Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why Have a Google+ Page for Your Business?

Everyone knows that Facebook is where the numbers are. According to Trendstream's Global Web Index,  Facebook had 693 million active users compared to Google+'s 343 million active users, and Twitter's 288 million active users for the last quarter of 2012. It would seem looking at just the numbers one would be best off focusing their energies in promoting a brand on Facebook. There is a problem with that, while a brand can reach every one of their followers on Google+ and Twitter theoretically, thanks to Facebook's EdgeRank a brand reaches only a small portion of their fans. Facebook filters the posts a brand makes on their page showing only the posts they feel are relevant to any given user. As a result only a small portion of a page's fans are reached. An example of this is my author page. It is a small page with only 1303 fans. Of those fans on any given post I reach at most only about 390 fans. For most posts I only reach about 200. So at most I am reaching less than a quarter of the people that have liked my page. Going by that if a brand has 1 million fans it will reach less than 300,000 people that like the page. This is not a big return on the time it takes to promote a page in order that folks will like it and see the posts. With Google+ and Twitter though a follower can, if they wish see nearly every post or tweet made by a brand.

Sadly though brands do not have a good track record with Google+. An example of this is CBS's page for the TV show NCIS on Google+. On Google+ the NCIS page has only about 14,093 followers. This is compared to over 16 million on its corresponding page on Facebook. Even given Facebook's filtering using EdgeRank, the NCIS page on Facebook is still reaching far, far more people than the NCIS page on Google+. Many Google+ pages are this way. They often have less than half a percent the number of followers on Google+ than they have on Facebook. There are probably a variety of reasons for this. Google+ is only a little over  a year and a half old giving Facebook a big head start, people on Google+ do not seem interested in following brands, and Google+ does not promote following brands the way Facebook does, but probably the primary reason people do not follow brands is not the fault of Google+'s staff or its users. It is the fault of the brands themselves. Brands do not readily promote their pages on Google+, or if they do it is not obvious. Brands do not always update their Google+ pages as often as they do Facebook. An example of this again are the NCIS  pages. The NCIS  page on Facebook is updated nearly daily while the corresponding page on Google+ is only updated every few weeks. As of this writing on March 27, 2013 the +NCIS page on Google+ has not been updated since March 5.  If folks see a page has not been updated on Google+ they are unlikely to follow it.

It need not be that way. In fact, the rock star of Google+ pages is the page of +Cadbury UK  with almost 3 million followers (its Facebook page has less than 400,000 fans). Unlike most brands Cadbury has promoted their page. They post several times a day, and even operate a community (the equivalent of a group on Facebook) in connection with the page. When Daria Musk did a concert via a Google+ Hangout for Valentine's Day, Cadbury UK gave away chocolates. While not as impressive as Cadbury UK, +Android Central  has 273,727 followers and like Cadbury updates their page often. They too operate a community and it has over 100,000 members. Android Central sometimes has promotions on its page like giving away free apps in Google Play to celebrate the page's first birthday. And they are always posting videos and other engaging content.  +NASA's page  is another successful page. Its page has over 473,000 followers. NASA posts several times a day often posting pictures or videos, and even hosts Hangouts on such topics as rising sea levels. The space agency even had a Hangout with the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Each of these pages can reach as many people or more than their corresponding Facebook pages thanks to Facebook's EdgeRank. Google+ does not filter posts, and users can set put all their pages in a circle, and set it so they are notified when a post is made. Google+ actually makes it easier for a user to see a post made by a brand page unlike Facebook which has made it harder for posts to be seen.

Besides potentially reaching more fans with posts using Google+ as opposed to Facebook, there are other advantages to having a Google+ page. Posts from a brand page on Google+ appear in Google's search results. Facebook posts or tweets on Twitter do not do this. This gives posts on Google+ a sort of permanence. They will be waiting there to be found with a Google search time and time again (at least until and if they are deleted).  What is more, these posts will come up higher in a Google+ user's personalized results. For example, if I do a search on Google for "space exploration" results from NASA's Google+ page come up near the top of the list. So even if a Google+ user misses a post on Google+ from a brand page they may still see that post in a search on Google. Further if a link is shared on Google+ it will rank higher in one's personalized results. Say if my brother +Terence Towles Canote shares a link to a BBC news story on  Richard III and the finding of his body. If I do a search for "Richard III body" my brother's Google+ post will come up higher in the search results. In this way, Google+ users can refer other users to sites they like or recommend. If a business is promoting its Google+ page and posting links to relevant sites away from Google there is no end in how they can get their sites higher in search results on Google.

There is no reason a brand cannot have a successful Google+ page. And with it they can reach more people than they would with a Facebook page. With the fact a user can see every post made by a brand as well as the fact that a brand's posts and links will show up higher in search results there is no end to the amount of marketing a company or individual can do. Facebook may appear where the numbers are, but with closer examination it is easy to see one can potentially reach more people using Google+.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Google+ Tools: Websites to Help in the G+ Experience

So you are on Google+, several people have you circled, but try as you may you cannot get people to interact. This nothing new, most people have suffered from this at one time or another. Most often it comes down to you are posting at the wrong time (when no one else is on) or you are not posting content folks want to engage with. Most learn what to post and when to post through trail and error. However it need not be that way. There are websites that can help you. I make use of these, and since I started using them I have had a much better Google+ experience. I use three websites: Google+ Timing,  All My +, and Circle Count  Of these, I probably use Google+ Timing the most, so I will cover it first.

Google+ Timing is a website that reports what time your posts have gotten the most responses. It lists your top five posts, and the days and times those posts were made. There is a handy chart showing your best days for posting and then an hour ranking giving the time that your posts were made that got the most interaction. For a long time I could not figure out why I would post something of interest to a lot of people, and yet, I would not get any response. Other times, I could post something very similar and get tons of responses. Timing took all the guesswork out of it. I now know my best days and times to post, and have been using it to increase my social interaction on Google+. Timing updates all the time, so it is helpful to check it at least once a week. Your best posting times change week to week, and can change drastically during the holiday season. For example my best days and hours for posting during Christmas were totally different from what they were prior to the holiday season and what they were after.

Another helpful site is All my + It is a site that gives a variety of statistics such as an overview of the number of posts you have made and whether those posts were public or part of a community. These stats are broken down into the type of posts you have made: posts, photos, gifs, videos, and links. It also gives how many comments you have gotten and how many +1s you have gotten. These stats are helpful in various ways. You can see what kind of posts you make the most of, and you can tell whether you get more interaction on communities or public posts. Myself for example I get more +1s on my posts to communities, but I get more comments on my public posts. In addition to this overview it gives a map of where most of your interactions are coming from. For me most of the folks that interact are in the United States and the United Kingdom. You also get a handy set of charts on this site showing your posting behavior by day and hour. This can be combined with what you learn from Google Timing can be used to figure out how many of your posts are reaching people. You can then change when you post to a time you will get more interaction, and stop posting at times you don't. For example, I know from Timing that one of my top posting days is Wednesday, yet I can see from All my + that the only day I post less on than Wednesday on is Tuesday. My highest days for the number of posts I make are on the weekend. And while Sunday according to Timing is my top day for interaction (I think the fact my recent birthday was on a Sunday is skewing those stats what with all the birthday wishes I got), Saturday ranks fifth, and Friday ranks sixth. Yet according to All my + this is when I post the most. What I learned from this is I need to post more on Wednesday, and less on Friday and Saturday if I want more folks to interact with me. Another thing All my + does is show you your most popular posts by which one got the most +1s, the most comments, and the most reshares. This gives you an idea of what sort of content those that have you circled enjoy seeing. Finally, you can export all this data as a  CSV file. If you are a business and running a page this could be very helpful in mashing your numbers on reports of how well your social media efforts are doing.

The final website I am going to tell you about is Circle Count Of the websites to be used with Google+ is probably the one most people use. Circle Count gives you a record of how many people had you circled on a specific date. It can show whether you are having more people circle you or if you are losing people. For example, I can see in the past month I have steadily been having more people circle me than uncircle me with the exception of one day when I uncircled several inactives. You can also learn what circles people have you in. This is helpful in that it can tell you what you may have in common with the people that have circled you. For example I know that +steph wanamaker has me in a circle called "awesome men who comment" circle.This indicates to me, steph likes the fact I interact.  Finally, it gives your latest postings and the average interaction on them as well as how many characters your average post contains. In addition to this information it gives your Profiles Rank both overall and by your gender, and Circle Rank both worldwide and for your country. 

While these websites give information that is useful to the individual, I think for a businesses they are vital. If you are a brand you need to know when the best time to reach your customers is, what posts work best at getting their interest, and how people view your brand.  It is these kind of stats that can help a business make marketing decisions that can make or break a marketing campaign. For the individual it can tell you when you get the most interaction on your posts, and what kind of posts folks want to interact with you on the most. I have been using these websites for some time now, and have found them useful. I am hoping you will as well.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Who is the Ghost Town Now?

Today, I maintained my friends list on Facebook and circles on Google+. I was expecting a few deactivated accounts on Facebook as I always do have a few and I had not done maintenance since June. Out of 1200 friends, I wound up unfriending over 100 accounts, a record for me. I now have to wonder of the accounts that had not been deactivated how many had not seen posts in months. It is not uncommon I check out a friend's profile if I had not seen a post from them for a while only to find that they had not posted in weeks maybe even months.

I then took to Google+ which I had not done any circle maintenance on since June either. Maintenance there is much easier. I  installed the Chrome extension Uncircle Inactives. To my surprise after running it and taking out a couple of false positives I only removed 34 people out of over 1800 people I had in my circles. I was figuring since I had taken part in circle shares I would have many people that had created an account and circled me only to never come back to Google+.  That seems not to be the case. It seems people had come to Google+ to stay.

Now I know that my stream is more active on Google+ with people posting all the time. Some post many times a day, others once or twice a day, while still others may only post once or twice a week. But they do post. My news feed on Facebook is less active. I had always thought this was because Facebook uses EdgeRank, their mechanism for filtering out posts they think you do not want to see. I am now wondering though if it is just a case of folks not posting. Indeed, the amount of interaction I get on Google+ is more than what I get on Facebook at times, but I had thought this was because more people had circled me than I had friends on Facebook. But again, I am wondering, maybe folks simply are not going to Facebook anymore.

For months news stories and op-ed pieces were proclaiming Google+ a ghost town. They were always saying, yes, Google claims Google+ has so many active users and is growing, but how often do those users actually post? No doubt in all probability many reporters would go on Google+ and not bother to circle many people or to interact, and then go away thinking there was no activity. First generation Google+ users like myself knew different that there was plenty of things going on. You just had to circle people and interact. Now though the tune in the press is beginning to change. A story on Frobes' website published in January, 2013 stated Google+ had 343 million active users around half that of Facebook's 693 million ("Watch Out Facebook, With Google+ at #2..."). And Google+ is growing. It has not shown a month where the number of active users has declined.

And that is not all, while Google+ is gaining active users Facebook's usage is declining. According to a story on Yahoo News, 20% of American adults have stopped visiting Facebook all together with another 60% taking breaks from it lasting for weeks (Mark Zuckerberg's attempt to counteract 'Facebook fatigue'). It would seem then that my perceived lack of activity in my Facebook news feed was more than Facebook aggressively filtering posts out. There may really be less people posting on Facebook, and less people interacting with me there. It would seem Facebook is becoming the ghost town that Google+ had been accused of being. In my opinion years of tampering with features like the news feed, using EdgeRank to filter posts, inflicting the dreaded two column jumble called Timeline on users, and its general unresponsiveness to user input has lead Facebook to this. Meanwhile Google has been steadily improving Google+ by adding features like events and communities. When there is something about a feature Google+ users do not like, Google is eager to get input on why the users do not like it, and are quick to fix it. When community posts began appearing on users' profiles many complained they did not like that. Within weeks Google+ offered the option not to show public community posts on one's profile thus pleasing the many users that had complained.

I have to admit I am biased. I enjoy Google+ much more than Facebook. But I do use both extensively making between five to six posts a day each on both. I have many friends on both networks. But were all my close friends to suddenly up and leave Facebook for Google+ you would see me shutting my Facebook account down. Unless the new features like the new single column Timeline, and revamped newsfeed increase my enjoyment of Facebook I am likely to remain feeling that way. However, I do not think I am alone in this. I think there are perhaps many dissatisfied  with Facebook, and the figures seem to support that. It does lead one to ask, "who is the ghost town now?"

Note: The title of this piece was swiped from something Google+ user +steph wanamaker  said in a conversation on the site.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Google Reader Shutting Down in July

Google Reader, probably the most used RSS reader on the planet is shutting down July 1, 2013. The reason Google given for this shutting it down is that the number of users has declined (you can see the official announcement on the Google Blog at Immediately, folks expressed outrage on the social media. On both Twitter and Google Plus Google Reader was trending at number one. For something that its usage had declined there was an awful lot of outrage. The tweets on Twitter were almost universally against Google. One by Jim Aley, a Twitter user, was typical: "Goggle is murdering Google Reader. It is committing appicide. Hate crime. NO GR, NO PEACE." A petition on as of this writing has over 56,000 signatures. You can sign the petition at:

 Google Reader was started in 2005, and has remained popular with those wanting to keep up with blogs and news. Many in media rely on Google Reader for getting information for the news stories and blog posts they write, being able to keep track of a large number of blogs and other news outlets at a time. The reader is simple. It displays the headlines of the news articles and blog posts, and if one wants to read an article or blog post they simply click on the headline and the story or post is displayed in the reader. For many it makes their workday easier in that they do not have to search the web for information or scan website after website for news stories or blog posts. For the casual user it was a way to get news or read about things that interest them without having to go to dozens of websites.

 Many Android apps use Google Reader as well. FeeDemon, NewsRob, Reeder, Pulp, FeedMe, gReader, and several others rely on Google Reader for their feeds. Those using tablets or smartphones may be hard pressed to find other apps that will allow them to read RSS feeds. Once Google Reader is shut down these apps may well cease to work if they do not switch to another service. As for apps for other sites, in a search for apps for the reader folks are most likely to turn to, Feedly, I could only find one app. This compared to half a dozen Android apps for Google Reader. Folks will lose a great deal of choices into what app to use for RSS feeds.

 I have not used Google Reader myself in years. I am part of the reason for the declining number of users. I simply found I no longer had time to read news feeds what with my work schedule. I went through a period that all I would do is work and sleep. But I know many friends and families that do use it, and I know of many professionals that use it daily in their work. Shutting down Google Reader could have a serious impact on those that use the world wide web. Many will have to go looking for other services. Some will not find services to their liking and simply stop subscribing to RSS feeds all together. Something like this happened for me when DejaNews was purchased by Google. I had been using DejaNews to read my newsgroups for a few years. Google then bought it and made it a part of Google Groups. I did not like the interface. I found it difficult to read, and therefore just stopped reading newsgroups all together. Something similar could happen with RSS feeds. Folks may not like the alternatives to Google Reader to read online, or find apps they like that use these alternatives. While it is doubtful they may stop using RSS readers all together, they may find that they are reading RSS feeds less and less. Maybe Google will rethink their closure of Google Reader. The outrage after all was widespread. One of the reasons given for shutting down it and other service was so Google could focus. One blog poster argued they could get rid of many other things that do not serve the average person and cost more money to develop like Google Glass or the self driven car. I would tend to agree.