January 27th, 2012


Getting to the "Plus" ...

Every once in a while I get wind of a book that I'd like to review, and that the publishers haven't seen fit to contact me about (not that I'm “all that” in the reviewing field, but there are a couple of publishers who do have me on their promo lists). Being as I've previously looked at Social Media Guru Chris Brogan's Trust Agents and Social Media 101, I was interested to see his new publication, Google+ for Business: How Google's Social Network Changes Everything. This came out from QUE publishing (a tech publisher rather than a business press this time), and so I dug around, found a contact for their marketing folks, and requested a review copy. Needless to say, being able to point them to my previous reviews of Chris' books no doubt helped in this.

As I've pointed out in my reviews of a number of older tech-niche books, early impressions on things have a way of going “stale” pretty quickly, so Brogan was taking a bit of a chance here, jumping in with a book on Google+ so soon after its debut. In fact, the official publication date of Google+ for Business came just six months and a day after the launch of G+. Of course, the author is pretty up-front about this, being clearly aware that things would be changing very quickly (amusingly, just this past week Chris had posted on his G+ about a feature he wished they'd implement, and the feature went live two days later!), but this is likely to be the Achilles heel of the book: while it's reasonably “fresh” now (less than five weeks past its publication date), every month that goes by is going to make this more anachronistic … much like my old Netscape manuals.

However, this might not ultimately matter, as this book is targeted for a business audience who want to know now what this new platform is about. And, of course, G+ isn't just another new generating-a-lot-of-buzz social media vehicle, it's Google's playground, and it's pretty clear that what happens on G+ will be effecting rankings on the flagship search engine … so it's important for the folks who stay up at night wondering how to tweak the SEO voodoo of their sites to improve their Google appeal!

Now, I know Chris from Twitter, and had the pleasure of meeting him at a couple of Social Media “industry events” (is this an industry?), and I was aware of him “jumping in with both feet” on G+ early on. Honestly, one of my “desired features” on G+ (which did eventually get implemented) was wanting to have post comments collapsed, as it used to be that Chris would put up something and one would have to scroll and scroll and scroll to get past the 80 or so comments that folks had made in response. While I liked the “look and feel” of G+ better than FaceBook, it had certain issues for me (still does) which made it far less appealing than Twitter, so I only occasionally checked in, and never quite “got” how much he was using it last year.

Anyway, Brogan certainly put in the time to become as much of an “expert” as one can be on a six-month-old, ever-evolving platform, and he brings that, along with his general Social Media expertise, to bear here. Again, this is (as clear from the title) a book for Business, and that's the focus here … walking corporate readers through the process of creating a positive, profitable, presence on G+.

One of the author's on-going crusades is to make corporate presences in the Social Media sphere personal, with the folks who he holds up as “doing it right” generally being people representing companies, rather than corporate icons speaking through anonymous PR functionaries. I believe his stance on this is the best way of utilizing these channels, but I also understand what a hard sell that can be at places with bigger legal departments than communications groups, and recent events can be a sobering counter-point (such as the case where a company sued its “Twitter guy” for “taking” “their” contacts with him when he left, or less antagonistic cases when somebody who had personally been very closely identified with the Social Media customer service face of a company had “moved on”) to this approach.

Brogan pretty much assumes that Google+ for Business' readers come to G+ pretty clueless, and walks them through all the basics of getting set up, and figuring out what they want to do once they're there. He then deals with how to post various types of content, talks about “content strategy”, how to develop a “warm sell”, grow one's audience, and share information. The model that he presents is that of a “magazine”, that needs a particular focus, but has a lot of material that is at least generally related to that subject … and while it can have ads, these are not the central part of what's in there (or you're not likely to have much “readership” for very long). He then addresses setting up specific business pages and points the reader to a half-dozen ones already up. He gives tips and tricks (several, such as the keyboard codes that G+ uses for italics, etc., I'd never heard of before) for using the interface, and what he calls “power plays” for maximizing the effectiveness of various options available on the platform (I have yet to have been in a “Hangout” video conference, but he notes cases where these have been very effective for certain individuals/companies, although they can only host up to 10 users at a time).

This is a very useful book (it has inspired me to tweak a few things that I was doing with G+ and try to make an effort to interact there more frequently), and it certainly is excellent for what it's intended to accomplish. It's brief enough (at under 200 pages) to not be a major slog, but still covers all the bases (as they're currently laid out) of the Google Plus environment. As noted above, however, this is something that one should “pull the trigger on” now rather than waiting because the platform is evolving before our eyes.

Since Google+ for Business has only been out a few weeks, I'm pretty sure that you'd be able to find it in any bookstore that carried tech/business titles, and, of course, the on-line big boys have it, with both currently offering it at 39% below cover price. If you have an interest in getting on Google+ and “hitting the ground running”, you should certainly pick up a copy of this!

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