The Practical Computer | By Tom Ledford
On May 8, 2013, I was in three thousand, four hundred and sixty-two (3,462) Google+ circles. It had taken nearly a year to grow my following to that number. I don’t know exactly what happened, but on May 10, I gained 402 circles! On May 11, I gained 802 more, and on May 12, I gained 1,053! The pace has continued at an average of over 800 circles a day! By June 7, 2013, I was in 27,627 Google+ circles! Although I know, all good things must come to an end, the pace of my follower growth hasn’t slowed yet. As I posted this article, 33,435 plussers have me in circles!
In The Beginning
I started this blog by posting my first article in May 2012. That month I also created my Google+ Local business page and began posting both there, and to my personal Google+ profile.
I had no idea what I was doing, or even how Google+ worked! I could only find one person I knew, that was using Google+. We used to joke about the “ghost town” where Google employees liked to socialize. Both of us are IT professionals, so we appreciated the technical sophistication, and the many great features of Google+. We also loathed Facebook for the opposite, but that’s where our friends were.
Nevertheless, I began posting summaries and links to my blog posts, links to interesting technical posts, memes and quotes. I threw them into the abyss of Google+. Then something odd happened. Someone shared a circle of interesting plussers with me. They said the plussers in that circle were hoping to meet new, interesting people and grow their circles. On Facebook, I had to ask people to let me be their friend. On LinkedIn, I needed to ask someone if they would join my professional network. Here, someone told me that 300 people would like me to circle them! How cool is that?
The next morning, when I logged on to Google+, I was following 300 plussers and I had a full stream! Then other people shared circles. There was a photography circle, and a Google+ circle. I circled them too. Of course, not all of them circled me back, but a few did. And everyday as I continued to post, +1’d and commented on others’ posts, more and more plussers added me back to their circles.
I felt like I was being welcomed to the community! I noticed a few people in particular, seemed to be making an effort to welcome as many people as they could, to Google+. Unafraid of having less attention themselves, they wanted to share what they knew about who the engagers are. That welcoming spirit must rub off on everyone who comes to Google+. It is still the most welcoming social network I use!
There are plussers from all over the world that seem hungry to share about their culture and their country. I had made friends from England, Canada and even Australia on Facebook, but that didn’t seem unusual. After all, we all spoke English, but this was different. I had discovered the Chrome extension – Google Translate for Google+. With the touch of a “translate” link, posts and comments from Germans, Russians, Brazilians and Spaniards, appeared in English like magic!
I quickly figured out how to install support for East Asian languages, complex script and right to left languages, on my Windows PC. Soon, I was reading posts and comments from Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and Jordan! Talk about broadening one’s horizons!
There are fascinating people here! They are interested in all types of topics. Many provide perspectives on world events and cultures that simply aren’t available with traditional, or any other media. They post beautiful photos! They offer glimpses into everyday life a world apart from mine!
I began to have interesting conversations! It wasn’t long before I got to know a few people and developed relationships. A woman from Taiwan began commenting on my posts. I began reading and commenting on hers. A young man from Pakistan began posting wonderful photos of his country. I had no idea Pakistan was so beautiful! We began commenting on each other’s posts. He talked about his studies, his beautiful country, and the beauty of the mountains where he lived.
I was understanding more and more, that people everywhere have more in common, than they have differences. They love life and their families. Just like everyone I know in my own neighborhood, they are working, starting businesses, going to school, and trying to live better lives.
The more I engaged, the more people engaged with me. Virtually all of the relationships I have now on Google+, that developed in those early days, are ongoing today.
Google+ introduced communities in December of 2012. Like many others, I wasn’t sure what communities were all about, or how to use them. Since anyone can create a community, invitations to join new communities came fast and furious! Of course, they make perfect sense now. Google+ had just taken a quantum leap, putting real, honest to goodness socialness, back into social networking!
I joined a few communities, just to dip my toe in the water and learn how to navigate in them. Although, I belong to several, four have especially drawn me in. Not only did their topics and subject matter interest me, but the level of participation, unique personalities of some of the members, and quality of posts, held my attention and encouraged me to participate more. I attribute a lot of my follower growth to these four communities:
I believe my participation in these communities attributed to my follower growth in different ways. When you develop a relationship in a community, circle and become circled by others, that relationship follows you outside the community, into your public and other circle streams. Not only will your posts be commented on and shared within the community, but in your other circle and public streams as well. I have relationships that followed me into other communities!
The Earth community has over 111,000 members! When I post there, just as in plussers’ streams that have me circled, my posts are more likely to be seen. I know exactly what topic the members are most interested in. My chances of creating a good post that will draw engagement go up exponentially!
But communities have meant much more to me than just helping increase my followers. The best relationships I have on Google+, were started in a community. That’s not really surprising. We began with something in common! Communities have helped me learn more about topics that interested me. I have had the most interesting conversations (yes, conversations) in a community. This is what we imagined social networking should be all about!
Starting a Community
Communities interested me for many reasons. I began to pay more attention to how others had organized communities, which ones had guidelines and how they differed. I looked at how they were organized into categories. I took notice of how many moderators different communities had.
I decided that the only way I was going to learn about communities, was to start one of my own. I decided to start a community around a topic that I really love – jazz music. I have played the saxophone since I was 11 years old. I play guitar and a few other instruments and years ago, I played with a couple of bands in a few small nightclubs. I have loved jazz all my life.
On April 30, 2012, I started the Google+ community – All That Jazz. Jazz, with its many genres and styles can intimidate casual listeners. Like wine, the topic produces its fair share of snobbery. I also knew, just as people enjoy wine without knowing much about varietals and vintages, many also enjoy jazz without knowing a lot about its history and styles. No one should need to be an expert in jazz , to enjoy great music! I am certainly no expert! I wanted everyone I invited, to know it wasn’t important to choose the right category to share the music they loved. I didn’t even have any community guidelines. It was a public community, and I wanted everyone to feel welcome!
At that time, I was in 3,366 circles. I began inviting people to join All That Jazz. I soon learned that you can only invite up to a maximum 500 plussers at a time to a community. So I began chopping my circles up. Some things you can only learn by doing!
All That Jazz grew to 100 members in 30 days! In a little over two months, it has grown to 275 members! I am learning a great deal about how communities work, and I am understanding much more about their potential. But more importantly, I have met many awesome people!
What Lit the Fuse That Ignited My Circle Rocket?
To be completely honest, I don’t know exactly why my following took off all of a sudden. I don’t believe there was any single magic event. I think many positive things began happening over time, and each added its own momentum to the others – a chain reaction that fueled itself until eventually, some event became the tipping point.
I have poured over statistics in CircleCount trying to find that tipping point. Each time I thought I found something, a deeper look showed that the event really didn’t stand out as I first thought.
Remember, the first large bump in follower growth happened on May 10. My posts seemed to begin getting more +1’s, shares and comments in March, but nothing really jumped out as significant. I began having my most successful post engagement in April. I had a few with over 200 +1’s, and on April 22, I reached my record for engagement with a post to the Earth community. It received 1010 +1’s, 218 reshares, and 36 comments.
You never know what posts are going to be hits. I am always surprised by the ones that are. I would not have considered them anywhere near my highest quality posts. This is the first post I remember with good engagement: http://bit.ly/18MAXao (I was fed up with #caturday.) This one set my record for engagement – http://bit.ly/11E3iXd.
I stumbled upon another event in CircleCount statistics that I also thought was the tipping point – I was included in a shared circle by someone who had a significant following. However, when I looked further, I discovered that happened several times before. Since October, 2012, my profile has been shared in 84 public circles.
One of my posts made the Hot List once, but it was well after the growth had started, and it got very little engagement. I have no idea how it made the Hot List. But I never really looked at the Hot List much. Maybe there were others. I know that all of these things contributed to my follower growth.
No Smoking Gun
You are probably disappointed by now, especially after my headline teased and misleadingly suggested I possessed some Google+ magic! But I did confess I didn’t know what happened, in the very first paragraph.
I think my astounding follower growth was the result of a lot of different things. Maybe there was some watershed Google event. I have looked at several other plussers’ statistics with CircleCount, and many have “hockey stick” follower growth charts like mine, but each one has a much different date for their upward turn. Maybe there is a sort of Google+ sonic boom that happens after your momentum builds to reach a critical speed. I only know, I must be doing something right!
I don’t know for sure, how this crazy explosion of followers happened. I can only tell you about what I’ve been doing. I have made a lot of mistakes. Trial and error may not be the best way to learn, but fortunately, social media is forgiving. Bad posts are soon downstream. Paying it forward by thoughtful engaging will add to your goodwill account. I wish I could thank everyone that engaged with me on Google+. I hope to keep trying to do just that, as we explore this wonderful social network together!
- Engage – the more you engage, the more people engage you, and the more likely you will be included in someones shared circle called “Top Top Engagers!” Thank you, +Jorgen Poulsen, +AyJay Schibig, +David Fuchs, +Wilco Wings !
- Join Communities – Make some great connections and real relationships! Thank you, +Joe D, +Torben Colding, +Suzanne W, +Manuel T Ortega, +Tim Moore, +Flaviana Cegalin, +Luis Alberto, +Emil Wibe Rasmussen !
- Enjoy Your Good Luck – Google+ is the most welcoming social network ever! Thank you for welcoming me as soon as I joined and graciously sharing circles, +Denis Labelle, +Richi Jennings, +Jeff Billings !
- Use Chrome and the Google Translate for Google+ extension – Thank you for putting up with my funny mistranslations, and please forgive me if I inadvertently insulted your mother, +Tingiun Lin, +Luca Tedeschi, +Luis Gabriel Gutierrez Arroyo !
- Appreciate Beauty and Kind Hearts – Thank you +shonie Hutter, +СВЕТА БАЛЫНЬ, +Andrew Wisniewski, +monique st. martin, +Danielle Picchett, +Alex Escobar, +Mariana Peianov !
- Pay it Back and Pay it Forward – Thank you, +David Anderson, +Kimmy Hutson, +Gary Hyman, +Simona R. Stefanescu !
- Use Tools to Manage Google+! – There aren’t many tools available for Google+, but I couldn’t manage without CircleCount and Circloscope.
- Be Sincere!
- Be Yourself!
- Be Cool! 🙂