Google + for Nonprofit Brands

Does Google + have the potential to be a valuable platform for nonprofits or is it just another shiny object to distract nonprofits? Should your nonprofit do more than simply set up a presence on Google + and not invest any more time? What is a productive way to experiment and learn to the answers to these questions without wasting time? These were the questions that were going through my mind on Monday as I listened to a presentation on Google + at the Social Media for Nonprofits Conference.

Become Familiar with the Google + Landscape

If you're new to Google +, here's the official set up help pages and instructions from Google + . Set aside some "play and explore" time to observe, read, and interact with your colleagues and peers who are on Google +. One of your first tasks will be to find interesting and valuable people and brands to "circle" and follow to support your goal to become familiar with the Google + landscape.

My first step with a new platform is to create a "Circle of the Wise" consisting of people who regularly share useful tips and news about the platform. I look for people in the nonprofit space, but also those who work for the platform or have specialized in blogging about the platform.

Debra Askanase Blogger and trainer who share useful tips about Google + (and other platforms too!)
Janet Fouts: Blogger and social media coach who is consistently blogging some excellent posts about how nonprofits can leverage google +.
Louis Gray He's on the Google + team and shares items about new features, analytics, and other stuff.
Natalie Villa-Lobos Community Manager for Google + she shares information about Google +, but also more broadly resources about building online community that are applicable to Google + strategy
Google for Nonprofits They are sharing information about hangouts about Google products, how-to resources, and important feature changes.
Nonprofits Organizations This is Heather Mansfied's Google + brand page. You can cruise through her public circles of nonprofit brands and check the nonprofit of the week on Google +

If I'm just getting started on a platform, my circle of the wise is a tightly curated list so I don't get overwhelmed or distracted. But, if you want more suggestions, see 22 Must Circle Nonprofit Bloggers and Nonprofits on Google + Heather Mansfield has put this diverse list together of different nonprofit resources that have a presence and share information information on Google + that might be of interest to nonprofits.

Next, I put together a circle of nonprofit brands that I could observe and learn from. I have two nonprofit brand circles. One where I'm simply aggregating nonprofit brands I discover on Google + that has over 700 nonprofit brands and more tightly curated list of nonprofit brands that are sharing content or engaging with their audiences in interesting ways. That second circle is a "watch list" and I look for patterns and ideas.

Heather Mansfield put together this list of 22 Must Circle Nonprofit Brands that are active on Google +, I looked through the list and decided to start a conversation asking these questions:

  • What is your definition of success on Google +?
  • How are you measuring that?
  • How much time are you investing?
  • What content do you find resonating?

Also, learn as much as you can about the audience on Google+. Here's an infographic that will give you a snapshot.

Create A Learning Agenda

After you have explored as an individual, you may decide that you only need to set up a presence and be done with it. You are ready to set up your account. Heather Mansfield has a good set of instructions for doing this AND avoiding some common set up mistakes.

If you want to stick a toe a little deeper into the water, the next step is create a simple plan to test the waters for your brand. You are testing to see what works and what doesn't. Most importantly, determine a focused, but brief amount of time daily that you can spend on learning about Google +. When in the phase of learning a new social media platform, you'll need to block creative immersion time (a few hours) for set up and learning the daily work flow. Once you've internalized the work flow (creating and posting content, reviewing Ripples (the Google + metrics tool), and listening and engaging with your audience), you can most likely get the daily time commitment down to 15-20 minutes a day. If you don't have time to add another item to your social media plate, don't do it.

Mashable published "How To Build An Effective Brand Presence on Google + which includes six best practices you should use in this early stage.

3. Use Measurement Tools

Google + Ripples feature announcement (10/27/11)

Ripples is Google + analytics too. It offers a quasi social network analysis to see how your posts are shared: when, by whom, and to whom.
An analysis of Googe + posts against these metrics can help you make some decisions to improve your content, engagement tactics, and identify your influencers.

Google + Plus; The Promise of Shared Intelligence by Debra Askanase

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