Here is a social metaphor, having been inspired by Google (below), as well as David Amerland and his brilliant book ‘Google Semantic Search’.
Imagine for a moment Google+ as a growing, thriving town square with both stall-lined rows, as well as open spaces. Many people have been here for a year or even two, and they are well established, with their shops and stalls set up and good/services available. People regularly visit their profile or Page as if it were their personal stall – being informed and entertained at every twist and turn as if they were traversing the market streets.
The people who live in the town
As you well know, people like to talk and interact on Google+, and it is engagement and conversation with the stall owners that we begin to relate and exchange our stories.
Once we’ve related enough, you may well add them into circles, or connect in communities, hangout etc. and in turn their content circles and flows beyond their stalls into your life.
Then in turn, we all spread the word, with information flowing further outwards into the marketplace, grabbing other people’s attention and compelling engagement from other people as well.
Then there are newbies…
When most people arrive on Google+ they too set up their stall, they make it beautiful – they lay out all of their ‘stuff’ and they wait for people to walk on by. But the difference then is how no one knows they/you are there. You’ve set in a very quiet part of town, with aforementioned bustling market streets just a few blocks away.
So, what do you have to do? How do you attract attention to your stall yourself?
Well, you have to go out and meet the people on the street and in the marketplace who’ve been there for a while.
To do this, you add in circles, you join communities, and you shake people’s hands with people in their stalls and you let them know you are there – so you visit them and you get interested in those people. And importantly, you don’t try to sell them anything.
As time goes on, people pop into your shop and become more and more interested in you and what you are displaying.
This is, of course, what you really want more than anything, especially as a business, is for all of the people who are paying attention to the well established shops to also pay attention to you.
How can you gain the benefit of more people visiting your street and your store?
You do this on Google+ by sharing people’s content.
As counterintuitive as it may be, the first thing to consider doing is to ‘stock’ other people’s well established product lines i.e. you will almost certainly need to display their products (their posts) – whether it be health tips, tech news or cat gifs – in your shop first. You simply don’t have the ‘footfall’ i.e. people walking past, certainly not compared to those people already established and, as such, you will need to think about it differently.
Sharing is a way of increasing people’s reach
When you share people’s content you are saying “Hey, I want the network I am building to relate to your kind of content – I want to align my network with you.” So by stocking their goods in your shop you are displaying them and increasing their potential reach – this in turn extends the reach as you become part of their network.
After a while you will start to stock more of your own goods alongside the people to whom you are aligning your network. Then, due to your relationship with them, your content may well leave the backstreet and start to be displayed in their shop window when they relate to it too. This can happen when the relationship is built and the trust that your content will be well received by the purchases from their store.
How do people get to know about your content?
The more influential, the more supportive the people are towards what you do – what your shop is selling – then the more people will be influenced to come. The well established folk are sending people your way.
It is through association with those influencers in a social setting first that makes the biggest difference to people being influenced as to whether your shop is worth visiting. When people trust those people’s opinions you get more visitors – it is that simple.
Let’s just say you you send out new content and tens/hundreds/thousands of people have you on ‘notify’ - that is like they will be waiting at just outside your stall, ready for the latest ‘things’ to be put onto shelves. Not everyone will do this but many will walk past the shop – like content flowing in the stream, people passing the shop and moving onto the next. If it is appealing or attractive enough, however, you have their attention and they pop on by. And of course, many people won’t see it right away – but they may hear about it from a friend, because the friend e.g. +1 and recommended it, or they may see it in Google+ Search results - which is perfect for them to find when they most need that ‘thing’.
So, when people share/+1 your content it is like your salespeople are handing out flyers to your shops.
When people don’t relate to what if in your shop window, or they don’t like the design of your frontage e.g. your cover photo, then people tend not to linger in your shop. When people don’t relate, they don’t give you attention enough to engage with your ‘goods’.
The real role of sharing
Sharing enables people’s ‘goods’ to be displayed in your shop front to the people walking on by. No matter how large or small your network, or how many people are ‘walking on by’ the principle will be the same – if you don’t share the content, people are much less likely to see those goods.
Sometimes you may think “I am sure someone else will share it” and then don’t but so often people don’t want past the shops with those goods as they are in different parts of the city at the time. If you want to grow related and symbiotic networks to people you will find ‘stocking their goods’ is a great way to do so, so share away.
The role of Search and Social
This is really the key to Google+ – it is social and search all wrapped into one.
What happens then when someone is looking for an answer for something to which your shop relate? They could either a) search for it, or b) be social about.
With the top spot in Google getting 60% of traffic to that content – this is the majority filter of who is getting what information on a subject. If you are not in charge of that top spot on Search for yourself, or your most cherished keywords then you are not in control of what information people are receiving. And if you are a business and you are not in control, your competitors probably are…
And then their are personalized results, blurring the line between search and social – enabling the conversations to reach even further.
With social you can take back control – you have those salespeople/fans/advocates/evangelists running around spreading positive information about you. Social can both influence and bypass ‘Search’ as people don’t ‘search’ for the answer they want, they ‘ask’ people – or they see content recommended in their stream. If you trust that person you don’t look any further. People stop on the street and trade information but the real transfer comes when people have more time. The village squares, the restaurants, the coffee houses – and all that information can flow more easily as there is more time. As David Amerland said in a recent interview, the ‘fixer’ in the village marketplace was the one who knew how to bring people together.
This is the real power of ‘hanging out’ and deepening relationships as you receive more contextual information.
In time, as the city grows, the streets all begin to fill up and your back street is no longer quite so quiet – instead you’ll find the city adapts and sky-rises of attention emerge in new parts of the Plus. It is never to late to start and never too late to adjust the appearance of your shop, or the goods that your stock in the windows. It is also very easy to move around this new emerging city and meet new people, shifting neighbourhoods and perspectives at every turn.
And as you can see, Google is already using this as a way of describing Google+, and how we can use it to exchange ideas and change how we want the world to be.