Ready or Not, Here Comes Google+: Part 1

If you have a Blogger account, or if you read blogs hosted by Blogger, you’ve probably noticed the +1 button that now appears next to the buttons for sharing a post through Twitter, Facebook, and Google Buzz. If you’ve run a Google search in the last, oh, twenty minutes (who hasn’t?), you may have noticed the faint blue +1 button that appears next to each search result.

What is this mysterious new button? What does it do? And how can it be useful to writers?

The +1 button is a way of giving an article, blog post, website, or search result your personal stamp of approval. When you click +1, it becomes public information, and the next time someone runs a search on the same topic, your name may appear next to the site that you +1’d.

For example, let’s say I +1’d www.style-matters.com. The next time someone runs a Google search for web and marketing content, an icon might appear next to the place where StyleMatters appears in the search results saying “Hilary Smith +1’d this.”

Who will see your +1’s? You can’t be sure. Google curates who sees your +1’s, drawing from people in your Gmail chat list, your contacts, your Google+ Circles, people you’re following in Google Reader and Google Buzz and people who follow you. Google may also show your +1’s to people who aren’t already connected to you, if Google determines that they share similar tastes and interests.

Your +1’s will also appear in the new +1’s tab in your Google profile. If you choose to make this tab public, readers can also view a list of every site that you’ve +1’d.

So how can this new gadget be useful to writers?

+1 is a neat way for writers to share their expertise and give something back to their readers and colleagues. For example, a psychology writer might +1 the most useful websites about depression. A current events writer might +1 her favorite news sources.

+1 is a way of sharing links passively, as opposed to posting them on Facebook or Twitter. This distinction is more important than it might seem at first glance. When you post a link on Twitter, it might get lost or overlooked in a follower’s feed. When you +1 something, your recommendation shows up next to search results at the exact moment your reader is searching for information on that particular subject. Not only does +1 allow you to share links you don’t feel like Tweeting—it allows your recommendations to color your followers’ web searching experience. It’s almost like you’re standing over your reader’s shoulder when they search, saying “ooh—click that one!”

+1 also has the potential to drive traffic to your own website or blog. When a reader +1’s your blog or website, he is effectively telling his friends: “This is cool! This is worth checking out!”

In the same way that people are more likely to read a book or watch a movie that has been recommended by a friend, search results that come with a trusted friend or contact’s +1 will be that much more likely to get a click. Who wouldn’t visit a depression website vetted by their favorite psychology author over one with no recommendations?

In a time when the internet is increasingly saturated with information, +1 is a way of personalizing the web and turning web searches into a social activity. If you’re a writer or expert in your field, +1 is one more way of connecting with your audience and sharing your unique taste, knowledge, and preferences with the world. Best of all, it only takes one click—no blog post, Facebook update, or Tweeting required.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be discussing other features of the new Google+ and exploring ways that writers can use them to reach their readers. In the meantime, give +1 a try—and reach out to your readers in a whole new way.

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