A Beginner's Guide to Google Plus for Translators
Among social networks, Google Plus (or Google+) is a still treated a bit like a stepchild, also among translators. It is still fairly new, and it works completely differently than the other established social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter or even LinkedIn (which is highly popular among translators). Having been a Google Plus user since its opening to the public, let me outline a few tips for beginners and explain how to best use Google Plus for Translators. Please leave your comments below and tell me about your own experiences using Google Plus.
Update: Due to the overwhelming positive feedback to this tutorial, I am offering a webinar at the DVÜD (in German) on June 25. Click here to read more
Lesson 1: Content and circles - Understand the working logic of Google Plus
The first thing to realize about Google Plus is, that all content shared is visible to whoever you tell it to be accessible to. Google Plus calls it "Circles". Let's say you post a message, and set it to public. Then everyone can see it, registered on Google Plus or not. If you set it to "my circles" then everyone who you have ever put into a circle, will see it. What you do is add any person or organization to a circle. You might have a circle for friends, one for colleagues, one for family, and so on. In a way, you can do a very fine-grained adjustment of who you share content with. The same goes for your professional networking. You can use circles like you use little cardboard boxes for business cards. You can have a circle for existing clients, prospective clients, colleagues, service providers, competitors, and so on. At the same time, use these circles to make sure the right content gets shared to the right people. You can share content with multiple circles at the same time as well. If you share a post with just a specific person instead of a circle, it works like a personal message. You can also enter an email adress instead of the name of a person or circle. If that person is not on Google Plus (or not with that adress), he or she will receive an email.
The second thing to realize about Google Plus is, that other than Facebook, where networks are built around personal relationships, here relationships build on topics and content. You would be talking to different people according to what the debates are about, but it might have nothing to do with whether you know these people or not. As a translator, this is a good thing for you. For professional networking, the last thing you need is friends and family all over your professional content, you want other professionals or potential customers to notice you according to your expertise, not "likes" by your siblings. Learn how to search Google Plus for content you are interested in, engage with others, post really high value content and establish yourself (just as you would with a blog) on the base of what you know, not so much based on who you know. See also the points below about communities and hashtags.
The "plus 1".
One more thing you will notice, is that just as Facebook has a "like" and a "share" button, Google Plus lets you "+1" things you like. This influences how their algorithm calculates popularity of posts and thus just as in Facebook impacts whether content is more or less visible on other people's home streams. Google has implemented the Plus1 button all over the internet, so there are more things to +1 than just actual GooglePlus messages. Note that there is a setting in your account page where you can define who can see what you "plus1ed".
Lesson 2: Harness Google Plus SEO power
Obviously a social network from the maker of the most dominant search engine on the internet has some potential for search engine optimization (SEO). In the case of Google Plus, there is potential to add a personal identity to your content you have on the web already. There is a real opportunity to build a stronger brand around your name and increase its SEO value. If you have a blog, there are ways to connect it to your Google Plus page or profile, and at the same time, things you like, circle and share, might (not directly, as Google claims) influence your connections when they search the web and have social connection parameters enabled for search (if not, then not, but most people search Google logged in and have it enabled).
What does that mean? If person A and B are connected on Google Plus, and both have enabled social features for search, when they do a search while being logged in, the search results might give off social signals. In theory, you might pick a search result, because you see someone from your circles has given it a "plus 1". Your strategy should be to ensure that your website or blog and your Google Plus entity complement each other. One way to do this is to add social meta information to your blog's content, like using a Wordpress plugin to add Google Plus author information to your posts.
Lesson 3: It is a visual medium
What goes for other social networks goes for Google Plus as well: people react to visuals. That means that for one, make sure your profile or page profile is really well designed and appealing, and on top of that, put some work into the content you share considering visual appearance. Google Plus lets you format posts by making words bold or italic for example. This can help structure longer posts, almost like blog posts. A lot of people use Google Plus just like they would a blog.
Where you can, add pictures to your posts. Just as with Facebook (and increasingly Twitter), content gets noticed and engaged with most if it has pictures. Consider pictures of your work, the topics you write about or of course yourself! One of the first things that spread really well on GooglePlus were examples of HDR photography - and of course pictures of cats.
Lesson 4: Google Plus communities
One tool that is fairly new within Google Plus are communities. These are groups that can have various sub-topics as well, and offer their own notifications and events. You can simply search for a group (try keywords like "translation" or "linguistics"), or browse available ones. You can join most communities with one click and then on the left pick the kind of notifications you would like to receive if there is news from the community. It makes sense to introduce yourself to the group upon joining.
Communities are a great way to stay among similarly minded professionals on a certain topic, but they offer much of the same sharing and commenting available all over Google Plus. Whereas Pages (see next item) are more of a bi-directional communications channel, communities are a multidirectional bottom up way to share information and discuss. Some of the most prominent examples of communities are those that are set up as "users helping users" (for a certain software or cell phone for example), or focusing on a certain part of the translation business, e.g. localization for the IT industry, and so on. From a spot check yesterday I noticed that a lot of groups relevant for translators are not extremely active at this point, so do try and join a few of them, and engage with others, you might trigger more activity and breathe some life into discussions.
Lesson 5: Google Plus pages
What worked well on Facebook, also grew rather quickly on Google Plus. Companies, organizations, brands or political parties quickly started their own Pages, also connected them to websites, and grew an audience. The same goes for translation professionals that have a registered brand or business entity they want to establish. A Page is relatively easy to set up, and allows you to post content not as yourself but as the business entity (click to read Google's get started guide). Have a look at ours.
When using Google Plus Pages, please keep an eye on the top right corner of your browser's page, to ensure that you aware of whether you are currently using the network "as the Page" or as yourself. Switching is currently not quite as easy as in Facebook, but I recommend just using different browser tabs if you need to work simultaneously. It is recommended that in your Page profile, you enter a pretty good description text, links to your other web presences and pick image material that looks well on big as well as small screens (such as smart phones). You can get a badge for your page to include in your blog as well, similar to the widgets for Facebook or Twitter that are also available for easy inclusion in a sidebar for example.
Lesson 6: Tagging, linking, hashtags
Some additional tools that you know from other social networks make life easier here as well. you can "tag" other people or pages by typing their name after entering the @ symbol. I recommend typing slowly and waiting for the suggestions to narrow down to the person or Page you want to mention in a post. This also works within comments. Please note that while Facebook has long since disabled being able to mention almost anyone, on Google Plus it is still possible - for now. In most cases, the mentioned person or page receives a notification. This is a nice way to draw someone's attention to content that directly pertains to them. It is advised not to over-use this.
Posting links is as easy as pasting the URL into a post, or select the symbol for that and enter it. Google Plus will try detect a good preview image for the post, you can always toggle between them. This behavior is similar to what you might be familiar with from Facebook. When posting links to your blog for example, make sure to enrich it with engaging and descriptive text, maybe even a question. It is easy to fall into the habit of just using Google Plus to point to content elsewhere, but the real magic lies within the easy to use discussion capabilities, which Google recently even implemented in YouTube (a controversial move, but it sure adds usability).
Lastly, what Twitter pioneered, and Facebook also recently implemented, can be found on Google Plus as well: Hashtags. While Google Plus will pick a very popular term from your post automatically, you can always define a relevant one using the # symbol. Using hashtags does not make too much sense if you limit a post to certain circles only, but they are perfect for ensuring that you content gets easily discovered publicly, as you can just as well browse Google Plus by hashtag (like Twitter).
Lesson 7: Best practice - Google Plus for translators
Lastly, let's look at some specific areas where you as a translator can harness Google Plus. I have already touched some SEO aspects, you can find more in depth tutorials by googling for them. It definitely makes sense to use this free opportunity to get found and increase your brand or name presence. A Google Plus page can even have a physical address, which once confirmed will put it on Google Maps and lets you or other people "check in" or leave ratings. A neat functionality especially for inner city offices.
One thing that is gold in self marketing is recognition: make sure that the visuals you use on your blog are similar to those on all your social channels, so people recognize your user icon or brand logo easily among others. On your Google Plus profile you can use a very engaging banner visual that can really put a personal note on your profile. As with all social networks, they only help much if you are social there. Post interesting and useful information, engage with others, share other people's content, and so on. Set aside regular times each day to have an eye on your Google Plus stream and keep it updated. Add your colleagues and customers to your circles, let them see and feel that you are an active networker and thought leader. Plus, you never know other people's habits. Some customers might not read your tweets, but spot your new blog post because you shared it with them on Google Plus.
There is a variety of language and translation related communities and pages, make sure you join and follow those and engage with others there. This puts your name "on the map" and opens up your stream to new relevant content. As opposed to Twitter, Google Plus is also not such a short-lived medium. Weeks old posts in communities might still attract lots of readers among users searching for solutions to certain problems, maybe with a CAT tool, or a tricky translation. Who knows, they might have gone unsolved until you came along and posted a helpful trick. At least, you might make a new friend.
I hope this helps you a lot for making better use of Google Plus. As with any new platform, it can be a daunting task to harness it and build up a working network that resonates. It will be worth it. LingoIO is of course on Google Plus, and we'd be glad if you'd add us to your circles and join us in the debate! Let us know about interesting content and we can re-share. If there are specific aspects you would like covered I can write a follow-up guide with more advanced tips, this one is meant for newcomers.