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Google+ Reaches 10 Million Users


It’s the greatest growth in social media ever. Google+ has reached 10 million users! Just this past Saturday (July 9th), its numbers were at 7.3 million and if the invite button stays active, the prediction is it could reach 20 million users by this weekend.

What do these numbers show us exactly? It shows people are curious as to what another social network has to offer. It shows the demand for another social network is obviously there. Yes, Facebook has 750 million users, half of who log on daily, but the Google+ numbers seem to show it has a fair chance of surviving and staying a fierce competitor.

Bill Gross, founder and CEO of Idealab, is very impressed with the growth of Google+. In fact, he’s made his own numbers prediction in this post.

I predict that Google+ will go from 0 to 100,000,000 users faster than any other service in history.

Okay, that’s a bold proclamation – here’s why I think it will achieve that.

The service is great. It is timely. People are engaging with it like crazy. There are rumors that there are already 4.5m people. That might be high. It might be as low as 1m, or even lower, but my guess is that it’s more than 1m people already. That already is probably the fastest growing service (0 to 1m) ever. Now it’s not completely fair, since when Facebook started, and when Twitter started, etc. those were tiny companies, and Google is huge. However, the product is extremely well executed, and a lot of people are smitten.

The next year will tell. Will there be bumps in the road? Sure. Will Facebook and Twitter fight back with more innovation? Of course! But I’m saying that Google+ is already good enough, and the team on Google+ is being so responsive in a way that makes me believe they have a real winner here.

Let me know what you think. Am I being too optimistic? I can’t wait to see how this next year in Social Networking plays out.

What do you think about the growth of Google+?

Why Google+ Circles Might Suck


Yes, you read that correctly. One of the main draws to Google+ is their intuitive “circle” system of listing your friends together into groups. It’s a feature that I see people repeatedly saying is one of the best things about this new social media platform. And while I agree that at first glance, the Google+ circle system had me ooo’ing and ahhhh’ing just like everyone else, as I’ve started to use the system more and more, I’m not sold. Yes, I think the circles might even suck.

Okay, before all you loyal Google fans freak out…I said might. As in “maybe they suck.” Or at least, “maybe they suck for some people.” Google+ is so new that the jury is still out on this one. But let me at least tell you a little about my experiences and how I think the Google+ system is slightly…okay, really…flawed.

A Twitter Approach to Networking

Let’s start at the very beginning.

One of the characteristics of Google+ that I really like is that you don’t have to be mutual friends to follow someone. Of course, everyone is able to control what anyone else sees, but if I like your blog and you have no idea who I am, I can still follow you and read whatever you decide to make public. You don’t have to follow me back. It’s very similar to Twitter in that respect, but with more levels of privacy. Awesome.

I like this because, frankly, I don’t like everyone who likes me. While that might sound harsh on a personal level, the fact of life is that you could be doing things that are really interesting to other people, but that doesn’t mean that other people are doing things that are really interesting to you – and that’s okay. I blog about blogging…and while that topic is relevant to Suzy who blogs about parenting and Donald who blogs about cars, I’m don’t have kids, nor do I care about my car beyond keeping it well maintained. So, Suzy and Donald can follow me, and I’m not pressured to clutter my stream with updates that are irrelevant. Awesome.

But Wait…Isn’t the Circle System Supposed to Cut Down on Clutter?

Yes. Yes, it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s working that way.

When I add someone to my circles, I break things down pretty well (at least, I think I do). Right now, I have a circle for my best friends in real life, so I can update them about plans for happy hour. I also have a circle for BlogWorld folk, so we can talk about behind the scenes plans if we wish, as well as circles for gamers (one of my main interests) and for social media professionals and bloggers. As more people join, I will probably break down those categories even more. But just because I’ve created a pretty well-planned circle system doesn’t mean that others have.

If Suzy the parenting blogger follows me, for example, she might not use circles as well as I do. Maybe she has people who blog lumped into one circle, for example, regardless of whether they blog about blogging or blog about parenting. Or maybe she puts me in a random circle called “people I met at BlogWorld” – which isn’t very relevant unless BlogWorld is going on or we’re talking about the event afterward. In other words, people do not necessary create circles based on the topics they talk about. People are more likely to organize their circles based on the streams they want to see, not what makes sense for updating. My needs for these two ways of organizing people are very different.

The Public Problem

But all of that doesn’t really matter because of what I like to call the “public” problem.

Remember the first point I made, about how I like that you don’t have to be mutual friends? Well, the only way that really works is if people update publicly, at least occasionally. For bloggers, that’s not really much of a problem. If you’re looking at Google+ as a promotional tool, or even if you just use it as a way to gain ideas from like-minded people, allowing everyone to read your updates makes sense.

For example, earlier today, I talked about a project I was working on for bloggers. While it is relevant to my social media/blogging group most (and not, for example, my gamer friends), it might also be relevant to my followers that I’m not following…and it’s not sensitive information, so I want everyone to be able to see it.

The problem is, because I updated it to the general public, everyone saw it, even my gamer circle. It doesn’t matter if I pick Public and add other circles. The fact that I’ve chosen to make the update public means that everyone can see it.

And most of us bloggers what as much to be public as possible. Unless it contains information that is only relevant to everyone in a specific group (like plans for happy hour with local friends), it makes sense to connect with fans by making your updates public. If that’s the case though, if that’s how we use Google+, it really isn’t any different from using Twitter. You aren’t actually filtering anything for any circle.

A Solution?

I don’t like to complain about problems unless I can think of a solution…and while I’m not sure there are easy ones or even perfect ones, here’s what I think would work better than the current circle system:

The solution to the public problem is pretty easy. When you make something public, it should show up only for people who aren’t your mutual friends. They should be your default public group. If you want other groups to see it, you should have to pick public plus whatever circles are relevant. That would make Google+ so much better, with that one little change.

The second part of the solution, in my opinion, would be to have two levels of circles – private circles and public circles. Private circles would be sort-of what you see now – when you follow someone you add them to a circle to create different streams for yourself. It’s simply a way to organize your streams, similar to Twitter lists. I would actually like to see the option, like with Twitter, for you to make these lists known (if you want to) so that other people can follow everyone you have categorized a certain way. I find some of the best people on Twitter by browsing others’ lists.

Public circles would be more of an “opt in” type of system for updates. Where your private circles would be for people you want to follow, your public circles would be for people who want to follow you. You would list off any topics you discuss regularly and people could add themselves to those lists to see updates in those categories from you. That way, as a follower, you can control what you see a little more easily. You’d use your public circles when you posted anything (again, private circles would just be for categorizing your own streams).

This works for two reasons. First, it allows you to opt out when you don’t like specific content that’s showing up in your stream, but don’t want to stop following a person completely. I could sign up for Suzie’s public blogging circle, but avoid her public parenting circle, even though with the current system, she just updated everyone at once. To go along with that, some people are really clogging up my stream right now. I don’t want to miss some of their updates about specific topics, so I continue to follow them, but I wish I could mute them with other topics so I could more easily read updates in my streams.

Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly from a promotional tool standpoint, it allows you to show someone you’re interested when they might have otherwise assumed that you don’t care. For example, under the current system, I might add Suzie to my blogging circle, never realizing that she’s actually really interested in gaming as well. I’m missing out on potential conversation with Suzie because I don’t know everything about her. Or maybe one of my gamer friends is interested in starting a blog – they’d be potential fans of mine if only I hadn’t excluded them from my blog-related updates.

With this system, I’d also like to see invite-only circles, which would kind of work the way hidden groups work on Facebook. They’d be for small groups of people who have specific reasons for talking to one another that don’t need to be public. Essentially, it would be a public circle, but one where you invite people to join (and they can say yes or no). For example, my local friends could all be in an invite-only circle so we could make dinner plans or the BlogWorld team could all be in an invite-only circle so we could speak about the event privately.

Again, my solutions might not be perfect, but I really do think that the circle system needs a little more thought. Right now, it is a good start, but I think one of the reasons I’m not completely loving Google+ yet is because it doesn’t offer me the level of control I really want…yet. It’s a step up from Facebook, to be sure, but I think it might still suck. At least a little, at least for right now.

Posting Photos on Google+: How the Terms of Service Impact You


On Thursday night, when I got home from work, I planned to respond to a couple of quick emails and work out. But the viral nature of social media had other plans for me. When I started sifting through my inbox and Twitter DMs, there were a number of questions regarding an article that Scott Bourne posted on Photofocus. The article had people concerned that Google was, more or less, going to take away their ownership of any rights to their photographs once they were posted to Google+.

I want to note that Mr. Bourne’s article was largely misconstrued, by myself and others. I was extremely concerned by the way people were interpreting the article. I allayed the concerns that I could. The next day, Mr. Bourne published a second post that very specifically outlined his concerns as they related to professional photographers only. This clarified the specific points he wanted to make about the Terms of Service. I contacted Mr. Bourne to apologize for any snipey 140-character messages that I sent and he was happy to have his posts linked here.

What do the Google+Terms of Service mean to you? (The paragraph in question is Paragraph 11.) ¶ 11.1 states that you retain your copyright and any other rights that you hold in the content. Google is not taking away your copyright simply because you post a photo to Google+. This is how many people interpreted the TOS based on Mr. Bourne’s article. The terms do not assign Google any rights to your copyright in the image. You still own that copyright. It is still your image.

Like most social services, Google+ takes a non-exclusive license in the photo when you put it on their system. This also happens when you post a photo on Facebook. Or Foursquare. And Twitpic. Picplz, too. This has already been part of Google’s existing TOS for Picasa.

As Mr. Bourne pointed out in his post, the only time subset of the population that should concerned with the licensing aspects of these terms are professional photographers who have clients who want an exclusive license on an image. If that particular image has been posted on any of the services listed above, then there is already a non-exclusive license on that image. Accordingly, you cannot give an exclusive license to your client if there is already a non-exclusive license on the photo that cannot be revoked.

Here’s the lesson to be learned: Read the fine print carefully. For the vast majority of the population, there is no reason to panic over the Google TOS. Yet, an article published by a professional photographer caused that confusion. If you have images that you plan to use professionally and you plan to license exclusively, your safest bet is to refrain posting them from any social media sites unless you have consulted with an attorney and fully understand the terms of that particular site.

For me, as an amateur photographer, the Google+ TOS are pretty standard. I will post the same types of photos that I do on Facebook. And, when it comes to photos on Google+, maybe I am missing it, there is no way to tag embarrassing photos of friends yet, so that is a definite benefit of Google+ for now.

New Blogger Redesign Available to Everyone!


Remember news of the Blogger redesign? Well, you can check out the preview of features right now!

While there are some new features available (like customizing your favicon) – the most prominent aspect of the redesign is the streamlined look of Google+ and Gmail’s new facelift.

Check out how clean the Overview page looks:

And a new Post page is extremely sparse:

Since the design is still in draft mode, Blogger invites you to provide feedback on anything you see. They say, “We hope you’ll enjoy the new Blogger interface and send us your feedback by clicking on the “Send feedback” link from the navigation bar. Happy blogging!”

What do you think of the redesign?

My Initial Google+ Impressions


After whining to my Twitter followers (haha, sorry guys!), I finally found a sneaky backdoor way into the Google+ beta! I’ve been using it for about a day now, getting my profile set up and such, and although I know that I still have a lot to learn and Google will likely be making changes based on feedback in the coming months, I wanted to give you my initial impressions. If you’re in the beta, I hope you’ll leave a comment with your impressions as well.

  • It doesn’t seem crazy different from Facebook.

I do realize there are some differences, even some significant differences, but Facebook is really rooted in people’s minds that I’m not sure Google+ will overcome it…and I’m also not sure that there’s room for both. Maybe. After all, I don’t think Facebook will be king forever. I guess time will tell on that one. The thing is, while Facebook really is a “my generation” type of thing (I was a sophomore when our college got it, back in the day when it was limited), a lot of business owners and people older than me who aren’t into blogging/social media as a career are just now wrapping their heads around the benefits of Facebook. I worry that throwing another, similar network into the mix isn’t what the general public needs. I guess, I was hoping it would be really different from Facebook, like Twitter is, so it would be easier for people to understand the necessity (other than “Google wants to make money” of course!).

  • I like that you don’t have to be mutual friends.

I use Facebook almost exclusively for keeping in contact with friends and family. I share links I find interesting occasionally, but rarely do I do any kind of promotion on Facebook like I do on Twitter. One of the things I hate is when someone who I don’t know well (like a Twitter follower) tries to friend me on Facebook. I always feel like a jerk saying no, but I just don’t use Facebook as a blogging tool like I do with Twitter. With Google+, I like that you don’t have to be mutual friends. The person can simply add you similar to a Twitter follow and they’ll see all your public updates. Of course, if you have your Facebook privacy settings changed so that default is public, they could there as well, but you wouldn’t show up in their stream at all – they would have to manually check your page if you weren’t mutual friends.

  • Google+ cares about content creators. Thank god.

I’ve written before about the fact that you need to be careful how much you rely on Facebook – at the end of the day, Facebook is not your blog. That is, you don’t own it, and thus, the owner of the content you write there isn’t really you. Facebook could disappear tomorrow…with all your content and contacts. As the lovely Heather Solos pointed out to me earlier today, “I really like that under account overview they have Data Liberation, you can export all of your contacts, photos everything easily. Building that in from the start shows me they’ve at least been paying attention to concerns about data ownership.” Yes, yes, a million times yes.

That’s all I got…for now. I like Google+ initially, but I want to reserve my final judgment for after it is open to the masses. I think, for me, it will come down to this: will people (even non-social-media people) use it? If my Facebook friends migrate, I have to say that I’ll be on the Google+ train without looking back. If they don’t? Well, I’ll be kind miffed about having to check yet another site every day as part of my job.

Oh, also – a lot of people have written MUCH more eloquently than I have about Google+. Deb did a really great post round-up of links on Kommein, so head over and check out Google+: 50 Helpful Posts to Get You Started.

What do you think of Google+ so far?

Friday Findings – July 1st, 2011


Friday Findings is a weekly series where I show some link love and bring you interesting stories from around the web. From social media news and viral videos, to news on technology and more.

What Facebook/Skype Video Chat Might Look Like [MOCKUP] – With the latest breaking news about Facebook launching a video chat product through Skype Mashable has created this mockup as to what it might look like.

WordPress finally launches a full-featured mobile blogging app — for webOS – WordPress has launched a mobile app for webOS, which appears to be designed with the HP TouchPad tablet in mind.

The Best Apps of the Week – Gizmodo rounds up the best apps of the week, which include a GPS app for the iPhone, Google+ for Android and Fotopedia North Korea for the iPad. See what else made the list.

Why Google+ Doesn’t Stand a Chance Against Facebook – Has Google gotten it right? Can it stand up to Facebook? Read why this guy’s money is on Facebook.

Bloggers; Have Attitude, Will Travel – Have you met the diva blogger at any blogging events? It seems we need a blogger etiquette handbook, no?

Did You Get Your Google+ Invite?


Yesterday, Google opened their first wave of invites for Google+. Did you get yours? Yeah, me neither. It appears they gave a few invites to the press, who were able to invite a few others to come test it out. (Some even figured out how to invite 500+ people.) For those of you unfamiliar with Google+, it basically turns Google into one giant social network.

After the floodgates of people accepting their Google+ invites opened, Google shut the door on anymore, at least for now. Here’s a note from Google:

We’ve shut down invite mechanism for the night. Insane demand. We need to do this carefully, and in a controlled way. Thank you all for your interest!

For any who wish to leave, please remember you can always exit and take your data with you by using Google Takeout.

It’s your data, your relationships, your identity.

Mashable did a great write-up after testing out Google+ and you can check out their thoughts on it here. If you did get an invite and were able to test out Google+, feel free to give us your feedback on it in the comment section.

Friday Findings – June 24, 2011


Friday Findings is a weekly series where I show some link love and bring you interesting stories from around the web. From social media news and viral videos, to news on technology and more.

Friday Findings for June 24, 2011:

Live-blogging the Pottermore Announcement (from the Couch) -Have you heard the news about Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s latest project? It’s called Pottermore and Slate live-blogged (from the couch) the announcement. The site is set to launch in October.

FBI Used Social Media To Search for Fugitive Who Inspired “The Departed” [VIDEO] – After capturing a fugitive with help from  social media, even the FBI are fans. James “Whitey” Bulger has been arrested along with his girlfriend Catherine Greig. The FBI began using social media in 2009.

Why Google Might Beat its Antitrust Case – Google is facing a Federal Trade Commission antitrust investigation concerning its search practices. They’ve responded to the allegations via their blog. Read on to see how they might beat the case.

Hit iOS Game “The Moron Test” Coming To Mac/PC, Will Be Amazon’s First Digital Game Exclusive -Have you taken the moron test? Beware, it’s addicting and draws you in. Get ready. It’s about to make it to your desktop!

Facebook’s longest serving employee is set to leave – and yes, he’s set for life – Kevin Colleran is Facebook’s longest serving employee and news has surfaced that he’s leaving in July. He has no immediate plans after leaving Facebook, except to do some traveling.

Google Reaches 1 Billion Unique Visitors in a Single Month


Google is the first Internet company to reach 1 billion unique visitors in a single month, according to data from comScore. Since this number comes from Google owned sites such as the Google search engine, Google email and YouTube, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

This milestone was hit in May and over the past year, Google’s unique visitors have increased 8.4%. Microsoft follows with 905 million unique visitors, while Facebook went up 30% to 714 surpassing Yahoo.

Here’s how The Wall Street Journal defines the process of comScore:

ComScore’s estimates are based on its “global measurement panel” of two million Internet users, similar to how Nielsen measures television ratings. ComScore refines the estimates with “page view” data that it receives from more than 90 of the 100 publishers of Web content, but not from Google.

Although Google has the most numbers, marketers are starting to look at a visitor’s time on a site as being extremely important when it comes to how they spend their ad money. Who has the advantage there? Obviously Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, when do you think they will reach 1 billion unique visitors a month?

SEO Blog Tips: Turn Emails into Search Engine Visibility


Speakers: Rich Brooks
Session: How to Dominate Google & Bing with Your Blog
Date: Wednesday, May 25
Time: 9:00AM
Location: Jacob Javits Center 1A07

“I don’t know what to blog about” and “how can I blog for SEO?” are two blogging concerns that I hear all the time from people. Luckily, there’s a simple trick I use that can help address both issues.

First thing to keep in mind: you are an expert at what you do. You have forgotten more than most people will ever know about growing plants or raising kids or building a business.

Chances are that when you’re in front of a customer or prospect, they are asking some of the same questions time and again. Even more may be emailing you those questions.

Well, if you’re fielding all those questions, how many more people are asking the same questions at Google?

  • How do I tie a Windsor knot?
  • What are some simple stir fry recipes?
  • How do I survive a zombie apocalypse?

When you receive the next email asking for advice or help, don’t respond. Not immediately, at least.

Copy the question and paste it into your blog. You may need to broaden the question to make it more helpful to more people and remove any reference to whomever sent you the email in the first place. (They may not be completely comfortable that you put their name at the bottom of a question about how to buy a toupee.)

Once you’ve got the question, go ahead and answer it in the most helpful, non-salesy way possible. As appropriate you can create keyword-rich links to a page on your website that offers a solution to the person’s need. Answering a question on reducing turnover? Link to the page on employee recognition gifts.

When you’re all done, create a keyword-rich title for your post. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Create a shortened version of the question: What are good fruits for making baby food?
  • Phrase it as a how-to: How to Take Better iPhone Photos
  • Frame it as a tips post: Fashion Tips for the Color Blind

After you publish it, go back to the person who first emailed you and tell them that it was such a great question you turned it into a blog post. I’ve never had anyone get upset with this, and almost everyone has been psyched to see their question get posted to my blog, even if I renamed them “Puzzled in Portland.”

In conclusion:

  • Use emailed questions as blog fodder for “long-tail” searches.
  • Increase your visibility by using appropriate keywords in your titles and posts.
  • Rinse and repeat.

Rich Brooks is founder and president of flyte new media, a Web design and Internet marketing firm in Portland, Maine. His monthly flyte log email newsletter and web marketing blog focus on search engine optimization, blogs, social media, email marketing, and building websites that sell. He is currently an Expert Blogger at FastCompany.com and a regular contributor at SocialMediaExaminer.com.

He is a co-founder of Social Media FTW, an organization putting on conferences and events to educate small businesses and non-profits about the power of social media marketing.

He is a nationally recognized speaker on blogging, internet marketing and social media. He is the “tech guru” on WCSH Channel 6’s evening news show, 207, and teaches Web marketing and social media courses for entrepreneurs at the University of Southern Maine’s Center for Continuing Education.

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