Google+ for Churches: Key to Social Media Success [Free eBook]
Google+ was born from Google as a new opportunity to data. The mission of Google has always been to be the place to find data and up to this point, they have been great at finding it. They can find facts all over the place with their complex algorithms and coding as well as web bots that have been to every part of the Internet.
But social networks presented a new kind of data that was less scientific and objective and more personal and objective. But this personal data that we give out on social media sites is no less valuable. In fact, in some brief moments in the months and years, it can be the first news before it ever hits any website blog. And opinions many times can be a better resource than some single fact that we find on a website.
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The Network’s Persona
Google+ is the new social network on the block. They wanted users to know that they were not another Facebook clone because they wanted to do it differently, even going so far as to say that they are not a social network (though they are). Yet, the implications of Google+ are far reaching and powerful.
In this social media town, Google+’s place is in the business district. It is not just a place to post your opinion or network, though you can do both of those too. It is a place for personal and professional people and content as well as a site for churches to get their message out to current and future visitors.
Because of the short lifespan of Google+ to this point, there is a lot of shaping still happening. We do not know how much more maturing there will be before it begins to plateau. Every social network to this point has impacted the social media world for the better and Google+ is in the midst of its revolutionary moments.
The Network’s Lingo
- Status – the question “Share what’s new…” prompts for you to post content onto your profile
- Circles – organized lists of the people you want to follow and the people who follow you
- Reshare – sharing another user’s single status post to your followers
- +Mention – (styled with the @ symbol) citing a specific user in a status post that automatically links to their account
- #Hashtag – (styled with the # symbol) used to mark a phrase that will allow for marketing or searching
- +1 – a way to give positive feedback and connect with things you care about as well as affect SEO through AuthorRank
- Chat – private message to only someone that follows you
- Hangout – private video chatting with between 1 and 9 other users
- Hangout On Air – public hangout that records to YouTube
The Network’s Downside
Because Google+ is relatively new, the active user base is small compared to what the future could be. The dichotomy of the user base is that people are either hyperactive and vigilant for the network (Google+ can do no wrong and all other social networks are worthless) or have not bought into the network at all and do not engage or post.
Unfortunately, while we will share a lot of great things about the network, it was very late to the game. In some regards, they have to “play by the social media rules” to garner and attract new users instead of have already defined them. At this point, they are fighting an uphill battle (though doing it rather well).
Google+ Is Full Of Active People
Social networks are full of all sorts of people. Facebook has grown the stigma of being the “old people’s” network because of the wide age range of adoption from 13 to 99 year olds. It started out as a place for college students on individual campus to connect and evolved from there. Twitter has maintained a networking ideology within its development from the early years as an SMS substitute, but with only 140 characters, it has become more of a place to initiate conversations that have long, drawn out ones.
Then Google+ pops into the social networking world, some would say late to the game, and offers something for the working person. Unlike any other platform out there, Google+ has an array of web applications available to it that other social networks can only dream of. Remember that Google’s model is to integrate everything, including Gmail, YouTube, Google Search, Google Docs, and more so that every part of the Google experience is enriched. With the unveil of Google+, it was announced that it would be intended as the central hub for everything Google.
Because of this integrated and wide variety of resources and it being new to the social media work where only early adopters had been present for a long time, the percentage of active users has been amazing. Unlike Facebook with the constant barrage of game invites, photos pressuring you to reshare if you love Jesus or hate the war, and spam from all ends, Google+ has developed a short-term identity of people that want to engage with you as well as encourage you to engage with them. Imagine a church getting onto this social network with a daily blog post about some theological issue that will be discussed that next Sunday, receiving a great amount of engagement, and connecting with other like-minded groups, all within just a couple of weeks. You can build your own communities, offer sermon ideas, ask great questions, and share your burdens when struggles come, knowing that they will be reading this and actively praying for you.
How To Use The Network Effectively
Churches have a unique opportunity to put themselves in front of a lot of people and use Google+ unlike many other businesses. With Google’s normal search, they use a search of complex rules, web bots, and algorithms called PageRank. With Google+, they have a new source of information unlike anything they have tapped into before and have developed AuthorRank. The idea is that people who are seen as important, credible, and respecting on Google+ will be given higher search ranks. Therefore, the more comments, +1’s, and reshares you receive, the higher your AuthorRank will be.
Along with the digital version of AuthorRank, you can use the Local feature in Google to receive reviews of your church, have people rate the physical, face-to-face part of your ministry that will also speak into your AuthorRank. Therefore, your social network influence can reach every single person that uses Google.
Finally, many churches have found that they can use Google+’s Hangout On Air for many different video options. Pastors can use it to record video blog posts or network with other ministry partners that may be hundreds or thousands of miles away. Churches can invite missionaries they support from all over the world to speak to their congregations or individual Bible studies. And the most innovate feature is that churches have begun to use it to live stream and podcast different parts of their church, including Sunday sermons, for those that are in some way unable to attend.
This article is part of a longer ebook called “Social Media Quick Guide: Google+.”