Google+ Collections - Hot or Not?

Have you read any articles from top tech news sites about Google+ Collections?

I have: they've generally been a bunch of crap. From the uninformed to abusive.

So I thought I'd write some pointers on what collections are and how you can use them for the benefit of both you and your followers.

But first a bit of a rant ...

The Verge

"Its mission is to offer in-depth reporting" - From the Verge's about page. 

The Verge article is light on detail and is written by staff member (Jacob Kastrenakes) who doesn't appear to have a Google profile (or maybe even a Google account?).

It has a couple of lines from other publications and a couple of embedded tweets from another staff member who does have a Google profile. 

I'm not sure if Casey Newton was officially tasked with testing this new feature out for the Verge's in-depth article but as far as I can tell he created one collection titled "A bunch of crap". 

Creating one collection defeats the object of Collections. As a publisher you would use collections to break up your content into areas of different topics. 

Just one collection doesn't give the publisher the option to share different topics, or give the audience the choice to follow, or unfollow, the topics that interests them. 

Casey also chose, for some inexplicable reason, to create a new Google identity rather than use his established identity.  


At the point of writing this post both the newly created "Casey" and the real one have only the crap collection housing the three original posts to their name. 

So in summary the Verge's in-depth article was written by someone who didn't have a Google profile and was populated by one crap collection made under a throw-away profile. Does that count as in-depth reporting?

The Register

"The Register is a leading global online tech publication .." - The article by The Register was much worse. Or better, depending on your perspective. With their headline ...


Quotes include:
  • "unveiled a desperate-looking new feature dubbed Collections"
  • "latest attempt to create some buzz around its ID-slurping "network thingy""
  • "Collections appears to be a half-arsed push from Google to get more people to hang around for longer on its ailing Google+ service"
It was written by Kelly Fiveash ...

Kelly Fiveash's profile appears completely unused.

Isn't "reporting" by tech sites supposed be done by writers who have a better than average understanding of what they're writing about? Anyway rant over, let's move on to a bit about Collections and a few use-case examples.

Collections = win / win

Collections are a win for you as a publisher and a win for your audience. 

The follower wins

Following someone's updates on social media is generally an all-or-nothing affair. You may come across a person who occasionally shares updates on a subject you are passionate about but is also "noisy" in areas that don't interest you. Your choice to follow that person or brand has been a question of whether they share enough of the stuff you like against all the updates that you, as the follower just sees as noise. 

Followed and Unfollowed Collections

Collections, assuming the person or brand you are following bothers to use them, helps to solve that noise problem. 

The publisher wins

As a publisher there are often times when you may wish to share something that "may not fit" with the the audience you have spent time building up. Collections help your break-up what you share into areas where the audience is empowered to choose what they want from you. That empowers you to share more, try new content out and grow into new topic areas as you wish, without worrying about alienating your current audience. 

Collections - The fine print

There are two notable aspects to Collections that have gone unreported. One aimed at the publisher and one aimed at the audience. 

For the audience - Collection Notifications - Don't miss out!

When you follow a Collection you you are basically raising your hand saying "I would like to see updates from this collection in my home stream". But, like Facebook, what you'll see in your home stream on Google+ is governed by algorithms filtering content from all the people you have in your circles and all the collections you are following. Factors like how often you engage on that person's content will make it more or less likely that the content will be surfaced in your home stream. You can see updates chronologically in any Circle stream view, but not everything makes it into your home stream. 

So if there is a collection you are particularly interested in you can turn on notifications for each collection you want and be notified when a new post is made!

For the publisher - Default unfollowed Collections  

This one may sound a bit odd to publishers who are set on getting their content in-front of as many eye-balls as possible. Why make a collection that your current audience is NOT following by default?

Think a bit out-of-the-box here and there could well be reasons why you may want to set up a new collection this way. Want to start sharing on a completely new topic? Want to go ape-shit covering a breaking news story? Want to set up a niche sharing topic? All those could be use cases for starting a "default following off" collection.   

Creating a new collection and then editing it to set it as default unfollowed: populating it with some great content and then sharing it with your audience, with details of what they can expect to see added from that point on can also be a great way of starting from zero, but involving your audience and giving them the choice of opting in. 

Collection Examples

Collection discovery is not well supported currently. If you have a busy home stream you can discover collections from reshared content, by visiting the original post which will have a "collection header" if the post was originally shared to a collection. Click that to see the collection. Click the collection owner's name to see all their collections. There are also "recommended collection" cards in the stream. Collection search and other discovery options are sure to follow soon though. You can see a number of recommended collections here. Tip: refresh that page to view more. 

Collections I've made ...

Here are a number of examples of the collections I've made so far. I'll add notes where appropriate to show the thinking behind the way they were set up. 

Happening London


The happening London collections follow pretty much the topics for the content I've been sharing from the page already. They are all default "on" but I know one or two of the current audience have been a little perplexed by the "London Loos" content. They can now unfollow that and just stick with what they want. 

I was lucky enough to have a couple of those collections featured. 
Can you guess when Collections launched? 

Ford Europe

I've set up a number of collections for the Ford Europe Page

Initially collections have been set up as default following on. With some thought given to what the audience may wish to receive from the page.

The "Shares" collection is just what is says. Highlighting other people's content shared on Google+. This opens up the possibility to share more of other people's content. People who only want content directly from the page can easily unfollow. 

I have also shared the collections with an explanation of what to expect and linked to each share from the about page.  

Since originally setting up collections for Ford Europe I've gone back and set up a default unfollowed collection


The "Top Tweets & Instagram pics" collection is a great way to bookmark the brand friendly shares from others from twitter and instagram. Mentioning the original sharer where possible helps build relationships both new and established across the other platforms. 

Although the collection does not "push" content to the page audience using appropriate hashtags has made the content visible to those who are looking, which helps both the page and the original content sharer. The collection is also a great way to highlight the top content from any activations that may be taking place across the other two platforms

Conclusion

So with a little more understanding of what collections are and a couple of super-user tips I hope you've been inspired to take more than a quick look at how you may wish to utilise collections both for your benefit and to give your audience the choices they don't have else ware. 

Collections aren't the holy grail, but they are a major update to what is already a social channel that has a thriving, with a connected and engaged audience: if you take the time to be there.  I've waited a long time for collections to arrive and have been amazed at the number of great collections there already are out there don't forget to take a look at mine ;-)

Have you set up your Collections yet? 

Footnote: if your are following some major brands who haven't set up collections and you wonder why that is. Chances are that they are using a third party application to post to their Google+ Page. Those applications don't have access to post to specific collections yet. 


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