Google’s interest based social network, Google+, was recently updated with a new Beta Interface that emphasizes Collections and Communities. Disclosure: I’ve never run a successful Google+ Community. Therefore, I admit I have little advice to offer in that area.
I have, however, had several Collections featured by Google+, including one Collection which has gained over 200,000 new Followers by itself (over 280,000 with my Profile Followers added) and is adding (on average) over 10,000 new Followers per week, and several others that have gained up to tens of thousands of new Followers as well.
Here are my Tips for using Collections to grow a large and targeted Google+ following.
For Advanced Google+ Collections Tips, Click Here.
Google+ Collections were first debuted in May of 2015, introducing a brand new way for organization, following, and discovery on the network. Similar to Pinboards on Pinterest, Google+ Collections allow users to organize their Posts around topics, themes, etc…, and for other users to follow or unfollow specific Collections, with or without following your Google+ Profile or Page.
New Posts can be added to a Collection, or existing Posts can be moved into or removed from new or existing Collections (to move them from one Collection to another, you first remove them from one Collection, then move them to the other).
The ‘New Google+‘, as it’s been dubbed, places Collections front-and-center. Collections get their own tab; new users are immediately encouraged to follow Featured Collections; Featured Collections are heavily promoted in the Stream; and Collections get prominent placement in Google+ Search.
There are many advantages to using Collections. Users can follow your Collections without Following your Profile or Page, resulting in a (theoretically) highly targeted Following around those topics; users who Follow your Profile or Page can Unfollow specific Collections, to control the type of Posts they see from you in their Stream (e.g. they could Unfollow your Politics Collection, while still Following your Photography Collection, or vice versa); Featured Collections are heavily promoted by the network itself; and Collections are easily discoverable via the Google+ Search feature. Public Google+ Collections can also be indexed by Google Search and other Web Search Engines.
In fact, putting it bluntly, Collections are no longer optional for getting the most out of Google+. The benefits alone should be sufficient, but a failure to use Collections will also have the tendency to reduce your engagement if you were already using Google+.Collections are no longer optional for getting the most out of Google+.Click To Tweet
So how do you begin to use this new feature to grow a larger, targeted audience, increase the level of engagement with your Posts, drive more traffic to your content, etc…?
Choosing a Topic or Theme
The first step is to determine the Topic of your new Collection. Be as careful and take as much time with this as you need, because it’s the most important decision you can make. You may be tempted to get too specific here, e.g. if you’re a Photographer, you may want to make a Collection for every single theme, subject, camera type, etc… I believe this can easily become self-defeating.
My largest Collection, Technology, currently enjoys over 180,000 Followers and covers a broad range of technology-related Posts including PC’s, mobile devices, wearables, quantum computing, self-driving cars, experimental technologies, web browsers, apps, and more.
The key is to determine whether you have a sizeable audience, or believe you can reach one, for the topic or theme of your Collection. For example, I do have other, more-specific Collections that broadly relate to technology, including Social Media, Digital Marketing, and SEO & SEM, both because I have a lot Followers who engage with one or more of these topics but not with other topics in the main Technology Collection, and because those are popular topics on Google+ in general.
My best advice is to not be overly specific, but if you believe your current or potential future Followers will truly benefit by greater specificity, then go for it. If you’re not sure, then keep it somewhat broad and general until you are sure. You can always use one Collection to promote others later, if you decide a narrower focus would be better.
When it comes to Google+ Collections, too general is better than too specific.When it comes to Google+ Collections, too general is better than too specific.Click To Tweet
Choosing a Title
Your title is, of course, an extension of the topic or theme of your Collection. In order to attract as many followers as possible, then, your title should clearly define the purpose of your Collection. The temptation with this step is to get too clever, but remember, if your title is too clever then it may not attract many Followers.
To use my own Collections as an example, my most Followed Collection is Titled simply ‘Technology’ (as mentioned earlier). My science Collection, meanwhile, uses the more ‘clever’ title of ‘Blind Me With Science’, which simultaneously states the exact topic of the Collection (i.e. Science) while also referencing the popular song by Thomas Dolby.
Feel free to be similarly creative, but remember: people need to be able to understand the topic of theme of the Collection from the title itself, or they’re unlikely to Follow it.
Keep Your Google+ Collection Titles Simple, StupidKeep Your Google+ Collection Titles Simple, StupidClick To Tweet
Choosing Your Privacy Settings
When setting up Collections, you’ll be able to choose a Privacy Setting for the entire Collection. You can choose between Public (visible to anyone on the web), Your Circles (visible to anyone you Follow), Only You (visible only to you), and Custom (any Circles or People you choose to share with).
If your point in using Collections is to reach new followers and attract an audience, you’ll probably want to choose Public. In addition to being visible to anyone, only Public Collections qualify to become Featured Collections on Google+.
Private Collections can be useful if you have Friends, Family, close Colleagues, ‘Special’ Followers you want to reward with exclusive content, etc…, but if you don’t already have such a private group to Share with, your Collection is unlikely to see much engagement and you’ll probably feel lonely.
Optimizing Your Collection
Once your Collection is created, you’ll want to optimize its appearance by choosing a Collection Image, Color, and Tagline. Collection images appear on the Collection Page itself, in Featured Collection previews, and in Collection Shares. Google+ offers a choice of default images for your Collection, but to fully optimize a Collection it is important to upload your own custom image. Optimized Collections are both more likely to attract new Followers, and to be featured on Google+.
If you’re not creative enough to design your own image or don’t have a personal photograph you wish to use for this purpose, there are many resources online that you can use to find a good image, such as a stock image service, Google Image Search or, as I prefer, Wikimedia Commons. The image you choose should be visually appealing, even at thumbnail size, and preferably give the viewer an immediate sense of the topic or theme of your Collection.
For example, my ‘Deep Thoughts’ Collection, which is about philosophical, spiritual, social, and other ‘deep’ issues, uses an image of Rodin’s The Thinker to immediately convey its theme:
Remember: just because this is a social network doesn’t mean copyright laws suddenly become invalid, so to be on the safe side, only use an image you own or one you’re allowed to use. You’re unlikely to be sued for violating any copyrights over a Google+ Collection, but if nothing else, your Collection might end up blocked in Search Engines due to DMCA Claims. And while unlikely, you might in fact get sued by a copyright owner, especially if your Collection does get hugely popular. You’ve been fairly warned.
Google+ offers a limited choice of Collection colors, but you can still get creative with this. For example, if your Collection topic or theme is related to finance (investment tips, Bitcoin News, etc…), you might choose the color green, or you might choose a color that matches the Collection image you’ve chosen.
Your Tagline can be almost any text you want that fits within the 80-character limit: a short description, a relevant quote, a web address, etc… I recommend either a short description of the Collection and/or its purpose, or a relevant quote, unless you have a very good reason to do otherwise, but feel free to try your hand being creative in this area.
You can also choose whether to opt your existing Followers into your new Collections, which is the case by default. While there may be very good reasons not to do this, obviously this option will result in a larger following for your Collection. As previously mentioned, my Technology Collection has over 180K Followers, of which over 68,000 are Followers of my Profile opted-in to the Collection automatically because of this, except for those who then manually Unfollowed it, which overrides the default opt-in setting.
One reason not to opt-in your Followers to a Collection might, for example, be to separate out the most controversial topics you Post about, e.g. Politics or Religion. Or, you might disable the opt-in setting to separate your more niche and esoteric interests from more mainstream interests, e.g. sparing your Profile or Page Followers from hearing all about your love for your adorable newborn baby or your pet Corgi but continuing to update them about your photographs or marketing tips. This will depend on your specific goals and objectives in using social media and on the kinds of things you Post about.
Adding A Pinned Post
You can choose a Post to ‘Pin’ to the top of your Collection, and I strongly recommend doing exactly that. This could simply be a Post that helps exemplify the theme of the Collection, such as a Post you personally feel is one of the best examples of what your Collection is about. For my ‘SEO & SEM’ Collection, I currently have the following Post Pinned:
Another idea is to create a Post specifically to help introduce users to your Collection, further explain the theme or purpose, and perhaps point your Collection Followers to additional resources and information. This has become my preferred approach, in fact, as in the Following Post from my Technology Collection:
You’ll notice that the Post above achieves multiple objectives:
1) Briefly explains the purpose of the Collection, in greater detail than the Title, Image, and Tagline can achieve.
2) Links to other Collections by me (emphasizing those most relevant to the Collection itself first, while embedding a prominent link to a related Collection in the Post itself), and encourages the reader to Follow them.
3) Encourages the reader to Follow my Profile (and thereby see even more Posts by me), helping to solve the problem of getting Collection Followers to Follow my Profile as well.
4) Tells the reader how to subscribe for Collection Notifications, to see even more Posts by me.
5) Directs the reader to other places to Follow me and view more of my content online (i.e. my personal blog and other social networks).
Note: I disabled the ability for the above Post to be shared, because its purpose is highly specific to the Collection and would make little sense out-of-context, so you may wish to do the same if you’re going to create an introductory Post for your Collection.
Add Fresh Content Regularly
Social networks in general don’t like old, stale content, nor do their users. In order to attract, engage, and retain new followers and become or remain Featured by the network, you need to add new Posts to your Collections frequently. By frequently, I mean at least monthly, and preferably weekly or even daily.
Personally, I have dozens of Collections and admittedly do not keep all of them fresh, in some cases deliberately (i.e. some Collections, for example, are for events and activities I’m no longer Posting about), but my most important Collections never go more than a few weeks in general without a new Post.
As you can see in the embedded Post above, a Collection can also be Shared as an embedded link in a Google+ Post (or to other networks, such as Facebook), or as a hyperlink. This can be a good way to get your Profile or Page Followers to follow your Collections (if you haven’t opted them into Following by default), to attract new Followers to your Collections, or to get your Collection Followers to follow other Collections. It can also be used, of course, to promote Collections by other users. You can even make Collections of Shared Collections if you want.
As in the example given above, I prefer to use a Pinned Introductory Post for my Collections, which includes an embedded link to another related Collection. This helps me drive my Collection Followers to other Collections right away.
If you’ve created a Collection and want Feedback, or need more help on how to make a great Google+ Collection, the Official Google+ Collections Community on Google+ will help you understand all things Collections related and offer advice for how to improve your existing Collections. You can even get your Collection Featured on Google+ with their help, if it’s good enough.
It’s Really Not That Hard
With only a little thought and a few minutes of effort, your Google+ Collections can attract thousands of new, highly engaged Followers, significantly improving your experience of using the network and improving the success of your social media marketing efforts (if any).
How are you using Google+ Collections? Sound off in the Comments below.