As explained in the previous article, Collections are a new feature of Google+ that allows users to organize their Posts into topics or themes, similar to Pinboards on Pinterest.
This feature also allows other users to Follow specific Collections without Following your Profile or Page, or to Unfollow specific Collections if they do Follow your Profile or Page (or if they also follow other Collections by you), giving them greater control over the types of Posts they see in their Google+ Stream and resulting in a more targeted audience for your content.
Collections are now central to the entire design and experience of Google+, and not using them is likely to reduce your audience and reach on the network. For basic tips, see the article linked above. If you’ve already read that, or feel comfortable enough with the basics, in this article I offer the following advanced tips for getting the most from this feature.
Moving Posts To Collections
This first tip is for those who have been using Google+ for a while, but haven’t used Collections or haven’t used them enough. Google+ allows users to ‘Move’ existing Posts into Collections (and remove them from Collections, and add them to other Collections if you decide they belong elsewhere).
If you’ve got a lot of Posts you haven’t yet added to Collections, especially if you were using Google+ before Collections existed (the feature having only been added in May of last year, while the network has existed since 2011), this is the quickest way to start building up your Collections.
To find old Posts, you could scroll back through your own Profile or Page (e.g. https://plus.google.com/+EliFennell/ is the web address for my Profile), or use Google+ Search if you have specific Posts you’d like to find and Move.
Another option is to use a third Party Google+ application, for example I like to use All My Plus, which among other things allows you to view all of your Public Posts, or view all Public Posts within a defined timeframe (e.g. all Public Posts from 2013, all Public Posts from March of 2012, etc…). All of my most popular Collections include at least some older Posts moved into them retroactively, because I’ve been on the network since the early Invite Only Beta period.
At present, to my knowledge, only Public Posts can be Moved to a Google+ Collection, and then only to a Public Collection.
Pro Tip: Moving existing Posts to Collections is a great idea, but new Posts should ideally be shared directly to Collections. Google+ appears to reward the ‘freshness’ of Collections and Collection Posts by giving them greater reach and discoverability on the network, but older Posts don’t seem to qualify for this boost. Therefore, don’t just add all Posts to Collections after-the-fact (though this can be a good way to get a Collection started in the first place).Google+ Tip: Move existing Posts to CollectionsClick To Tweet
Unlike Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or most major social networks (Tumblr is an exception), Google+ offers text formatting options: Bold, Italic, and
A best practice for attracting the most engagement on your Posts is to make frequent use of these formatting options, especially Bold, which is the perfect formatting option for giving your Posts a title that gets noticed, and Italic, which is good for emphasizing important text.
Using these options requires ‘markdown’, i.e. you have to designate which text to format using special characters. For Bold, simply bracket the text to be bolded with asterisks (*) on either side, and likewise for Italics use underscores (_) and for Strikethrough use dashes (-). I.E. *Bold Text*, _Italic Text_, -Strikethrough Text-.
Most Google+ users don’t take advantage of these options, so those who do are at a natural advantage. Formatting Google+ Collection Posts is now a ‘Best Practice’ for any Google+ strategy.Formatting Google+ Collection Posts is now a 'Best Practice' for any Google+ strategy.Click To Tweet
In addition, according to data from Stone Temple Consulting, Google+ users generally prefer longer Posts, between 500 to 1000 characters, to shorter Posts. This makes Google+ quite different from most major social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, where shorter content seems to better or is impossible due to character limits. While long Posts aren’t always necessary, or even ideal for all types of Posts, they can be helpful in achieving greater reach on the network.
Consistent Style and Tone
A Collection is a grouping of Google+ Posts around a topic or theme. Naturally, this means all Posts in the Collection should be related to that topic or theme. However, this is only aspect of maintaining consistency with Collections. The other part is maintaining a consistent visual style and content tone.
For example, if your Collection is for your bird photographs, each Post should probably look and feel similar to the others. This might include an embedded image, an image title (preferably using Bold text formatting) and date followed by a short description (i.e. of the specific image, your motivation and technique, the camera equipment and visual filtering and enhancing techniques used, etc…), and appropriate hashtags (see below for more about hashtags and Collections).
Collections with a consistent style and tone attract more engagement and are more likely to be Featured by the network itself.Google+ Tip: Collections with a consistent style and tone attract more engagement.Click To Tweet
Using Hashtags with Collections
One way to potentially attract new readers and Followers to your Collections is to use a specific or custom hashtag for each Post in the Collection. For example, my Weird News Collection uses the hashtag #WeidNews for all Posts in the Collection. (It’s also a good example of using text formatting and longform content, maintaining a consistent style and tone, and even moving old Posts to Collections.)
If a Google+ user clicks on or Searches for this hashtag, they’ll potentially see more Posts from your Collection, and be more likely to Follow it. Using hashtags with Google+ Collections can increase your reach and engagement, as Google+ hashtags can increase your reach in general.Google+ Tip: Use hashtags with Collections to increase your reach and engagement.Click To Tweet
Using Collections for Self-Promotion
Collections can be a great way of organizing your own personal and original content to gain more readers and Followers and generate more engagement. I have two separate Collections just for my personal blog (i.e. this blog, which you are currently reading): Technology Blog & Internet Marketing Blog. These are used exclusively as Collections for my own blog posts.
By themselves, these two Collections are starting to build their own audience and drive increased referral traffic. However, sharing into these Collections is only the first step I use to attract readers. My next step is to share these articles again (sometimes multiple times over the days, weeks, and months following initial publication) into more general but related Collections, e.g. Technology, Digital Marketing, and other Collections where I share a diverse assortment of Posts on the topic or theme in addition to my own relevant posts. Often these more general Collections attract a wider, or at least different, Following, allowing me to reach multiple audiences with the same content.
Similar considerations apply with other types of content: you might have a Collection of your own photographs, but still share your photographs into more general photography Collections containing photographs from many different photographers as well (copyright and fair use laws taken into consideration when sharing photographs other than your own, of course).
You could even Pin your personal content to the top of multiple Collections, if you prefer.
Scheduling Posts to Collections
What if you like to schedule Posts to Google+ using third-party scheduling and sharing tools? Unfortunately, most such tools don’t integrate Collections into their Sharing options yet.
One which does, however, and my own preferred scheduling tool for social media, is Friends+Me. I wholeheartedly endorse their service, and would recommend them to anyone who incorporates Google+ into their social media strategy. In fact, there is literally no other tool at present that I would recommend for Scheduling Posts to Share to Google+ Collections.