[Update] GooglePlus – Healthcare brands/organizations…stay put!

In a note this afternoon, Pete Chasmore, founder at Mashable, explained a conversation he and his team at Mashable had with the Google Plus team. Bottom line, Mashable is not going to have a branded presence on Plus until Google releases the business accounts soon. Here is his note below:

There are many groups that have gone ahead and created branded accounts for their organizations. I know I created one for Greenville Hospital System. We have been trained to claim our “domain,” not knowing what the future holds in each social outlet/space. We do not want anyone speaking on behalf or our brand’s behalf.

Look at the latest statement from MSNBC, they had their Google Plus account taken down by Google. So, one of their editors is now posting on their behalf, using a personalized account.

So what do we do? Well, I have a few thoughts…my opinions:

1) If you have created a branded account for your organization/hospital/company/brand…hold on to it as long as you can. Keep on engaging in conversation and testing the waters with your strategy. Keep the conversation alive and ask the Circles what they are wanting from this experience.

2) Be prepared to transfer this account. We do not know how Google plans to release the new branded/business accounts, but be prepared to transfer the current Google Plus account to the new platform. This may involve sharing with your Circles that you will be transferring, but communicate with them your intentions.

3) If you have not created a branded account for your organization/hospital/company/brand…maybe consider holding off for a while. Create a personal account and get acclimated with Google Plus. This is the time to play, research, and figure out what this new outlet is all about.

4) Starting formulating some strategy for the usage of these accounts. If you have to transfer or if you are waiting to create a branded/business account, and you want to create one, starting putting together a plan on how to use and/or transfer your existing account.

5) Communicate with your Circles and let your community guide you. Let your Circles share with you and your brand how they want to engage with you on Google Plus. This will help you determine your strategy and your process when Google releases the branded/business accounts.

With this said…here is what Christian Oestlien of Google Plus has to say (Just released at 7:13pm 7/21/11):

“Here is a quick update on Google+ and businesses:

A few weeks ago we mentioned we would be doing a test of business profiles and asked people interested to apply. Believe it or not we actually had tens of thousands of businesses, charities, and other organizations apply to take part from all over the world. Many of you have reached out to me personally through Google+, e-mail, chat, and even other Googlers. Thank you. Your response has been humbling.

With so many qualified candidates expressing intense interest in business profiles, we’ve been thinking hard about how to handle this process. Your enthusiasm obligates us to do more to get businesses involved in Google+ in the right way, and we have to do it faster. As a result, we have refocused a few priorities and we expect to have an initial version of businesses profiles up and running for EVERYONE in the next few months. There may be a tiny handful business profiles that will remain in the meantime solely for the purpose of testing how businesses interact with consumers.

In the meantime, we ask you not to create a business profile using regular profiles on Google+. The platform at the moment is not built for the business use case, and we want to help you build long-term relationships with your customers. Doing it right is worth the wait. We will continue to disable business profiles using regular profiles. We recommend you find a real person who is willing to represent your organization on Google+ using a real profile as him-or-herself.

All of us on the Google+ effort are delighted by your engagement with this project – thank you all for taking the time to apply and offer such incredibly useful feedback. Keep it coming!”

Three Google Plus Take-Aways from Healthcare Hangout

On Monday, I had a great opportunity to try out a Google Plus “Hangout” with Reed Smith and Ed Bennett. Our goal was to try it for the first time and maybe talk a bit about Google Plus in healthcare. Great conversation and great time to sit back and learn a but from smart healthcare, digital leaders. The video is above from our Hangout. Also, Reed’s friend Bryan Person joined us…great to meet a new person on Plus.

Here is the biggest take away, three things that have me thinking about Google Plus and healthcare:

1) Google Plus is so new, we have no idea how it is going to shape or integrate into our social structure. People are still learning how to use Google’s technology and the user base is still in it’s infancy. Reed Smith brought up a good point, we do not know if this iteration is the 1.0 or even 0.5 version. So many changes are coming, more users will be joining…so Ed Bennett thinks it will be a few months to really see the major impacts in the social space.

2) Integrating Google Plus into a large healthcare/hospital system. Ed Bennett shared some knowledge…he is creating “Circles” based on service lines and departments with the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) Google Plus account. As people are adding the hospital to their circles, Ed is sending them a personal note asking what type of information that would like to receive on Google Plus from the UMMC. Based on their response, Ed is putting that person into a specific Circle based on the relevant service line or department. This allows the person to receive the information they are seeking. Also, if the person asks about an area of the hospital that does not have a Circle, then you can decide to create a Circle based on that feedback.

3) We are still not sure what to expect from a business class account with Google Plus. We do know that the business accounts are right around the corner, so we are sitting back waiting to see how/if to convert our hospital business accounts when Google Plus releases this business option. We know it is right around the corner, especially given this Mashable Story about verified and business account. For this article, CLICK HERE.

Also…one side note, Apple released their Google Plus application in iTunes for the iPhone today. For many people, it is not showing up when they are doing a search in iTunes on their iPhones. If you read this post on your iPhone, CLICK HERE and it will take you to the Google Plus application in iTunes.

If you want to connect with me on Google Plus, CLICK HERE for my profile.

Where is Plus and these social technologies taking us?

Google+ is starting to shape up as more of a B2B place for me…not a place to engage “consumers.” Now I am sure others are finding situations that are different. Let me clarify a bit, a place to engage in professional communication between colleagues and other businesses. Very few of my family members are on Plus…I am sure that will evolve.

I know many individuals are using Plus right now in the same work flow, if not similar, to other social outlets. It is a distribution point of content.

I am also thinking through how we will use this outlet in healthcare? Since this is a fluid environment, a place to engage in broader conversation…it will be interesting to see the healthcare applications. There are already so many channels to reach patients…will this be another place? Or will this be a place for medical practitioners and leadership to engage in professional communication.

Using Circles to engage in private conversations, it is a platform for creation and sharing of knowledge. I am already having physicians asking me how they should use Plus. I know one is specifically using it to stay in touch with family across the country, utilizing Hangouts for group video chats…a means to keep families connected.

It is so fun to sit back and watch the evolutions of technology grow, change, and shape culture. Twitter, Facebook, and so many others have shaped the current culture we live today. But, is our attention span so short that we will forget yesterday’s social outlet as we learn the next. What will happen to Plus after the honeymoon period is over and the pendulum swings back closer to center? What is the center?

The more and more I write, the more and more I wish all of my clients were on plus. This would be a great place to engage and share ideas. A great place to chat online or jump into a Hangout if we need human interaction beyond the typeface.

I have a theory though…Plus is going to alter our current cultural experience online. It will break us away from short chats and into longer form discussions online. It will make us question whether we should have a blog on WordPress or Tumblr, yet write fluidly in this space for a broad or finite group of people in a “Circle”. I see academics leveraging the interactivity of Plus to engage in scholarship in a whole new manner. Even teach completely through plus, using Circles as class roles.

I am 37, and I sit here getting ready to have my first child…Rose Frances. The velocity of technology and social media(s) have made me wonder what she will experience? What will Rose be using is elementary school and so on…to communicate and share information. Will outlets like Twitter, Facebook, Plus, Gowalla, Ping, Pinterest, etc. still be around?

Ok…back to the original question: how are we really going to use Plus? Are we going to use it like all the other outlets or will we change the way we communicate based on the new opportunities Plus has offered us…to participate in mutual, technological discourse? Plus is just a technology…that is it.

The ethics behind storytelling…

The other day, I was having a long creative session with a new client and the topic of ethics was the basis of our discussion. Yes, how can we tell stories without morally compromising an organization. Let’s dive into this a bit.

First, how can we tell stories of those who have benefited from the organization’s mission and are not compromised as leverage for public awareness. What do I mean? Imagine an organization wanting to tell their story, and as their mission they help people during tough times. But in order to explain their mission for the public at large to understand, they ask people to explain how the organization has helped them.

This brings up two ethical dilemmas:
1) privacy of those being served by the organization
2) the ethical barometer of the organization

We are all very passionate about a cause, we are all very passionate about sharing the story of our cause. But are we passionate enough to share the stories of those we serve, even though privacy is an issue, as a means to promote with an aim for helping the greater good? What is the greater good? Who is to benefit from the stories to be told? The people who have suffered and now have chosen to share to benefit the brand, the people who could learn from this experience, or the people who could learn that an organization exists and go seek help?

Let’s take a few scenarios:

First, think about Joplin, MO and the tornados that have ravaged this small town. In the age of social media and digital awareness, many flocked to help these people. Many people felt the need to give, donate time, or just go see with their own eyes. But there are many digital media enthusiasts who jumped at the opportunity to go capture the story, the many horrifying stories for personal benefit. Specifically, going to Joplin to capture stories to put on their blog, put on YouTube, shoot a documentary, raise awareness in a fashion that benefitted them personally, leveraging this horrible time for their personal gain.  So many organizations wanted to be the first to report, grab the SEO, share it on Facebook….all for personal gain.

For you naysayers, I understand the public awareness this coverage brings for this international story.  I understand that these digital media stories brought tremendous awareness, thus influenced tremendous giving, donations, and public outreach for those who suffered this horrible event.

But this leads me to my next scenario…Hurricane Katrina. I was on  the ground the day after the storm hit. It was my job to go to the outlying areas surrounding New Orleans and capture stories, those explaining what had happened in their area. We journalists were the only means to communicate what had happened in the outlying areas…because all the communication channels were destroyed.

So many times, I would drive up to a house, town, area and someone was outside looking at the area and they were emotionally charged.  At what moment do we begin to capture those stories when those individuals are in a state of panic and cannot make the conscious decision that what they’re sharing emotionally could be shown around the nation. This is and has been a huge ethical debate in the journalistic world. Who is winning here, who is benefitting from this story…especially if the journalist is recording with the camera because he/she knows this will win them some huge awards.

So, let’s implement this into telling stories inside businesses, non-profits, and organizations. Where does your ethical barometer lie when considering telling a story from inside your organization? Do you have the best interest of the person in mind, or do you have on your digital marketing cap, seeing the potential viral reach of a story?  Are you leveraging this person’s story for personal gain? Are we conscious of the potential outcome from this story?

I see both sides of the issue…the one that sees the public gain from hearing a story and the desire to protect one’s story from the digital community. I do not think each of us can say exactly where we stand on this issue. Each person cannot say they have a hard line they can draw because each story is contextual and is affected by our own daily, personal biases.  We as digital communicators need to be conscious of our decisions when we plan a storytelling strategy. We have to create a thoughtful plan that includes implications of telling stories that might ride the ethical line. But whose ethical line are we riding?

These questions lead me to my final thought…the velocity of the digital world and need to share as a derivative is blurring the ethical lines of storytelling. The need to share online, to collect information, has become competitive in nature. This capitalist idea has created the need to share the same content faster than the next, to generate SEO back to our blogs, websites, and other portals. Digital communicators are competing online for a stake in the SEO game…to gain a piece of the digital pie. This digital velocity accelerates during times of big digital news.

So where does this leave us? It leaves us in a place to seek and understand where we hang out in this ethical continuum of  digital storytelling? Are we seeking to leverage stories for our personal gain or for the best interest of the great good. Are we raising awareness or just creating more noise in the digital spectrum?

SEO: Google Plus One vs. Facebook Like -> Better +1 & Like

Last week, I wrote a post detailing the effects of creating Google Plus Profile and how it directly impacts your rankings in Google. If you look at the image below…you can see what I was detailing in my previous post, showing where my Google Plus Profile is located in a simple Google Search of my name.

But a friend of mine (Mandy Vavrinak) commented on the blog post raising a question about a Bing.com search.

So let’s take a look at what will happen with a Bing.com search of Bobby Rettew:

Notice what is the top item in this search, my Facebook Profile…interesting. Well Duh, this makes since especially given this article from CNN.com back in October 2010, the Bing/Facebook search deal. Bing.com is influenced by the number of “Likes” in a Bing.com search, as detailed in this blog post. BTW, my Google Plus account was way back in page fifteen of Bing.com with this search.

So, what are we learning from this little discovery, a Facebook Profile  is to Bing.com as is Google Profile is to Google.com, when it comes to SEO. Thus the “Plus One” concept in a Google search result will influence rankings in a Google search similar to the influence of a “Like” in a Bing.com search.

So Google is looking at our impressions within a search result with the Plus One similar to the “Like” in Facebook. By clicking +1 beside a search result, it gives you stamp of approval. These +1’s will show up in search results if your are logged into your Google account, and allow you to click it you have a Google Plus account.

Three weeks ago, I noticed something new in my WordPress blog. I have the “1-Click/Retweet/Like” plugin by LinksAlpha installed. It let me know it was time to update this plugin. When I updated, it added the +1 for Google Plus as one of the options to share. Now I have it placed at the bottom of each post.

This allows people to give a post a +1 as a sign of sharing in Google Plus. Each plus one helps a blog post, a website, a brand in Google’s rankings. The same as clicking the “Like” for Bing.com’s rankings. Ultimately, it is a way to show approval and help your favorite pieces of content show up in search rankings.

So here it is…if you have a Google Plus account and a Facebook account, you need to “+1” just as much as you “Like” to help your favorite pieces of content in search rankings. This will ultimately share with your friends in both outlets the things that your like the most. This influencing our social networks and social rankings of content.

Oh…by the way, there is a change in my Google Profile ranking in Google. Last week (July 6, 2011), my Google Plus Profile was listed number four in a search for my name, now it is number one:

Google Plus & Social Outlets…WE have to stay grounded as Practitioners

We still have to stay grounded my friends…we have to stay grounded. As I was thinking through the hype of another social outlet to be added to the users’ menu, a song came to mind. Do you remember the song “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen? This tune keeps on popping up in my mind, thinking through the lyrics. Now, I am not singing the same lyrics to the tune…I have changed to “Another One Called Plus”. Yes…I think Queen would probably baulk at singing these lyrics. There is an irony in the changing the lyris, I think.

Yes…there is another one at the playing table, and within a week Google Plus has the buzz of a major player in the user arena(s). The more and more I read in the social sphere…people are comparing Google Plus to other outlets. We are seeing more user reviews making comparisons to other social outlets, because that is all they know. But…it is just another platform to connect.

We as communication professionals have to be careful not to fall back into a paradigm as technicians. Not only jump on the bandwagon and focus on the technology and the excitement of the technology, but instead trying to learn how users might interact with this new platform. Now granted it is being reported the Google Plus has experienced close to 5 to 9 million users in the first two weeks of this beta release. This is all about how your interpret the numbers, like in this article from eWeek.com.

“Google+ has more than 5 million users in the United States alone during its first two weeks of existence, according to a couple of creative calculations by early users of the fledgling social network.

Open June 28 to limited field-testing, Google+ is Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) major bid to bite into the massive growth and influence of Facebook, which has more than 750 million users and poses a threat to Google’s display ad business.”

BUT…there are still communities still interacting in all the other platforms and digital media outlets. As this new platform emerges, we have to stay vigilant in our roles as communication practitioners. Each platform is going to apply to different communities of users and how they communicate. We have to sit back, educate ourselves with these new platforms, let the honeymoon dust settle, then see how/if we can apply this to what we are doing.

I do not think there is going to be a mass exodus from Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and other social/digital mediums. I think people will will use the medium that best serves their abilities to communicate with the people they want connect with regularly. But, we must educate ourselves with these new technologies and see how/if we can apply our communication knowledge to this platform as practitioners. Whether we use online video to communicate our message, write a blog, create a Facebook campaign, do a media buy, or even implement a digital media strategy…we need to assess this platform and see how it might play into how we communicate our message.

Remember…it is about people, stupid!

Google+: Circles is getting us back to basics, communities! Removing the noise hopefully.

I think one of the big things many of us in the this social space have been feeling for a while is the explosion of noise in the social space. More and more outlets, channels, places to shout our information.

Twitter was so fun two years ago, not many people were using this outlet…so it was a smaller community base of people interacting. Now it has exploded.

More and more people are wanting to lock down and limit their friends in this “social space”, protecting against the mass markets. Yes we can “Like” pages, but there are restrictions. The one thing that Facebook has going for it, the ability to have community conversations.

I would take part in Twitter chats and notice many of those same people would jump over to Facebook to have more private, engaged conversations…away from the mass 140 character updates. The hardest thing about Facebook is the restrictions on some of the interactive flexibility to share different types of media.  The other concept that helped Facebook, is the idea of being a “Friend”, which is a two way decision.

Twitter has a great concept, but the idea of “Followers” is a bit egotistical fundamentally. People would, and still do, focus on how many “Followers” they do or do not have. That name created a culture of competition, a race that fulfilled most American egos…I want more. This notion turned Twitter into a mass communication piece…just people buying into a culture of amplification.

This idea of “Circles” is intriguing. It takes the real time update concept of Twitter, combining with the ability to attach media with updates from Facebook, and combines the discussion idea of Wave…into Circles. I am actually wondering why they did not call Google Plus….Google Circles.

You have the ability to create a private room, a private place for a group of friends to interact and share. I have read so many people saying that they are going to go back to less numbers of people and move to a more intimate group of friends they know using Circles.

We want to be close to our friends. We want to share and be heard. Mass digital media has created so much noise that we are searching for a place to have conversations with friends we know in person and people we have met online. We want to have a closer relationship and feel open to speak freely, away from the public scrutiny of bad Tweets. The many politicians and public figures have shown us that Twitter’s amplification can hurt our credibility, especially when we share the wrong picture, say the wrong thing, or mis-represent the wrong brand.

We just want a place to be ourselves and share with our friends. It looks like Plus might provide that refuge…Circles is a place to be ourselves again and feel open and honest to share. So we do not have to change our handles to names that no-one knows and put avatars up to hide behind.

I am not sure how Plus will evolve, especially when they open it up to business accounts later this year. What are you doing when you go into Plus for the first time? Are you honestly re-thinking who you will let in, or are you just transferring the same online friendships and tendencies you had in other social outlets. Or, are you looking for a richer experience online with a tight nit group of friends. I know I am, I have a circle just for my Frat Brothers and one for my close friends.

I guess we will see what happens!

Google Plus: Circles…Circles…Circles…step back Facebook?


Oh yes…I have been completely impressed by the Circles concept in Google Plus. But my only reference point here is my Facebook account settings and Twitter Lists…but this is completely different.

So may times I have wanted to only interact with a group of people in a discussion, but has the interactivity of Facebook. I have found a link, an idea, a video, a picture, or an opinion…and only share quickly with a specific group of friends. This can be done by just creating a Circle of connections (people) then updating your status for these to see.

This to me is where I am beginning to see some value, and where I see where Google Wave has some influence. I can quickly create a “Circle” where I add friends/people/connections, then I can interact with them and only them. No more worrying about trying to separate a status update from those who you feel do not need to see this information. So many times on Facebook, I wanted to share a video with just a group of friends…but was worried about either upsetting someone on my public timeline or marginalizing someone based on the content of this update.

If you look below…you can see how an update will go only to a group of people are just in my “Friends” Circle.

Now…only my friends are interacting with this content. Just the friends I have dragged to this circle below:

So what does this mean…I can do more collaborative discussion online. I can create a “Circle” for a discussion and interact with them on the fly, separating that discussion from others I have connected with on Google Plus. This opens up a new paradigm for a person like me. I can create a “Circle” for a class I am teaching, creating discussions between the class members. I can create a “Circle” for a client, using this as an opportunity to have discussions, share media, share links, etc…all on the fly.

The other thing I like, is that you can extend this conversation beyond a circle. You can click to add more people and select to add a “Circle” of people to include in this update. You can also select “Extended Circles” as an option where this update is extended to that “Circle’s” group of friends. So you have grown you network of influence of an update by selecting the option for an additional degree of people to take part in that discussion.

You can add other “Circles” or even make the update public. Very cool…you can decide on the fly who you will interact with in one drop down menu. This is under the assumption you have set-up all your Circles of contacts. Pretty Cool Stuff!

Here is a video from Google about Circles:

Google Plus: Is it going to help your search results?

So…while trying to set-up my profile in Google Plus…I am trying to work through securing my profile name just like on Twitter and Facebook. Basically securing my own Google Plus URL with BobbyRettew. In the process of researching, I felt like my account had gone through all the initial set-up steps…so I thought I would Google myself to see if/how this new social network would appear in the search results.

This is what appeared above.  It was the 4th item listed in the Google search results. Wow, below was my LinkedIn, Facebook, then Twitter account profiles (in respective order). So recap this, this is the order of what appeared in a Google search for “bobby rettew” after having a Google Plus account for 30 minutes:

  1. BobbyRettew.com (My Website) – Established in 2008
  2. bobbyrettew.com (My Business Blog) – Establish in 2009
  3. BobbyRettew.com/about (The About Page on my Website) – Established in 2008
  4. Google Profile (Which is my Google Plus Account) – Google Profile established in 2008 and Google Plus in 2011
  5. LinkedIn (My LinkedIn Profile) – Established in 2007
  6. Facebook Account (My Personal Facebook Page/Profile) – Established 2007
  7. Twitter Account (My Twitter Profile) – Established in 2008

Notice the difference in dates of set-up and between Google Plus and the rest of the Social Networks, and how fast it generated a top search result. Look what information was presented for my Google Profile/Plus account:

It you notice, immediately people can see a few things:

  1. My Google Plus/Profile Picture
  2. Where I am located
  3. Where I am working
  4. My Tag Line
  5. Link to my Personal Blog
  6. Link to my Twitter Profile
  7. Link to my Website

All of this was immediately established based on the creation of Google Plus account. So…this immediately provides an immediate portal for people searching my name to the places to connect with me! Now, look at the order from left to right of the links below my tagline. They correspond to the order I created my links in my Google Plus account.

Ok…so now I get it. This is showing a direct relationships between my Google Profile/Plus account and how I can be found via a simple Google search. This has me thinking…thinking through the ROI for me of having an account. Now, have to figure out what the ROI might encompass from investing time in this new Social Network.

Tomorrow…I will release a post about Circles in Google Plus. It is pretty cool what you can do with these things!

Google Plus: Working thru all the Hub-bub? WHY?

So I just received an invite and I working through Google Plus and checking it out. As I login, I have noticed a few things:

  1. It is just another social network, another place to interact with people online.
  2. As I am creating my profile, it is pulling a lot of my information from my Google Profile. So if you have an up-to-date Google Profile, it is going to populate your Google Plus profile based on this information.
  3. It is basing your network of connections from contacts in your Google Account. Google Plus uses the term “Circles” as a name for your networks, and can be based on how you set-up your Google Contacts.
  4. It has a stream similar to Facebook, allowing you to make an update and include a picture, video, link, or location.
  5. Reminds a bit like Google Wave as far as the interface design and fluid interactivity.
  6. I am thinking through the business application for enterprise level usage such as Facebook Pages.
  7. Wondering how and when I am going to use this social network and if it makes sense for me? I am active on Twitter for both personal and business, Facebook for both personal and business, LinkedIn for business…so wondering where this makes sense for me? If at all?
  8. The digital media interaction looks fluid, specifically people are posting animations and other interactive media with ease.
  9. Google Plus looks like another extension of my personal Google Account. Yes…it is pulling information from my Gmail, Contacts, YouTube, Picasa, and Profile Accounts from one single Google login.
  10. Since you have to have a Google profile to have a Google Plus account, a Google Business account cannot accept an invitation currently. Yes, BobbyRettew.com is self hosted and also uses Google products such as Mail from Google. So when I log into my BobbyRettew.com Google Account…I cannot create a Google Profile. Thus, the Google Plus invitation sent to my Bobby@BobbyRettew.com email account would allow me to accept the Google Plus invitation. My Google Plus account is via my BobbyRettew@gmail.com email/Google login.

So here ya go…my initial thoughts after playing with it for about 15 minutes. This is purely a surface level overview…nothing strategic yet. Still thinking through and wondering the if, how, and when about this social network. Bottomline…everyone is raving, but do I really give a dang about investing time in another place to interact with the same group of connections. Or…maybe this social network will open a whole new place for new relationships and new interactive experiences.

Bottomline…I think it is still another place for Google to try to make a play on Social Networking; leveraging all the other technologies that are already in place for an individual’s Google Account.

Take away for me (since I am a tech geek)…it is going to be fun for a while. But eventually it will have to bring value beyond the honeymoon for me to engage along with all the other social outlets.

So tomorrow…part two of three posts: “Google Plus: It is going to help your search results?”