Inbound Now #32 - Exploring Google+ with Shama Kabani

Editors Note:

This post did not age well 😅. RIP google plus.

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Shama is the author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing. She was on the Top 25 Under 25 Entrepreneurs in America list by Businessweek and she’s been named an Online Marketing Shaman by Fast Company. Shama runs her own web TV show over at Shama.TV.

In this episode, we chat about:

  • Why Google+ matters for marketing
  • Using Google+ for market research
  • How much time you should spend on Google+
  • The Google +1 Button


David: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of HubSpot’s Inbound Now. I’m your host, David Wells. Joining me today is a very special guest, Shama Kabani. Welcome to the show, Shama.

Shama: Thank you so much for having me, David.

David: This is actually me and Shama’s second interview. I interviewed her I guess it was like a year and a half ago now for another site, but I’m glad to get you back on here. I wanted to get you on here to talk today about something really new and fresh on every marketer’s mind and that is Google Plus.

Shama: That’s right.

David: Before I jump into that though, a little bit about Shama. She is the author of “The Zen of Social Media Marketing.” She was named the top 25 under 25 Entrepreneurs in America by Business Week. You were named an Online Market Shaman by Fast Company, and she runs her own Web TV show over at, which is really awesome and I recommend people check it out. So you’re ready to jump into talking about Google Plus and why people should care about it?

Shama: Yeah, totally.

David: Awesome. You recently wrote a post, “The 10 Ways to use Google Plus for Marketing.” I wanted to walk through some of those steps that you outline in that post and let people know, who aren’t too familiar with Google Plus. I’m sure everyone has heard it, heard it around the hall or whatever, but they don’t really know what this thing is yet or if they should even jump into it.

Shama: Okay.

David: What are some of those steps that people can use Google Plus for marketing?

Shama: I’ll go back just a little bit. The first thing that I will go ahead and preface that with is why people should even bother with Google Plus. Is that fair?

David: Yeah, definitely. That’s actually one of the questions. I’m totally out of order here today. It’s Friday.

Shama: No, it’s cool. It’s all good. It’s Friday when we’re recording this. It’s fine.

David: Yeah.

Shama: The reason that Google Plus matters, and if it was any other site, so let’s say it was like Yahoo Plus or AOL Plus or any other company created this, it wouldn’t have nearly the traction it does. That’s because Google Plus is very different than other social networks. Not in the sense that it doesn’t let you share pictures or posts, very similar in that sense to Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or any of these sites.

But the key difference – and there are actually a few things that make it really different – is that because Google is the king of search engines and rules a lot of traffic online and directing that, Google Plus is going to play a big part in that. So you want to make sure that you’re there, that your brand is part of it, that you’re being an early adopter because this will take off and it will serve very much I think as a social backbone, if you will, of social interaction, not just social networking, but social interaction overall.

So that is what I think makes Google Plus very interesting, and so the first thing you want to do, very basic, is set up an account. That’s the beauty of it. You don’t really have to go full-fledged in. You can just set up an account and sort of watch and feel and play with it. So if you do nothing else on Google Plus, go online and set up your profile, because I’ve already done some experimenting and research, and people with profiles are coming up in the searches. I was looking for a developer and I was logged into my Google Plus account. We were hiring, and I did a little search and about nine of them popped up with Google Plus profiles. That is very quickly going to grow exponentially.

David: Right. It’s very similar I would say to LinkedIn profiles, right, where you want to optimize your description and what have you with what your business does. There’s a lot of SEO that plays in there, right?

Shama: Yeah, and certainly because it’s Google, they’re looking at that very closely. So when you put your name, right under your name for example, it has a description tag. You want to try to use that description tag to the best of your ability. So if someone was searching for you that they would be able to find you using those things. Let’s say you’re a speaker. I would certainly put that in your tag. Same thing with Google Plus, when you have your profile, it gives you a link section. On the link section, very similar to LinkedIn, you can have text links. So I can write for example, Web TV show and link to or Web marketing blog and link to my LinkedIn, so whatever you’re trying to drive traffic for.

David: Right, gotcha. Cool. Another thing that you mentioned in that post is using Google Plus for market research and asking questions of people and doing hangouts. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Shama: Just in general, right now the engagement level is a lot higher on Google Plus and it’s kind of like, “Why? Well, that’s where everyone’s hanging out for now.” It’s sort of like the party has moved there but not everybody. I still don’t think that my mom is going to switch from Facebook to Google Plus.

David: One day.

Shama: Any individual who is not a techie and they’re not an early adopter and it took them a really long time just to get on Facebook and they’re really happy with their 120 friends, they’re not going to make the switch to Google Plus. It’s a very different type of group that you’ll find there, but a very interactive, engaging group. Certainly if you ask questions, you’ll find that you’ll get a lot. It’s like Twitter, back when there were like 3,000 of us.

David: Right.

Shama: You asked a question, you got like 21 responses. Of course, over time, that gets diluted. Right now a great place for market research. Hangouts, of course, is Google’s version of a kind of funny Skype meets … I don’t think it’s that innovative, but it is a neat way to bring people together. But really what it is, is video chat. So you can hang out with anybody you want, invite people to hang out. I don’t think it’s really an innovative feature because video is utilized so much by different sites now. Of course, there’s Skype, what we’re doing, and Facebook has it. You have options, but it is very easy to use. So if there is someone who was maybe shy on video or didn’t really know how to use it, hangouts gives you a very comfortable place essentially to do that. It’s a great place to get clients together for example. Or if you have a sales staff that is across the world or the U.S. or no matter where they are, you can pull them in for a Monday morning hangout. You can do educational stuff there. The full potential hasn’t been tapped, but the feature itself isn’t very innovative. It’s just you can do a lot of creative things with it.

David: Right, I’ve seen a couple of cool things happen. There’s a guy actually running a game show. He does like a weekly game show where the first ten people in the hangout are in the game show and he gives out prizes. That was one of them. There is a yoga instructor that’s doing yoga classes in a hangout. Some people are doing podcasts through this in a group setting. It’s kind of interesting to see when people use these new technologies. Again, it isn’t like groundbreaking, that oh it’s video chat but with a couple more people which has been done before. I think it’s kind of interesting to see how people use it to market their business or get that buzz.

Shama: I think it’s interesting and we’ll see some innovative things come out of it. I think they’ll even change it. I think they’ll add features to it to make it more innovative, like the feature itself, but I think that will take a while. For now, it’s a great tool, especially for example, let’s say you have a bunch of clients and you need to get all of their feedback for something or you want to do a training session with your team. Things like that I find that it’s very useful for.

David: Cool. Definitely. So as we expand into another social media site and it’s growing and growing, how much time should people spend? Like splitting between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and now Google Plus, it’s like we’re starting to get stretched so thin, right? So how would you recommend companies manage this new kind of medium into their …

Shama: It’s a really tough question to answer to be honest because a lot of it depends on what works for you. A lot of people are saying that they’re getting more engagement on Google Plus. What I would say though is don’t abandon ship. With social media and online marketing in general, consistency is so important. You have to keep doing it for a while before you say oh, and it’s like the shiny toy syndrome. It’s shiny. Let’s do the new thing. That’s what I think. I think businesses can start slow with it. I don’t think there’s any reason to abandon your fan pages or leave your Twitter account.

David: Right.

Shama: You don’t have to spend a lot of time on Google Plus is what I find. I haven’t spent, of course, I spent a lot of time for research and learning and making sure I understand the software, but personally I haven’t done too much in terms of playing with it myself or setting up tons of circles or things like that. I think if you were going to do nothing else but just set up a profile. Businesses can’t have profiles yet.

David: Right.

Shama: Google still has sort of a waiting list, and it’s kind of like when fan pages came out. They came out gradually with more features added. From a business perspective, again, having a personal brand base I think that’s really good. So if you own a company, it’s a great idea. If you are the social media spokesperson or the social media manager for your company, formally or informally, that’s a great idea. Just setting up your profile, for example, I think we’ve got 11 people from our company who are on Google Plus now. We sent them all instructions on what keywords to use to link to our website.

David: Nice.

Shama: So we’ve got links coming in from these profiles that are obviously active and whatnot. So certainly make the most of it, but I think the power right now is in setting it up correctly, even if you’re not devoting hours to it or whatever. Start slow and see what it feels like. Because it’s new, you may get a lot of engagement, and it may make more sense to spend time there as you get more traffic to your website from there and things of that nature. At the same time, you don’t want to abandon everything else you’re doing because Google Plus is new.

David: Right. So within the first three weeks, it’s grown to like 20 million users or something like that was the stat. Should businesses wait? I guess you can’t have a business profile right now. You can have the individual people in your company on Google Plus. Should they wait until it hits a critical mass, or is it like there’s an early adopter piece that may be like a huge advantage?

Shama: From a cost benefit analysis, and a very rough cost benefit analysis, it will take you like 20 minutes or less to set up a profile. Do it. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s less than 20 minutes. You can get someone on your team to set it up for you, not a big deal. So I would say go ahead and get that now, set it up, and even if you start doing things with it gradually, that’s fine. Again, I think the difficult part will not be necessarily getting those numbers but maintaining those numbers as we go forward. We may find that one certain niche is very attracted to Google Plus, so it may become like the hangout of the techies.

David: Right.

Shama: Or maybe Oprah will discover that.

David: And Ashton Kutcher and then it will be big. Yeah.

Shama: Yeah.

David: Gotcha. So on Google Plus, it’s kind of like Twitter and Facebook combined in the sense that you follow people like you do on Twitter. You drop them in the circles. Can you explain to the audience a little bit more about that?

Shama: Yeah. One of the things that Google said why they worked on Google Plus and their mindset or strategy behind it is this, it’s essentially that we live our life in layers. We have a layer of professional friends. I have friends I went to college with who know a very different side of me, and friends who I went to high school with, people I work with obviously. So let’s take a very simple example. Let’s say that you were in a fraternity in college and you have all of these friends and you have very different stories to share with them. Then you have the people who work with you and they have no idea of your frat days. They are two separate friend groups or circles, as Google likes to call them. So you can essentially create multiple mini-social networks within Google Plus and then share things with them specifically. So you can characterize what you want to share with each group and maintain those relationships differently. Facebook also allows you to do this with lists. I just think Google Plus is a lot more intuitive to do this.

David: Right.

Shama: It’s a lot of easier to drag/drop people. Facebook actually can be very clunky when it comes to this, because I have like 5,000 friends or whatever the limit is on Facebook. If I ever tried to list that out, it’s impossible. It takes just 30 minutes to load, so there’s no way I’m going to do that. Here I have not heard of a limit, so you can create as many circles as you want. Again, I think they will enhance this feature as it goes forward too, because you end up having a circle with one person and with three people and then what about overlapping circles? It’s going to be very interesting to see how they move forward from a marketing perspective. Your circles are very simple. You’ve got your team, you’ve got clients, and you’ve got prospects. In my circles, for example, I have a business contact circle. So people I met online or business colleagues that I may never even have met in person, I have a circle for that and I have a circle for the internal Marketing Zen team. Then I have a circle for past/present clients, future prospects. If I have some good news, I can share it with certain people. If you’ve got company news, we can share it with a company. It allows us to really sort of cater to each network.

David: Right, exactly. It’s basically when you do add someone to a circle, they don’t see that you added them to the acquaintances circle or whatever.

Shama: No, it just says you added them to a circle.

David: Right, and that’s one of the things that I think a lot of people don’t get. I didn’t get that when I first got on it. I was like, “Oh man, I don’t want to add this person to an acquaintance and them be I thought we were friends.”

Shama: My husband shared a really funny cartoon with me. It said you know who else had circles? Dante.

David: Yes, nice. I think what’s cool about Google Plus is the fact that you can have that personal profile where you’re sharing stuff with your friends; like the example you used with the fraternity brothers or whatever, and your business colleagues and you can separate that much easier than Facebook.

Shama: You can and it’s very easy to use. I think what’s lovely about it is that you can access your Google Docs. You’ve got sort of all the other Google Apps that play well together. Now the downside to that is if you have a Google Apps account, a premier account, even though you can get a Google Plus account. For example, mine is I have that account and I set that up with Google Plus, but it doesn’t link to my company documents.

David: Oh, okay.

Shama: So that’s something that they haven’t figured out yet how to do or are still working on releasing. So just FYI, if you are using it for business purposes, you may not necessarily be able to connect everything within one account.

David: Right.

Shama: So that’s something they’ll have to work on.

David: This isn’t Google’s first time around the block in terms of trying to get into the social game. There was Wave and Buzz. Do you think they got it right, Google Plus, they got it right this time and this is it or is this just another …

Shama: Is righter a word? Like right-er? I think if you’re looking at this on a spectrum and Google Buzz and Wave are epic fails, like a negative five, I think Google Plus is like a six.

David: Okay.

Shama: They’ve certainly come a long way from that, but it’s still not a ten. It’s not there yet. Again, the toughest part about creating any social network, and Google has the advantage but only to a certain degree, is getting people to switch and change. That’s going to be very tough.

David: Right. So with Google Plus, the Google Plus button is something that is being integrated in millions and millions of sites now. That’s having more and more of an effect in terms of how Google actually ranks stuff, right? I think once that kind of picks up, there will be more and more people checking out Google Plus. What do you think there? Should every website have … a lot of people put the Buzz button on their site. That failed. So maybe some people are hesitant. Do you think they should have the Plus One on …

Shama: I think this is very different than Buzz, because that was mostly like, “Oh, no, we’re stuck and I want to opt out.” Very different structure. I think that Plus One is a great thing to put, even if you’re not part of Google Plus and even if you’re not interacting there just because Google’s gotten a lot of flack over time on terms of the quality of search results.

David: Right.

Shama: They’re a smart company. They know this. So the only way to really fix this is to make search smarter, and you make it smarter by making it relevant and you make it relevant by letting people One Plus it.

David: Right.

Shama: Then you know what people like and what they want to share. So making search more social and that integration I think is what we’re seeing more and more of. Absolutely, that Plus One is going to be a huge help because I would imagine it’s already playing a big role in how Google is ranking websites.

David: Yeah, absolutely, and when a colleague of yours, or if they’re in your circle or whatever, if they Plus One the site, that shows in the search result. So it’s like on top of it ranking higher than other sites, it has that kind of social credibility behind it, right?

Shama: Yes, and Google is also now changing Google Places. I got an email today from someone who said someone in your circle has reviewed a place in Google Plus. I think this is there’s so much more integration to come and this is just surface level stuff.

David: Yeah, absolutely. I had Scott Stratten on probably like 20 shows ago, but he was talking about the idea of platforming, where you really should focus on one social media site at a time and then really grow that and then expand out. Do you agree with that, or do you think you should kind of get into all, like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and grown them all simultaneously?

Shama: I think it depends on two things:  One, your strategy - what are you trying to accomplish; and two, your time and resources. If you have the time and resources and you feel that the ROI is there and it’s part of your business strategy, yes, absolutely. That would be great if you can consistently maintain all of that. If that is a concern, if time and resources are lacking, then yes, please focus on Facebook and really do a good job and build up the community there before you start expanding out. At the same time, I think it is important to protect your brand and to sort of set yourself up for future opportunities that may come. So, there’s nothing wrong with setting up a Google Plus account right now, even if you’re not necessarily going to use that right away.

David: Right, exactly. Have you seen any traction like when you’re sharing out blog posts or something through Google Plus? I’ve seen a lot of content share very easily and very quickly so kind of that viral aspect. So that in itself would basically lend itself to it’s going to be a marketing channel moving forward, right?

Shama: Yes. Yes, absolutely, just because I think the people there are more engaged. You’ve got people spending more time on the site, and the way that they’re essentially looking at content that they want to look at so the chances of them sharing that is a lot higher.

David: Right, exactly. How do you keep up with everything that’s going on? We’re in an industry that’s constantly evolving, constantly changing. What resources would you recommend and do you keep up on, like different blogs or podcasts that you might check out?

Shama: Oh, boy.

David: Putting you on the spot.

Shama: HubSpot, you guys do some great stuff. I think that’s wonderful. I look at a lot of links on Twitter now, and I use Google Plus almost like a Google Reader because I look at what people are sharing and it goes into what you talked about, that sort of viral component. I also do a lot of my own experimenting and research and trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. There’s so much out there, but I think relying on my Twitter feed and my Google Plus and things like that; that’s where I’m getting most of my content these days.

David: Right, cool. Where can people find you online, Shama?

Shama: Well, you can find me on Google Plus. You can search for me, Shama Kabani. I’m also on, Twitter @Shama, and websites are and

David: Cool, awesome, and there is a shortener, a Google Plus shortener that you’re using?

Shama: It’s like gplus.q/shama.

David: Right. Definitely grab your shortened URL while you can. It’s a gold rush probably. I appreciate your time coming on the show, sharing your insights on Google Plus, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves and moves into the future.

Shama: Great conversation. Thanks so much.

David: Yeah, no problem. I want to get you back on the show eventually. We’ll do another one, again and again. Awesome. Cool.