Articles about "Google Plus"


To @ or not to @? When and how to name drop in social media

Imagine for a moment that you are at a party, standing in a circle of people and exchanging stories. You start to tell the one about the time your friend John, who is across the room, fell into the lake on a fishing trip.

You have a choice to make. Do you say, quietly, “See that guy over there? That’s John, and one time when we were out fishing…” or do you exclaim while waving him over, “Johnny, come here. We’re talking about your infamous fishing incident…”?

In the cocktail party of social networking, you face this choice every day. When you mention another user, do you write his username, which acts as a tag and a link, or do you just reference him by his real name? The right answer is: It depends.

Reasons to use a name tag

If you’ve used Twitter at all, you already know how to name-tag someone using the “@” symbol before his or her username. Fewer people know that Facebook and Google+ have similar mechanisms.

Both Twitter (above) and Facebook enable users to name-tag other users, which notifies them of the mention and links to their profile.

On Facebook, when typing a status or comment, enter the “@” symbol before you begin typing the person’s name. You will see a dropdown list of matching friends and pages to select from. Google+ works about the same way, except you can precede the name with “+” or “@.”

There are two general reasons you might want to do this.

To notify that person that her name was mentioned, in hopes that she will respond, retweet or otherwise engage with the message. Sometimes you may even use an email-like “cc:” at the end of a post to name-tag a person you wouldn’t otherwise mention in order to call her attention to it.

To make it easy for readers to click through to the person’s profile. By using a name tag on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, you make it clear to readers exactly to whom you’re referring and you let them easily access that person’s profile.

This helps your message drive awareness of — and maybe even new followers to — the person you mention. It can help build your online community by calling attention to users who aided your reporting or posted a great comment. And it can strengthen your organization’s total social presence by helping the followers of your main brand account discover individual staff members they can follow.

One important thing to remember about name-tagging on Twitter: If you begin a tweet with an @username, Twitter treats it as a personal reply and your followers won’t see it unless they also follow that person. This can be useful if you really are sending someone a reply that would only be relevant to followers who also follow that person. Otherwise, you need to insert a period first or place the @username later in the tweet to make sure everyone sees it.

Reasons not to use a name tag

There are also a couple reasons why you might not want to use a person’s official username.

The person has a confusing or unrecognizable username that your followers may not recognize. It’s easy to decipher that @ericschmidt is former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, however, goes by @finkd on Twitter.

If you want to write a post noting that Zuckerberg has announced a new Facebook feature, you may want to use his real name in the post instead of, or at least in addition to, his obscure Twitter username. If you simply use @finkd, your followers may not grasp the significance. (On Facebook and Google+ real names are required as usernames, so you normally won’t have this problem.)

You don’t want to alert the person that his name was mentioned. Perhaps in some cases you want to say something about a person without sending a notification to that person. Or maybe you want to spare them from a long series of notifications for all the comments that post gets on Facebook or Google+.

Whatever your motive, a tweet that says “I hated Jeff Sonderman’s article” is less likely to get my attention than “I hated @jeffsonderman’s article.” Maybe sometimes you want it that way.

In general, though, it’s good to remember that social networks are about socializing. You’re there to connect with people, and to connect them with each other. So I encourage you to use the name tags as often as possible.

If you found this post useful, go ahead and name-tag me when you share it. Read more

1 Comment

Google’s +1 button adds sharing ability

The Official Google Blog
Google’s +1 button will soon enable users to share a page directly to their Google+ circles, increasing its ability to drive traffic. Since the button launched in June, it has functioned only within Google Search by highlighting pages you or friends had +1′d. Now it will also function much like the Facebook “Like” button by creating a post in your social network stream. Websites don’t need to do anything special to take advantage of this, but they can modify their page code to specify the headline and description Google+ should use when linking to it. Read more


What Google+ can teach news organizations about innovation and launching products

The launch of Google+ has gone as well as anyone at Google could have hoped. In its first few weeks it passed 10 million users (perhaps 18 million by now) and has a lot of positive buzz. In the news business, we can do more than just cover this as a tech story — we can learn from it.

The business strategy behind Google+ — and the way the company handled the launch — is an example for news organizations to follow. Google is not a news company, of course, and so the parallels I draw here are not perfect. But Google is an information company, and it is trying to building communities and launch new online products just as most news organizations are.

Here are five things Google got right that can translate to the news business.

Embrace personalization. Google was founded in 1998 with the mission “to organize the world’s information.” For years, that meant simply crawling the Web to index every possible page and ranking them by authority for any given keyword search. Everyone who searched for the same set of keywords got the same results. There was one Internet, indivisible, with SEO and PageRank for all.

After a while, that wasn’t good enough.

In 2005, Google began to personalize search results based on your Web browsing history. In 2010 it added social search, which showed some search results based on what your online friends have shared on social networks. And this year Google began testing its own Google+ social network and +1 button, which among many goals would give the company its strongest signals to recommend personalized Web content (and ads).

Contrast Google’s evolution with that of news websites, and you see that most are still stuck in the pre-2005 era of one Web for all. They do what Google used to do and newspapers have always done: Survey the community’s information and create one bundled authoritative synopsis.

In 2011, news sites need to act more like Google, using implicit signals (browsing history) and explicit signals (the social layer of likes and tweets) to learn what each user cares about and personalize the news results.

Disrupt yourself. Google draws about two-thirds of its total revenue from advertising in Google Search and its other smaller websites. It controls more than 80 percent of the search-advertising market. With such a dominant position, you might expect a company to entrench itself and focus on protecting that near-monopoly.

But Google didn’t do that. It didn’t stop at just doing the social tweak to its legacy search business. Google realized that to stay relevant on the social Web it needed to create an actual social network. And it tried and tried again until it built one that seems like it’s going to work.

For mainstream news organizations, their legacy business of print or broadcast is like Google’s search business — dominant within its market, and accounting for a great majority of the company’s revenue. The news companies that want to win a future will have to do something better than an online version of a newspaper or a paywall that protects the value of print subscriptions. They need digital strategies to aggressively create new forms of digital news.

Design matters. Design had never been a strength at Google, whose engineering-dominated culture traditionally focused on what a product could do, and later came up with the sparsest possible design. Give them credit for efficient minimalism, but not for ambition.

Google+ broke that mold. Even in its early trial phase, it’s clear that the design is part of the product, not just an afterthought. It uses color, texture and user-friendly interfaces that are un-Googley.

Steven Levy explained in a Wired magazine piece why this is so. Rather than design by committee or by engineers, Google put the entire product in the hands of senior vice president for social, Vic Gundotra, whose “philosophy of product design is to envision the demo he will eventually present at the launch event and work backwards from there,” Levy writes.

The result is a product that feels cohesive, fairly elegant, and even a little bit fun. Consider this the next time you sit down in a conference room full of people to plan a new news product — brainstorming is fine, but in the end, put the product in the hands of one person with vision and let her lead.

The stream post from one of Vic Gundotra’s recent Hangouts with Google+ users.

Listen to users. Gundotra regularly uses the Google+ Hangouts — a group video-chat — to hear feedback from users. He and many other Googlers, including four community managers, are actively engaging on the service and responding to questions and comments.

The benefits are clear: Google gets useful feedback and users feel appreciated. But also note that the entire Google+ team from the top down is available and listening to users — it’s a job too important to delegate or outsource.

News organizations should learn from this. Everyone from the top editor to the rookie reporter should be engaged with the audience, listening and learning.

Launch with a mobile strategy. Google+ had an Android app ready at launch, and an iPhone app that took a while to get Apple’s approval but is now available.

Google+ Huddle, a mobile-only group chat feature.

And the mobile apps don’t just duplicate the desktop Web features — they add new mobile features. The apps use a phone’s location data to automatically show Google+ posts near you. They also have “huddles” — group text chats for coordinating among a group of friends on the go, and the Android app’s “instant upload” technology can send a photo to your Google+ Web albums as soon as you take it, for sharing later.

That’s a good example for news organizations to follow: Develop the mobile strategy along with the Web strategy, and consider how your mobile product can be enhanced by unique features.

Google+ still has a long way to go in trying to become a mainstream social network. But the start has been strong, and the company seems willing to commit to its success and build the rest of its Web products around a social strategy. It’s worth continuing to watch and learn from Google’s successes and missteps. Read more


Google shuts down TV station’s Google+ account

Lost Remote
Missouri TV station KOMU adopted the new Google+ social network early and experimented with using its group video chats (called “Hangouts”) during newscasts. But Google deactivated the account, saying it’s not yet ready for businesses to join the network. A pilot program for business profiles is in the planning stages; one report says business profiles may be open within two months. KOMU New Media Director Jen Reeves and others complain that Google is enforcing its business profile ban unevenly, sometimes leaving one competitor up while taking another down. || Related: News organizations with unofficial profiles can download and back-up their data in case Google deletes them. || Also: What Google+ means for news and what’s missing. Read more


How to set up a virtual writers’ hangout using Google+

Using Google+ Hangouts, writers can now create their own virtual hangouts to carry out writing exercises and converse with others about them.

Author Mary Robinette Kowal says the goal of these writing hangouts is “to have a little bit of socializing to break up the process of creation.” They can also help make the writing process a lot less solitary.

The process for setting up a Google+ hangout is simple:

  • “Put up a post saying that you are going to have a writing date at [x] time OR just spontaneously open a hangout.” [You can install Google Voice and a video plugin for the hangouts here.]
  • “As soon as the hangout is open, place a comment on it that states that it is a writing date and what the parameters are.”
  • “Suggested parameters: ‘We’ll chat for fifteen minutes. Then at quarter past we’ll start writing for forty-five minutes. On the hour, there’s another 15 minute break for chat … Rinse and repeat. If you want to join in mid-way, that’s fine, but we’ll just wave at you until the next break.’ “

Most of the reactions from writers who responded to Kowal’s post have been positive. “I love this idea!” said commenter Ellise Heiskell. “I feel like such a hermit when I’m writing.”

The only problem is, sometimes there aren’t any other writers to hang out with.

“I attempted a ‘hangout’ this morning. Nobody showed up,” said commmenter Edward Champion. “But hope springs eternal! I’m willing to try again!” Read more


Google+ accelerates business profiles, as news organizations join early

Google is speeding up its plans to develop an official way for news organizations and other businesses to interact on its Google+ social network. In this early trial phase, Google+ only supports personal profiles for individuals, but many news organizations and other brands (including Poynter) have joined anyway as the network quickly gained momentum with users. Some speculate the network may have 10 million users, heading to 20 million by this weekend. A Google executive now says it will pick partners next week to test official business profiles, while continuing to deactivate the unofficial profiles that have sprung up. “Thousands upon thousands of businesses” have applied to join the trial program, Christian Oestlien wrote. After the trial, business profiles should be open to all later this year. || Related: News organizations with unofficial profiles can download and back-up their data in case Google deletes them. Should photographers worry about Google+? || Earlier: What Google+ means for news and what’s missing Read more

0 Comments finds that Google+ is great for viral sharing

Inside Breaking News
Cory Bergman of’s Breaking News shares observations from using the new Google+ social network to distribute news. Among the lessons: People love to reshare posts to their friends, even more than they like to comment on them. This is “an early sign of how viral stories can rocket throughout the network,” Bergman writes. On some Google+ posts, Breaking News has seen Facebook-level engagement, despite having just 1/25 the fans as it has on Facebook. Also, unlike Facebook or Twitter, Google+ allows you to edit your posts, which means a news org can update as a story develops rather than having to create multiple posts. || Earlier: 3 missing pieces for Google+ as a news platform. Read more


The 3 missing pieces for Google+ to become an influential news platform

Google’s new social network debuted this week with several new concepts and communications tools, including a potential game-changer for online news called “sparks.”

Sparks are topics that a Google+ user designates an interest in. Google uses sharing activity, +1 recommendations and search algorithms to offer personalized content for each spark.

The home screen of the sparks section, where you can pick some popular topics to follow.

It’s quite different than anything Facebook and Twitter have offered. Sparks don’t just tell you what your friends have read, they tell you what you ought to read. It’s a serendipity engine, and if executed well it could make Google+ an addictive source of news discovery.

But right now, it’s a great idea with imperfect execution. That’s to be expected from a project only a few days into a trial phase and nowhere near finished. Google’s goal with the early rollout is to learn what needs improvement.

After a couple days using the new service, I believe there are three missing pieces preventing Google+ from becoming an influential driver of news consumption. All three are within its reach.

Following and interacting with institutions

Media organizations and other institutions or brands need to be represented. They have Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, but no place to interact on Google+.

I can’t fault Google for not having this yet; it’s most important to get the people-to-people networking down first. But at some point Google+ must think of a way for news providers and companies to interact.

They could create Google+ profiles as if they were people, which was the common workaround on Facebook in the early years before fan pages were developed. Some already are doing that. But Google should make clear how non-persons, such as news organizations or other companies, can join.

Forty percent of Facebook users and 25 percent of Twitter users have liked or followed a “brand” account. It’s a significant part of social networking activity that is not yet in Google+.

Filtering ‘sparks’ news by sources

Right now, a spark is treated essentially as a keyword. It brings in content from the entire Web that appears to be related to the keyword. For example, I set up a spark for “Poynter Institute” and I get top results from USA Today, NPR and SF Weekly — all articles about Poynter, not from

If I want to use Google+ to keep up with articles from Poynter, The Huffington Post or any other particular site, I’m out of luck.

One possible solution, first suggested by Jennifer 8 Lee, is to enable some sparks to represent content sources instead of topics. I could have an NFL spark for all news about professional football, or an spark intended to bring me news from the league’s site.

Even that, however, may not be enough when you consider a site as big as The New York Times. I don’t want to (nor could I) read everything the Times publishes. There should be some way to specify topics of interest within the sources of interest.

I see two ways Google+ could attempt this. One is just to create even more source-specific sparks — for business, another for national, technology, and so on. This model begins to replicate an RSS reader.

That works, but it gets messy and fragmented. What if I want to follow a broad topical spark for business news as well as source-specific ones for several business news sites? Now my business news is in a handful of different places.

The other approach is to keep sparks as general topics and create another layer of settings that enables me to enter preferred news sources. So my “business” spark could still bring me all the top business news, but it would place extra emphasis on the stories from my favorite sites. Maybe once news organizations have an official presence, Google can enhance sparks by favoring the news sources a user has added as a friend.

That’s the approach that seems the most reasonable and flexible. It would serve power users without forcing any complexity on new users.

Improved semantic recognition of sparks phrases

Google+ sparks work great for following news about things with unique names and labels — such as many brands, sports teams and products. It uses Google’s comprehensive picture of the Web and its assessment of sites’ authority to find relevant mentions of those keywords.

Google+ spark results for “running” — more politics than fitness.

But sparks are not so good at words that mean different things in different contexts. For example, I followed a spark for “running” (the fitness activity) and mostly got results about running backs, candidates running for president and gadgets running operating systems. A spark for “watches” (the thing you use to tell time) brings me some relevant results, but also a story headlined “Turkey watches as Syria crisis continues” and another about thunderstorm watches.

If sparks are going to become a major hub of news discovery, Google will have to develop better technology that not only matches keywords but understands the correct context.

Personalization powered by the social interactions in Google+ will help sparks serve relevant items. As users build more complete social networks and accumulate a history of shared content and +1s, Google will be able to use these signals to find the best results for each user.

If Google manages to accomplish these three things — and Google+ as a whole gains momentum — sparks could become a dominant, everyday source of personalized, topical news. Read more


Google+ sparks interest in new system of news discovery

Google’s new social networking service, Google+, creates new ways for people to discover news and other content on the Web.

The Google+ logo.

Google announced the product Tuesday and has opened it to a limited group of initial users. Additional people will be invited over time, as the company tries to build anticipation while working out any bugs.

Although most of us can’t play with Google+ just yet, company representatives have talked with tech blogs about its plans and released screenshots and videos that give a good idea of what’s coming. Each user creates groups of friends, called “circles,” to enable more control over who sees each shared item. And Google+ gives them new communication tools.

What it does

The most interesting aspects for news organizations are the “stream” and “sparks.”

The stream functions a lot like Facebook’s news feed — a flow of information shared by your friends. If Google+ grows to critical mass, news providers could find it very important to get their content into the stream.

Google+ users select “sparks” that interest them.

The “sparks” section is a bigger innovation. Essentially, sparks are topics that users designate an interest in. Google uses Google+ sharing activity and +1’s, as well as its famous search algorithms, to recommend personalized content for each spark, according to Mashable.

Suddenly the +1 button makes more sense. Google announced +1 in March as a way for users to express approval of any Web page. Now it seems the +1 button will infuse not only search results, but also sparks, with social recommendations. TechCrunch interviewed Google officials about Google+ and reports: “You’ll see a +1 button on all Google+ content — the +1 Button clearly ties deeply into all of this. It is going to be their Facebook ‘Like’ button.”

How it could affect news consumption and discovery

Google expects the stream and sparks to be a major force in the future of news discovery. It moved the Google News group of employees into the division working on Google+, reports Wired’s Stephen Levy, who was embedded behind the scenes at Google working on a book while Google+ was being developed.

Levy has more details on sparks in his post for Wired:

“ ‘It’s focused on getting stuff that’s fresh and social and fun. We’ve tried to tune parameters to get something that’s engaging,’ says Andrew Tomkins, a top search engineer who joined Google after stints at IBM and Yahoo. The signals that Google looks for in determining Sparks content is freshness, a visual component (videos will rank highly), and the degree to which the content is virally spreading on the net… In other words, Sparks tries to deliver the kinds of thing you want to share with others, and Google hopes that its users do just that.”

“ ‘Sparks is essentially the stuff that flows to you through the interest graph and the stream is the stuff that flows to you through the social graph,’ says Tomkins. Basically, Google thinks that its expertise in search quality will make the items in both of these feeds more relevant, interesting and diverse than the stuff people see in their Facebook feed.”

Whether Google’s newest social effort makes an impact won’t be clear for some time. Some smart people are skeptical. And we can’t overlook the fact that their previous social efforts, Wave and Buzz, fell flat.

But it’s also fair to say that Google+ appears to be different, more comprehensive and more well-planned than any previous effort. The design is great, the ideas sound good and the company is making a large commitment to success.

Google+ eventually will become a layer integrated into all of Google’s products, including blockbusters Search, Gmail and YouTube. With 1 billion unique visitors a month coming to Google Web properties, the company will certainly have an opportunity to scale Google+.

The project’s mastermind, Senior Vice President of Social Vic Gundotra, told Levy that this is a bet-the-company project. Google views the social Web, Levy writes, as a “massive wave” — “a possible tsunami poised to engulf it, or a maverick surge that it will ride to glory.”

If Google does ride the social wave to glory, it will have created a new force reshaping the way people find and share news and other online content. News organizations will have to watch and adapt their social media strategies. Depending on how Google’s stream and spark evolve, we may even see social strategy and SEO blend into something new.

More screenshots below, all courtesy of Jon Mitchell, who was among the first users invited.

When viewing a spark, the users sees recommended content on that topic.
A status update in Google+.
A user profile in Google+. This will replace the existing Google Profile for users who have one.
Read more