Friday, 6 February 2015

Three Ways to Rock Google+ (Part One)

Ah, Google+...that most misunderstood of platforms. Most people you talk to about Google+ will have at some point picked up the popular assumption that this was Google’s own attempt at toppling Facebook as the world’s most subscribed social network. And while this may have been a private aim of Google’s back in 2008 when they launched it, it has certainly evolved since then. It now provides a far more enjoyable user experience than Facebook ever has.

Google+ incorporates the best bits of Twitter, Pinterest and yes, even Facebook. Trending hash tags stretch your content further like Twitter, images are displayed in glorious fullness as on Pinterest and of course, you can hook up with friends and family as you do on Facebook.

Admittedly, it would be fair to say that Google+ has yet to really take off here in the UK when it comes to individual users. You’ll find brands and companies on there just for the SEO benefits Google provides with a G+ account (although most businesses don’t quite grasp that you need to actually deliver content too). But when it comes to regular old Joes, you’d be hard pushed to find a handful of your Facebook mates on Google+.

I believe this is simply down to a) a lack of awareness of Google+ and b) a fundamental misunderstanding of how to use it effectively.

So, with that in mind, I have three ways to master this most fantastiche of social networks.

Utilise Google+ Circles

Circles is the Google+ version of Twitter Lists and Facebook Categories, only much easier to manage. The basic premise is that you can sort who you follow and people you are friends with into separate ‘circles’. This then means when you want to share a post from The Social Scot, you can choose to not only share it with the public at large but those folks you have specifically put in your ‘social media marketing’ circle!

But hey, it’s not all about you. Categorising your interests is the first step to using Google+ as an AWESOME content curation tool. Finding interesting articles, infographics and videos is easy because posts are far more visual than, say, a tweet. So for example, I use different tools to hunt for articles related to social media marketing. Google+ is very much one of them. I love Buffer for its suggestions but I have to check the link first to make sure the content is cool. On Google+, I might first get a clue by the image used and the preview panel on the link.

And the more you use it, the quicker your circles will grow and be packed with interesting stuff. Sure, every tom, dick and harry you know isn’t posting about their latest dinner complaint at Nandos but honestly, do you really care what your second cousin is up to?

Post your pins then pin them again!

Use Pinterest? It is arguably, the sexiest of social media. If you take the time to create you own pins at 735x1102 then be sure to post them to your Google+ page too! Not sure how you even create your own images? Check out my previous post on this very topic (I am helpful, aren’t I?).

Pins display exactly as they do on Google+ as they do on Pinterest. So whether you’re writing about social media or sports, make sure your page looks amazing with fully displayed images. Once posted on Google+, you can ‘pin’ your post to the top of your timeline for maximum visibility.

If you are using social media for business, then this naturally gives you a consistent look and feel to your activity across multiple channels. If you are using it for personal purposes, then it tells people that you love what interests you and your content is worth sharing further.

Maximise your posts

One way in which Google+ differs is that it lets you post slightly longer form updates than on Facebook as well as being able to format your posts.

So instead of your regular one or two line status update, you can expand on your update. Want your first line to stand out? Make it bold! Want to stress a point? Italicise it. Coupled with your optimised image, your post has the power to not only convey a story but seriously tempt your followers to make that all important click through to your blog or website.

Further, make sure you have your keywords in there too with hash tags included. Google+ will automatically choose three words from your post as hash tags so that other people can find your post. Pre-empt this by including three of your own at the bottom of the post. For example, if you’re posting about how great football was in the 1990s, make your hash tag(s) #Football #Soccer #90s.

So there you go. Three (and there are a few more) ways you can enjoy Google+ to the full. I picked these three as the most easy ways to get into Google+ but if you want to know more, like using Hangouts for video calls or integrating your YouTube page, then leave a comment below or on my page.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

#OldFirm vs #SuperBowlXLIX

It's Super Sunday and what a day of sport we have in store!

As I type I am watching Andy Murray try to somehow overcome the awesome Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open.

UPDATE: Murray lost to Djokovic who steam rolled the final set 6-0.

However, there is two events, which hold much higher significance for me today. First, the first Old Firm game in three years between Rangers FC and Celtic (a rather big soccer game in Scotland for my American readers). Second, the 49th Super Bowl between the Seahawks and Patriots.

For the record, I'm a Gers fan and tonight I'm also be backing the Seahawks, although I'm pretty neutral really on this one. I backed the Packers in the Championship game and would have loved to have seen them compete.

Anyway, to the point! I have been tracking a couple of hashtags on Twitter over the past couple of weeks: #OldFirm and #SuperBowlXLIX. I thought it would be fun to see how they compare against each other. Bear in mind of course that the Super Bowl is perhaps the third biggest sporting event on the planet...

Starting with #OldFirm then. Over the past couple of weeks, the hash tag has been used 4,073 times on Twitter by just over 3,000 folks and made over 17m impressions. Unsurprisingly the vast majority of posts are made by males but with a fully global reach with activity on every continent. Many tweets emanating from the U.S where there is a strong ex-pat following on both sides of the fence.

When it comes to related hash tag and key word usage, 'Rangers' narrowly tops 'Celtic' but otherwise, it's a mixed bag between other various phrases relating to the game. There is bound to be a greater news angle for people talking about Rangers. They are so much weaker in terms of resources than Celtic and of course are working their way back up to the top flight.

To #SuperBowlXLIX. In two weeks, this hash tag has been used on Twitter over 250k times. And by the way, there are many Super Bowl hash tags but I have limited resources so going with my own preferred one. The hash tag has made over 1.7 BILLION impressions and unsurprisingly again shows mostly male activity but more equal than the Old Firm game. Interest obviously is global but in the U.S the greatest social activity is happening on the east and west coasts equally. The rest of the country comparatively doesn't seem overly fussed with only Texas and Florida showing a higher than average level of Twitter activity.

However, it's amazing to see how the Super Bowl transcends sports chat. Every walk of life is encompassed by this  game. Food recipes, clothes, banking, music and well, you get the picture. And why? Advertising. Advertising drives the Super Bowl more than any other sporting event. I guess it's due to the stop-start nature of American sports. Super Bowl advertising on social media is probably a whole other post. Here's an example:

So what have the teams been doing on social? All week, Rangers have been super active as you'd expect with tweets relating to the 'Road to the Semi-Final', Old Firm memories and interviews with the players. Similarly, on Facebook, the focus has been on the possibility of an upset and very much playing up the underdog card. Among the near 490k Facebook fans, sentiment is mixed. A mixture of defiance (of the odds), fear (of a heavy defeat) and hopelessness (given the ongoing financial troubles the club faces). It's a shame that those in charge and who are running the place into the ground take some of the shine off a huge day.

For Celtic, the anticipation via Facebook has been slightly more relaxed. A 'Cup Countdown' has been the main focus of content this week with video highlights from previous wins and interviews with players ahead of the game. Celtic's 1.2m Facebook fans are, as you'd expect, confident of an easy day out and will have the 'craic' at the ready to go on full wind up mode. As a Gers fan I'm afraid to say, we'll just have to take it. The only response Rangers can offer is somehow pulling off the 'W'.

UPDATE: Celtic won what was probably the most one sided Old Firm fixture in recent memory.

At this point I could mention some posts by fans of either team but a) I'd have to black out most of them and b) you can probably guess yourself.

Stepping it up a considerable notch for Super Bowl week, it is fascinating to see social media explode. Activity from the Seahawks and Patriots has been superb.

On Facebook, the Seahawks have optimised their page with a great cover image, using every bit of visible space to great effect. Last night, a stunning photo of the city and a homage to the fans with a simple caption. The post went down well with 47k likes and 4.6k shares among their 3.2m Facebook fans. I really love that community connection that all NFL teams have. It's something I feel is lost in top flight soccer.

For their part, the Patriots have taken a more laid back, light hearted approach to Super Bowl week. A mixture of selfies, team shots and highlights building the excitement for game time. Pretty much every post drawing likes in the tens of thousands but the one below went down particularly well with 79k likes and 12k shares among their 5.4m fans.

UPDATE: The Patriots won an amazing Super Bowl following the WORST SPORTING DECISION I THINK I HAVE EVER SEEN.

So, obviously the Super Bowl is the most talked about event of the day globally but I wasn't surprised to see the Old Firm game still has worldwide appeal. Scots have roamed the globe for centuries now with many of us having ancestors across the Americas and as far as New Zealand. I've no doubt they'll be up at all hours watching the wee big game.