tell them why you like the article, and point out a few things you disagree with. Ask your follows what they think about. Engage them. Give them reason to share and give them reasons to add comments.
- Use images - I like to ask questions, share opinions and hear what others think. Of course this is done through text, but text alone isn't enough. Pictures draw attention and provide a visual understanding of your text. Always add a picture to your text posts. Something funny, something beautiful, something that will grab your followers attention.
- Call people out - If there are people in your circles that you think would be able to provide particular value to your post or question, use the + to call them out in the post. Add something like "Hey, +Joe Smoe or +Jane Doe what are your thoughts on this?". Using this strategy will send a notification to them and get their attention. Don't abuse this, but use it when it makes sense.
- Be different - Don't share/repeat the same old thing stuff. People get sick and tired of the "5 tips to grown your blog traffic" where the 5 tips are the same 5 tips one thousand other bloggers are saying. Be different, be unique. Share and provide content that is unique and challenges people. People will following you because you are different.
- Be controversial - One of the most effective ways to engage people is to be controversial. I'm not saying just throw something out there to "troll" people, I'm saying that when you have an opinion on something that questions "the norm", put it out there and stand your ground on it - Of course, if you're wrong admit it, but if you truly believe you're right, say so and be vocal about it. Be a thought leader.
- Participate in hang-outs - I honestly haven't done this yet, but I can see how effective it can be. Working a full-time job, and having a large family makes it difficult for me to be able to spend and hour sitting in front of the computer, but I am planning to make time for "hang-outs". Hang-outs are a wonderful way to meet people, get value and receive value. Hang-outs also give people a chance to get to know you and see you as a real person. This can go a long way to building trust and relationships. Go find some hang-outs that interest you and, well, hang out.
Don't be who you think people want you to be, be yourself. Much of my content on Google+ is about blogging, but I also share my musical interests, stories about my family, pictures of where I live, food I cook, games I play, and content about my faith. At first I wasn't sure if I should stay on topic or share my various interests, but I learned that being yourself actually allows people to get to know you and relate to you better. Always "talking shopping" gets a little boring right?
When you allow people to get to know you as a person, and allow your personality to show through your social media interaction, your following will grow and so will your engagement.
Don't make the mistake of trying to be somebody you're not. In the short time, it may work, but people are smart and people are perceptive. Eventually who you really are will begin to show through, and people will figure you out. Be who you are from the start.
But I don't need to be popular and having a big following isn't important to me
I hear this a lot, and I can respect that point of view. I don't want to have a big following to be popular and I really could care less about the perception of being popular or being a rock star. So I get that...
But I DO care very much about having a big following. Why? Because the more people that circle or follow me, the more engagement I get on my posts and updates. For example, if I have a small following and I ask a question, like: "What's the best way to bring traffic to my blog?". With a small following, I might get 2 or 3 responses, but if I have 1000 or more followers, I might get 20 or so replies. I learn more from 20 replies than I do 2 or 3. That is why having more people follow me is important to me, not because I care about bragging that I have some big following but because I get more value with more followers.
How about you? What are your social media tips or strategies to get noticed? Anything particular to Google+?
Photo by: stevendepolo