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Idealog—in the ideas business

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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I have seen the success Trey and others have enjoyed on Google plus, but it doesn't work for everyone. I have been on there for many months posting photos and commenting on other posts and haven't had any comments or response. I even emailed Trey asking for advice but received no answer. I am ready to give up and delete my account.

I don't see it. I really don't. If I just go to your blog, I don't have to see posts about politics showing up in my stream. Now I see you put stuff on G+ before your blog. If I have to waid through a bunch of junk about X politician to get to what I do want to see eventually I will just stop looking. This is the biggest failure of G+

Great article, I love Google+ and it is a great way to meet new people and socialize with your geeky friends (they are the only ones who have left Facebook with me). I think Google has a win here even if they don't have 900M users.

Thanks for these tips Trey. They do make sense. The only drawback for us in South Africa is our bandwidth makes it frustrating to try and participate in live hangouts as even small YouTube videos have to buffer on my end. I do appreciate your view on letting the content speak for itself, which is what I try to do with my wildlife/landscape photography posts on G+. I also share many images first on G+, but that is because I normally share at least a photo every day on G+ where I try not to clutter my posts on other formats like my blog or Facebook page.

To “Self” - it's very easy to filter out those “non-optimal” feeds like the politics etc. That's what makes the circles-concept great. I have a couple of high-quality photographers circled and also some other content-based circles which means that I don't ever have to troll through all the public posts if I don't want to - you just select the circle with folks whose streams provide you with the content you are interested to view at that time.

Ray Warren, what city are you in? Over in Melbourne, we have a vibrant community of photogs of all skill levels and across gender, across age groups with pretty frequent engagement on G+ as encouraged by face to face meet ups.

Engagement is a two way street - by just posting on G+ from a computer, you may however escape notice because, well, you are not on our radar. If you post from a mobile phone, at least you appear on the Nearby Stream courtesy of GPS location. If you tag your shots and participate in Themes, you then pop up in front of people's eyeballs. If you search for birds of a feather and engage by making a reply or commenting, you pop up in front of people's eyeballs. Otherwise, no one knows you are there.

I will agree with Ananda. Sharing photos to the daily themes will get you some nice exposure. I have gained quite a few (to me) followers just by doing that. It also helps to post consistently. If you just upload a bunch of photos all at once, they may get some attention for the next few days, but if you were to space them out and upload the same photos, two or three per day, you would receive a more constant stream of feedback.

Great article, Trey!

Trey…you hot….will you be my hmmmm….friend.

As a post script to my earlier post here: I have been actively commenting on other people's Google+ post for about six months, as well as posting my own photos but have never been acknowledged.
But that changed today.
Since posting here, on Facebook and Google+ some kind people including Trey Ratcliff have reacted, interacted and offered me some guidance through the G+ maze. Thanks. I am no longer invisible and I am looking forward to what happens next!

I agree with that you need to look g+ with a sense of fun and experimentation. It has many great tools and features not found in other social sites. The interface is also clean and simple. Another great aspect is that I have automatic upload on my phone and am able to connect my camera to my phone so each shot is instantly uploaded when I take it. That took a while to get that connection, but it's worth it. It's just so easy to share. Nothing to think about. This feature just makes it fun.

Great article. I hope everyone has fun with g+.

G+ is only one year old, give it time. Someday someone will figure out how to use it to become the most influential person on earth.

Google+ is certainly gaining momentum, but it still has a long way to go to make any meaningful dent into Facebook.

@AmandaSims: Thanks for the tip. I was completely unaware of participating in themes. Much appreciated.
I hope to participate in the not too distant future (there is that “W” thing that gets in the way!!!!)

I really admire Trey's work, he is such a great photographer. Also I've learned a lot from him. Thanks again for your great tips that you've shared in this article.

Thanks Trey! Great post with lots of good points.
Woo Hoo! This article was the push I needed to finally put the G+ thingy on our websites, too.

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