Of all the social media and networking sites out there, Google Plus might just be the most helpful, yet least understood, one of the bunch. Google’s social media platform has been called a flop and a ghost town ever since its arrival on the scene, but that’s hardly the case anymore.
Google Plus is now the second largest social media site and it’s only trailing Facebook as far as the numbers are concerned. But if you ask me, the networking, knowledge, and community involvement on Google Plus is the best available for any freelancer, and here’s why.
Your Friends Aren’t On It, And That’s a Good Thing
When it comes to social sharing and staying in contact with old high school friends, Facebook has the field beat. But where Facebook succeeds in connecting old acquaintances and stalking old love interests, it fails as a professional networking platform. On Facebook, you have very limited control over what posts you or your friends see and how you can group your friends up, and trying to be selective takes tremendous amounts of time.
To freelance successfully you need to be able to keep your work life and private life separate. This includes setting enough time aside in order to get all of your projects and commitments done, as well as keeping your personal interests and professional networking parts of the web as far apart as possible. Would you want a potential client stumbling across your under-grad pictures on Facebook, or that argument you got in with Chad Ochocinco on Twitter?
Google Plus allows for much more customization of privacy between you and your network or followers. Now, Google probably already knows everything about you – from your inseam to your grandmother’s maiden name – so I can’t vouch for how private your personal information is there, but if you don’t want to share the funny cat picture with your clients, or potential clients then you can choose to do so with a simple press of the button that puts your clients into one circle, and your fraternity brothers into another.
Twitter is Fun and All…
Don’t get me wrong, Twitter is great to stay up to date with your favorite celebrities – but it sucks when it comes to meaningful interaction. Having an ongoing conversation on Twitter is like trying to communicate with soup cans and string; only half of the message can get through and in the end you just end up shouting. While Google Plus does not replace Twitter, or Facebook for that matter, it does offer an easier way to communicate and interact with people that any other platform I’ve come across.
Connect Easily With Like Minded Individuals
Honing your skills is an ongoing process and there is no such thing as a “perfect freelancer.” To keep striving to reach that ideal you need to immerse yourself in your craft which means engaging with your peers in order to learn from those that are better than you, and to help those that need it.
Google recently released an aspect of Google Plus that promotes this kind of interaction with like-minded people: Communities allows you to create or join a group focused around a central theme where users can ask questions, discuss topics, share projects and resources, or whatever the Community allows for. Depending on how you utilize these Communities, you can interact with industry leaders and build up a larger following to showcase your work, and potentially build a source of references and resources.
Protect Your Content with Authorship and Author Rank
For freelance writers and web developers, Authorship and the soon to be released (allegedly) Author Rank system could be the two biggest factors for getting cozy with Google Plus. If you spend any time on Google at all then you’ve seen people’s faces start coming up in the search engine results page (SERP). The obvious benefit of this is that the page’s link stands out more on Google’s otherwise bland layout, but there are many more advantages to Google’s Authorship program.
Use Authorship for Ownership and to Track Performance
Seeing your mug in the SERP is great, especially if you’re a handsome devil like myself, but there are tangible benefits that create a bigger incentive to using Google Authorship. For starters, you can actually track how well your Authorship enabled posts are doing with Google’s Author Stats tool which works almost like a miniature version of their Analytics tool. You can track how often your links are making an impression in the SERP and how often they are getting clickedas well.
As a freelancer you are probably working on multiple sites and you could be hired to link build or generate content all over the place. Using Authorship on all of your content, not just the stuff on your personal site, not only helps you to track your work, but builds up your credentials on your subject and also allows you to have better weight within your niche. Also, once Author Rank goes live you’ll be scrambling to prove your worth.
Most internet savvy people know about Google’s PageRank system in which individual pages pass on influence to other pages through links and references. A site or page with a higher PageRank will pass more influence on with its links than a page with a lower PageRank, which has led to link builders (many of which are hired freelancers) to target sites with high PageRank asking for a link. Google is trying to transfer the power that websites currently have on the web and give more of it to actual people. With Author Rank, those who implement Authorship will have a similar ranking (presumably) that PageRank implements and sites that feature content from authors with a high Author Rank will get a boost, much like if they got a link from a high PageRank site.
For freelancers, this means if you can get in on the ground floor and start promoting strong content enabled with Authorship you’ll have a better chance of increasing your Author Rank whenever it goes live. A high Author Rank could lead to charging more for your content and webmasters competing to get your content on their site.
To Note: While Authorship is enabled, Author Rank is not at the time of writing this and no one is sure when it will finally go live. Anything pertaining to Author Rank is speculation at best, but the general idea behind it (giving internet users more “power”) is sound.
Hangouts Increase Communication Potential
One of first and best features of Google Plus is its Hangout feature that allows free, face to face communication with groups of people. This can help freelancers who are working together on a project collaborate and share ideas in real time. It’s also a great resource to use to speak with clients for a sales call, kick-off call, or discussion of an ongoing project where talking face to face in done easily with no need of extra programs like Skype or other internet calling services.
Getting Found Locally
The internet has made the world flatter than the time before Eratosthenes, which means that a lot of freelancers who work online forget about their local market. Not everyone is online (say what?!) and could still use your services, or people just want to meet in persona and aren’t comfortable hiring online. More often than not, they turn to Google to find someone locally who can help them out. Google Plus has the Local feature where you can claim or make a page for your business and people can rate and review you. The local listings in the Google search pages are influenced by the ratings and reviews of businesses in Google Plus Local – so if you have a strong network who gives you good feedback you could find yourself getting more local business as well.
Use Google Plus for Your Clients
Many freelancers are hired as digital marketing managers in which they set up and run social media accounts, or writers who generate content for a site. Knowing the ins and outs of Google Plus can be a major incentive for people to hire you over the competition, and here’s why.
- Authorship: Knowing how to enable Authorship for a company’s site is a great pitch since it makes their links in the SERPs look much more appealing to searchers. This drives up the click through rate and should drive up sales or readers as well.
- Local: Many businesses do not realize that the local listings in Google’s search are influenced by the ratings and reviews they could be getting on Google Plus. Knowing how to set up a strong presence on Google Plus that can also influence their traffic gleamed from search engines is a huge incentive.
- Community Involvement: Creating a community based around a business or website is a great way to get feedback and discussion from people who are already passionate about the project and lets you have the target audience in another location on the web.
Integrates Naturally With Products
At this point, Google is almost synonymous with “the internet.” Their reach only continues to grow as they keep expanding their reach into laptops, smart phones, self-driving cars, YouTube, Google Plus, Google Glass, Gmail, and a host of other avenues of exploration. Google Plus, if it isn’t already, is going to be tied to all of these products and will continue to be a growing and driving social and networking platform.
Features like Google Calender, Google Docs, and Google Now all sync up effortlessly with all of Google’s products. These are great ways to stay on track with your projects, meetings, emails, and whatever else you might get confusing that could potentially fall through the cracks. Just the other day, Google Now reminded me of a meeting I forgot I had and informed me I needed to leave in seven minutes if I wanted to make it on time with the traffic. If that’s not a selling point, I don’t know what is.