If you’ve jumped on the Google+ bandwagon, you may be wondering, “Ok, what next?”
By now, you know it’s a lot like Facebook, but with some cooler features like Hangouts. Plus, unless you’ve gone crazy and added thousands to your circles, it isn’t as noisy as Twitter–yet.
So how exactly do you use Google+ to (a) make it a tool for finding clients, and (b) keep it from sucking up any more of the time you’re already using for social networking?
Below are some of the best tips for achieving both.
Google+ Tips for Freelancers
Here are some things that freelancers need to understand about Google+:
- Don’t make a business account–yet. Since you’re using Google+ to promote your freelancing business, you naturally want to create a business profile, right? That way you can separate your business stuff from the personal. However, Google+ has been clear about its current policy: no business profiles yet! They do promise to have a Google+ platform for business by the end of 2011. You can watch the message from Google+ here. Don’t think you can get away with it, either. I know one person whose Google+ profile got suspended, because she tried to work around this. Don’t waste your time and effort. Use a personal account for now.
- Put clients in their own circle. If you’d like to include prospective and existing clients in Google+, put them in their own circle. That way, you can still follow them and, if they add you to their circles, you can share specific content only for them. At the same time, you can keep them from seeing content that’s for family and friends only. Don’t worry, so far, people only know they’re in one of your circles, but they won’t know which circle (not even what it’s called) or who else is in the same circle they’re in. I can’t guarantee this will not change in the future. You can also make a global setting for the visibility of your circles, so that nobody can see who’s in any of your circles.
- SEO and copywriting principles still apply. First, make sure your Google+ profile is visible to Google and other search engines. You select this setting when editing your profile. And then remember that SEO and copywriting principles apply when writing your profile and sharing anything on your stream. On your profile, you get to write a sub-title that appears under your name. Include your main keywords there, but don’t get carried away and stuff it until it doesn’t make sense. You’ll just turn people off that way. Same thing goes for the Introduction, Bragging Rights, and Occupation sections of your profile. When posting something on your stream, write a brief headline for it, so people who are following you will be motivated to click on your link. It also helps to have a simple call to action, such as “Let me know your thoughts on this article,” or “Add your tips below.”
- Customize your profile and create information for prospective and existing clients only. Google+ allows you to make certain parts of your profile visible to certain circles only. This means you can write a compelling Introduction, one that sells your freelancing services, and have only prospective and current clients see that section. You can put your freelancing achievements in Bragging Rights and not have family see them. These settings are available when you edit your profile. Just think: How can you use this feature creatively?
- Style your updates. Did you know you can apply text styles to your updates and tag people on them? Google+ provides all sorts of functionalities, which are not easy for you to discover on your own. Use this Google+ Cheat Sheet by Simon Laustsen as a guide. Your updates will look more attractive and be easier to read if you use these features (within reason, of course!).
- Claim your vanity URL In case you haven’t noticed, the URL to your Google+ profile is really long and ugly. Try memorizing it! Well, there’s an app for that. If you go to Google Plus Nick, you can get a nice vanity URL that points to your Google+ profile. Or you could simply create a redirect from a page on your site (e.g., http://www.yourdomain.com/googleplus) to your profile. That way, you’re not relying on a third party to direct people to your Google+ profile.
- If you blog, make your author profile show up when your post comes up in Google’s search results. You can set up your blog so that when any of your posts appear on a Google search result, your Google+ profile, with your picture, appears as the author. It looks like this:
See the thumbnail of the post author on the right? It’s linked to his Google profile. This is visible even to people who may not even be using Google+.
- Linking your author profile to your Google profile gives you an air of authority, and increases the likelihood that people will click on the link to your post. I have to admit, I’ve read Joost de Valk’s tutorial on how to link your Google+ profile to your blog author page — but I still have to wrap my head around it. (Hey, if you want to shoot a video demonstrating this, let me know!).
- Commit to engaging. If you want to get results from Google+, you need to commit some time and effort to engage with your contacts there. This entails posting updates, responding to other people’s updates, and connecting with increasing numbers of people. Even if you can’t spend tons of time on Google+, realize that your profile is searchable–unless you made it invisible to search engines–and will appear if anybody searches for your name online. I Googled my name and my Google+ profile was number one on the search results.
- Stay disciplined. It’s easy to get sucked into any social network, Google+ included. Discipline yourself. Set aside a specific amount of time each day and Stick To It.
- Track your results. This is important for every single marketing and promotional tool you use: track and monitor its effectiveness. You can use Google Analytics to let you know if you’re getting any traffic from Google+ and other information. Here’s a good tutorial on tracking, not only Google+ but also Twitter and Facebook. At the end of the year, you’ll know which works best, what you should be doing more of and what you can give up.
These are some of the hottest tips I’ve found that could be useful to freelancers. Some will help you maximize the features of Google+ so you can promote your freelancing services, even with a personal account. The others will help you use Google+ efficiently and honor your precious time and energy.
What Say You?
Can you add to these tips? Post them in the comments below, so other freelancers can benefit.
Images by Lexi Rodrigo