The Way We Work
December 19, 2011 by Julia Camenisch

You grab a cup of coffee and sit down at your computer. In the next few hours, you will accomplish a lot: rub digital shoulders with potential clients, code collaboratively with your remote team members and grab some inspiration from a fellow artist’s portfolio – all while promoting your brand across the social media landscape.

You might even spend some time improving your blog’s search engine optimization (SEO) while taking care of customer service issues. Yes, it has been a productive few hours – and you have done it all from the comfort of Google+.

Think this sounds a bit overblown? Then you need to spend more time with Google+. Here are four ways to employ this social media "Swiss Army Knife" as a useful tool for your freelance business.

Build your brand identity

As a freelancer, you are your brand. To establish your reputation, you have to consistently promote and build that brand identity.  Google+ is a great tool to help you accomplish that daunting task.

  • Add yourself to search results. Using the author information feature, your photo and Google+ stats could appear next to your blog posts and articles in Google search results. This feature is being tested right now, so it will not work for everyone – but once fully implemented, this will be a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
  • Use as another blogging platform. As with Twitter, you can gain a following by consistently posting good, relevant information. Each post is also assigned a permalink and indexed for search engines, so do not just link to your offsite blog or re-share other people's posts! Create content on Google+ just as you would on your business blog.
  • Take time to Hangout. While it might be a little scary to start a Hangout session, it is worth the plunge. The social interaction afforded by Hangouts is a great opportunity to interact with your followers and make some new connections. For inspiration, check out this great post about how musician Daria Musk’s career has taken off simply because of Google+ Hangouts.
  • Keep all your social media outlets updated.  Just because you post on Google+ does not mean you should neglect Twitter. Instead, if you are a Chrome user, you can employ some of the useful extensions listed in this MakeUseOf article. Using these various extensions will make Google+ your one-stop social media updater.

Efficiently collaborate on projects

Collaborating in the past required a tool like Yammer or Skype. Now, there is Google+.

  • Work in Hangouts.  Google+ Hangouts is a useful tool for networking, but did you know it is also a great collaboration tool? By using “Hangouts with Extras” (look for this aptly named button once you have opened a Hangout), you can video chat, work on a shared Google doc, share your screen or even do some brainstorming with the Doodle drawing feature. Best of all, this functionality is free. Look for more add-ons to appear as Google continues to refine this particular offering.
  • Ask for critiques from your circle of expert friends. Want an easy way to elicit feedback on your latest logo design? Using Google+ Circles, you can share items for critique with a select group of friends. This type of peer review is a valuable way to hone your work.

Optimize for search

Since Google+ context is indexed, any posts you share publicly will directly impact your online identity in search results – and not just in Google. Make use of this fact to improve your search rankings.

  • Use SEO Keywords. Wise use of keywords can boost your public profile. Make sure you fill in all relevant profile fields, then analyze the keywords you have used. Read "SEO Success", a past oDesk post on how to effectively use keywords for SEO.
  • Use SEO Images. It is not just your profile information that is important; the photos you add can also be tagged with keywords. Host your images with Google then embed them images on your website or blog; if you add the +1 button for people to promote the images they like, your photos and illustrations may rank higher in Google Image searches.

Learn from others

At this stage, Google+ is primarily populated by the tech-savvy early adopters. Many conversations are thus more professional and business oriented than might normally be the case. Take advantage of that fact by improving your personal knowledge base.

  • Follow thought leaders. Staying current in your field is a must if you want to produce an excellent product and attract new clients. Google+ provides a handy interface for learning from experts. Get started by checking these recommendations from TechRepublic.
  • Take part in interesting discussions. Do not simply lurk – engage as well! Sometimes the follow-up comments to a post are just as valuable as the original article. Share your thoughts and read how others respond. Not only will you grow professionally through these interactions, you will build relationships and engage in some casual networking to boot.

What do you think – is Google+ is the next big thing? Or are you inclined to focus your efforts on Facebook and/or LinkedIn? In the comments section, make your case for the best social media site for freelancers.


Julia Camenisch

Contributing Author

Julia Camenisch is a freelance technology and business journalist. She also works as an editor and copywriter for a wide range of clients, including national magazines, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Julia brings to oDesk a passion for empowering small businesses through the innovative use of technology.