How to Get Your Family and Friends on Google+

Wednesday Feb 1st 2012 by Mike Elgan
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Facebook has everybody, but Google+ is the superior social network, opines a tech pundit.

Google+ has a lot of advantages over Facebook, including hangouts group video chat, better search, cleaner interface, superior commenting and more.

But Facebook has at least one thing Google+ doesn't have: everybody.

Facebook was the flavor of the month at the historic moment a couple of years ago when social networking went mainstream. First it was just for college students. Then techheads. Then co-workers. Then teens. Then parents. Then grandparents. Today, pretty much everyone has a Facebook account, and a very large percentage of the population spends a lot of time on Facebook.

Then along came Google+. It's clearly better than Facebook for many people. And it's won some passionate fans, not to mention a TechCrunch "Crunchie" award yesterday for "Best Social Application+" of the year, beating out Facebook’s new Timeline feature.

Technology-loving early adopter types rushed in, as did a huge number of people dissatisfied with Facebook. At last count, Google+ had 100 million users and is growing faster than Facebook ever did.

But there's just one thing stopping Google+ from being the social Shangri-La that it could be: Where is everybody?

By "everybody," I mean the personal everybody. Where are the old high school friends? Where are the co-workers? Where's the daily family reunion?

Just about every active Google+ user has tried and largely failed to lead an exodus out of Facebook, or convince most friends and family to even try Google+.

Here's the problem: Most Facebook users don't care which is the better social network. Everybody's on Facebook because everybody's on Facebook. Why go to a social network where I don’t know anybody?

When your average Facebook user tries Google+, they peek their head in the window, look around, see nobody and then conclude that nothing is happening and wander back to Facebook where everybody knows your name.

So the Big Question for every passionate Google+ user is: How do I convince my family and friends to use Google+?

I've been working on this problem myself since Google+ first opened its doors in June. And I've become convinced that it's possible to get your people on Google+. But it takes a multi-faceted approach. You can't just invite people and forget about it. You've got to try several things and stick with it.

Here's how to get your family and friends on Google+:

1. Post only on Google+.

Many people duplicate posts on both Google+ and Facebook. Instead, just post on Google+. If people want to stay in touch with you, and, say, see pictures of your kids, they'll have to use the better network. Call it coercion. Call it blackmail. It works.

2. Act like people are already users.

Google+ lets you share posts with both users and non-users via e-mail. In other words, there's no need to limit your circles to only people with Google+ accounts. If you have someone’s e-mail address, add them to your "Family" and "Friends" circles. When you post an item publicly that may be of particular interest to specific non-users, go ahead and add them specifically to the addressing of the post. Lure them in with relevant content.

3. Build circles for them.

There's a myth that Google+ conversations are only about technology and photography. What’s true is that most of the biggest users circled by the greatest number of people tend to be geeks or photographers (or actors or singers). But a person with the most obscure interests will find thriving communities around those passions on Google+. Who cares how many "followers" the person has?

So if you have a family member or friend who's interested in something particular, use Google+'s excellent search feature, find great people who post on that subject, build them a circle then share it with that person. Or just conduct a search and share the URL to demonstrate the incredible activity around your loved one's passion. You’ll find every interest on Google+ -- for example, ukuleles, cupcakes or home beer brewing.

4. Tell people why Google+ isn't Facebook.

Facebook is best used as a place to interact with people you already know. Google+, on the other hand, is the best place to discover and interact with interesting strangers. It's also great for talking with people you know, but that's secondary. This distinction has to be spelled out explicitly to people so they know why they want to join Google+. While Facebook is a family and high school reunion that never ends, Google+ is a serendipity adventure, where you meet and befriend new people. They don't have to quit Facebook. Just let them know they can enjoy Google+, too.

5. Focus on "Family" and "Friends" circles.

Because our personal connections have been AWOL, Google+ users have not formed the habit of obsessing over "Family" and "Friends" circles. So if a personal connection does post something to try it out, that post can get lost in the stream. If you want your peeps to love Google+, you need to give their posts some attention. So get in the habit of cycling through those circles every day and comment on their posts.

6. Apply peer pressure.

Collect all the family and friends who are on Google+, and share their profile links with the ones who are. That way they know who to circle.

7. Post pictures of your family and friends, and send the links to them.

Nobody can resist pictures of themselves.

8. Offer to answer questions.

New social networks are confusing to a lot of people. Tell your family and friends that you'd be happy to answer any questions they have about Google+.

9. Unleash the feature nobody can resist: Hangouts.

Instead of talking to your people by phone, tell them you'd like to do a hangout. Once they've tried that, they'll be hooked.

10. Sit them down and walk them through it.

Sometimes, people are just confused. Personally help them set up their account and start following people.

11. Be ready to share interesting, active and relevant circles the moment they join.

One major complaint by new users is that there's nothing happening. That's because they haven’t circled anyone yet. You can help them fix that. First, share this link with them to give them a “starter circle.” If they still think nothing's happening on Google+, share this link+.

12. Be active, and encourage your people to be active, too.

Posting, uploading, hangouts, comments, Plus-oneing -- activity makes Google+ rewarding. So set a good example, and encourage others to not just lurk, but participate. They'll understand the value of Google+ once they do.

It’s true: People are stuck on Facebook. But that condition doesn’t have to be permanent. With a little effort, you can convince your family and friends to try and enjoy Google+.

You’ll be doing them a favor.

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