Google Plus Hovercard: the ultimate personal branding tool

Google Plus Hovercard: the ultimate personal branding tool
Take your Google Plus marketing up a notch with the Google+ Pro Tips ebooks series.

Take your Google Plus marketing up a notch with the Google+ Pro Tips ebooks series.

UPDATED 11/16/2013 to reflect new instances of the hovercard across Google properties. I’ve also reorganized the list too, to make it easier to read. But the context and importance of the hovercard for networking and building relationships is still the same.

By now, if you’ve spent any time on social media, you will be familiar with hovercards: those “mini business cards” that pop up when you hover over someone’s name. Emphasis on business.

You see, when optimized correctly, your hovercard becomes a digital business card across that entire social network. And the more often you interact with posts, status updates, photos, etc. on that network, the more times your hovercard will be “handed out” to other users. If you’re constantly posting thoughtful, inspiring content in your comments and posts, other users will want to know more about you, so they’ll simply hover over your name.

That’s where you need to be prepared for optimum networking and personal branding.

What shows on the Google+ hovercard?

Hovercards typically have a profile image, your name, where you work, and a tagline of some sort. Clicking on your name will typically take the user to your profile page, but on nearly all hovercards across social media networks, including Google+, the user has the ability to “follow” you, right there on the spot.

Does your hovercard represent your personal brand?

Google+ HovercardSince your hovercard travels with you everywhere you post (and more, see below), a well-tuned combination of text and graphics will do wonders for your networking across a social channel. Below, I’ll cover the basics of the Google+ hovercard, which can be found in more than twenty places across various Google properties.

Think about that: this is an incredible opportunity to make an impression on people, and one that goes beyond the social network itself! The personal branding mother lode!

Places that display the Google+ hovercard:

The list below is broken down into sections of Google+ and Google itself. Remember, in each instance, you would hover over the name or profile image of the person to get their hovercard to pop up. And because there’s no such thing as “hovering” on mobile devices, this only applies to the desktop version of Google+ and Google.

On Google+ Posts, your hovercard will display on:

Some instances of where the Google+ Hovercard will trigger

Some instances of where the Google+ Hovercard will trigger

1. All posts

2. All comments

3. The Activity tab on a Google+ post

4. The +1 activity on any comment

5. A +mention in a post (or comment)

6. Your posts when someone is browsing the related hashtags on a post

How to use this to your advantage: When you see insightful comments on your own posts, or those of others, you can do a quick check of who that person is, and add them to your circles (assuming they’ve read this article and have optimized the text on their cover photo to give you a good idea of what they’re all about!). Or, you can “cherry pick” off of popular posts and add everyone who commented, shared or +1’d the post to your own circles. Knowing that they are active engagers, maybe they’ll follow you back, or recall that you added them if you start interacting with their posts and hover over your name!

Lists of people and recommendations from Google:

hovercard-youmayknow7. People you may know (from the home stream)

8. People you have in common

9. In your circles / Have you in circles (including the “View all” pop-ups)

10. Your circles themselves (when you have them loaded up under “People”)

11. What’s Hot -> “You might like” box (including the “View all” pop-up)

How to use this to your advantage: having a more complete understanding of the people you’re connecting with, when Google+ recommends them to you, is obviously important. And it saves you from having to click on each one of the profiles, then return to the previous page where the recommendations may have changed.

Elsewhere on Google+:

hovercard-hangoutschat12. The Hangouts (chat/messaging) flyout menu on Google+ (not in Gmail)

13. Event comments (here’s an event page, give it a try!)

14. Event attendee list

15. Communities > “Created by” box (awesome exposure for Pages that own a community)

16. People who are tagged in a photo

17. Google+ Ripples diagrams*

18. Hangouts On-Air attendees pop-up**

Ripples trigger your hovercard* Ripples – The hovercard in the Ripples Diagram is a really huge boost to your visibility. If you share a post Publicly to your Google+ audience, the Ripples diagram for that post will display your name as well as increase the sphere of your influence as your own audience reshares your post. When a user sees this, they can hover over your name in the column, see your post, and add you to their circles on the spot. Chances are they’ve already seen your share, because you +mentioned them and they got a notification, but if you forget, or another user is using the Ripples diagram to locate key influencers on a topic, this is huge exposure for you.

(click on either of those pictures to load up a larger version)

Google+ Hovercards trigger when the Hangouts On-Air attendees window is launched** Hangouts On-Air (HOA) attendees pop-up – If you participate in Hangouts On-Air, a default post is created on the host’s Google+ profile with the title of the HOA, and the text “[host’s name] and # others participated.” These posts are high-engagement posts because they are promoted on the Google+ feeds as Live, On-Air events (which always attract attention). Then, after the event is over, the video saves as a YouTube video on the same post. Anyway, this line of text is clickable, and opens up a list of the participants, whose names trigger the hovercard when moused over. This is incredibly important for those of you using HOA’s to boost your visibility!



The Google+ hovercard on other Google properties:

19. Emails to Gmail addresses from businesses whose addresses are verified with their Google+ page (spotty results)

20. Shared docs in Google Drive, including comments

21. The profile, page and community badges all show just like a hovercard, you can put these on any website (example)

22. Blogger posts that +mention a user, and comments* on that post from Google+ users will both trigger the hovercard.


23. Within Google News results, an author of an article who has connected his/her profile to their publisher’s site with Authorship will have the rich snippet thumbnail next to their article, but this currently also triggers the hovercard.


24. YouTube comments…sort of.*

*YouTube and Blogger comments also have the ability to be posted as Google+ posts to that person’s profile. They both, however, still coexist as a comment on the YouTube video or Blogger blog page.

In the case of Blogger, we’ve already said that the hovercard shows up on both the comment (and obviously the Google+ post, see #1). For YouTube, however, the comment left on YouTube stays as a YouTube comment, most likely because as this time, YouTube offers users their own hovercard which is aimed at getting people to subscribe to your channel. Personally, I expect this to change at some point, and Google to add a “Subscribe” icon on the Google+ hovercard itself.

hovercard-youtubeThis is where it gets a little confusing. As you can see from the graphic (click to expand), this was a comment on one of my videos about adding a caption to your Google+ cover photo. It’s a Google+ post that’s been integrated into the YouTube comment stream (you can tell because it says “via Google” next to Sprout Social’s name. That happens on Blogger too).

Mousing over Sprout Social in the YouTube comment will not trigger their hovercard. However, because they +mentioned me, my hovercard pops up here on YouTube (so that’s a tip people, make sure you always +mention people in your YouTube-related comments and posts!). So does Brooke Ballard’s because they +mentioned her in their post.

Furthermore, my original Google+ post where I shared the video is in the shaded area (Sprout Social reshared me). That also shows the hovercard because the post originated on Google+.

This is confusing, right? If you think it through it becomes more clear, but the example here should help. From a personal branding standpoint, just realize that the integration with Google+ and YouTube means more instances of your hovercard appearing on YouTube video pages, especially if you are being +mentioned. So if you’re the one sharing and resharing video posts, be sure to +mention others too so their hovercards show up!

What’s left at this point? Well, we still have better Gmail integration, Google Calendar, and Local/Maps listings. Hovercards have shown off and on over the years in regular search results pages as well. This is always a moving target, but the key takeaway here is to realize how powerful that little business card can be since it appears in so many places on Google+ and Google. The more active you are in comments, posts, etc. the more opportunities you have to show up.

Optimizing your Google+ Profile means
Optimizing your Social Business Card

Look above at everywhere you can “hand out” your Google+ “business card.” Do you see how 2nd-degree connections, and even pure strangers, could connect with you, boosting your network and influence across Google’s properties?

So, while you’re busy posting, sharing, commenting, and +1’ing, make sure your profile is ready to get that instant “Add to Circles” when someone mouses over your name or profile photo.

Here’s what to put in various fields in your profile to optimize your Google+ hovercard:

Google+ Hovercard TemplateGoogle+ Cover PhotoBrand identity, and a visual call to action to add you to specific circles about your areas of expertise.

Download a template for your Google+ cover photo

Tagline – Tell me exactly who you are, and what I should expect from your posts. Make it short, 45-55 characters.

Employment – Your latest place of employment is listed. However, what’s to say that place of employment isn’t a URL to your landing page?

Education – If you have a school marked “Current” in your profile, that will show up as well, including the “School of Hard Knocks.” But, what’s to say your business can’t be an institution of higher learning, and snag you another mention of it on your hovercard?

Location – Where you live. An actual location is better than “The Interwebs” or “Somewhere over the rainbow.” Why? Because including geography in your profile will allow users to find you when searching for people to network with in their area. **TIP** – You can also use a region or metro area (for example, I could use “Boston area”) if you think it would be more useful to get your name in front of people searching for other local users, or if you want to associate yourself with a metro area and not a specific town. A big thanks to +Chef Dennis Littley for this nugget, which he blogged about on The Bloggers Guide to Using Google Plus.

Update on that “metro area cheat” – the side effect of not having an actual location is that aggregating services such as CircleCount, AllMyPlus, etc. cannot place you on the map. You’ll end up in the Philippines.

For a more step-by-step rundown of how to edit your Google+ hovercard <– click that link.

Pulling it all together

An optimized Google+ Profile — at least the fields that are displayed in the hovercard — will tell your audience who you are, what circles to put you in, and what you can do for them. The ultimate networking and personal branding tool. As more people look for ways to establish influence and authority on Google+, your optimized hovercard will undoubtedly help you become their go-to resource for your area of expertise.

Related and Mentioned Resources:

Please keep me in mind if you discover new places where the hovercard has appeared…I would like to make this a definitive guide if at all possible.

About Stephan Hovnanian

I own Shovi Websites, a website design and email marketing company located outside Boston. I spend my days managing websites and staying up to speed with all the latest trends across the web so you don't have to.

NOTE: If you're commenting on the Google Plus Comments, please add +Stephan Hovnanian so I can follow up.

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  • Carole Rigonalli

    Very nice! Very helpful.. (You can find that twice on this page now;-)

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      Thanks, Carole. Glad to have helped, and congrats on the cameo in my pic above! :)

  • Nigel Mitchell

    I admit, I haven’t that much thought into my card. I need to work on that

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      Glad to have helped, Nigel. Now’s the time to spend a few extra minutes on it, simply because Google+ is poised (in my opinion) to really pick up some steam during the coming months. You have an opportunity to set yourself apart as someone who “gets Google+” for newcomers.

  • Joseph Erle

    Thanks for the tip. Just changed my education to say ‘Tech E&O Ins Expert’ to highlight my niche (and marked it current).

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      Great Joseph! Sorry it took so long to see this comment, I didn’t get the email notification from DISQUS.

  • geofflord

    Thanks Stephan, I changed my profle immediately after reading your article. Great article, Many thanks.

    • zersys

      HI geofflord I also have changed my profile….Thanks to the design company bangalore

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      Awesome, so happy it helped. I should mention that I just updated the article with tons of new info. Take a look!

  • Stephan Hovnanian

    So, in watching the Ripples (re-shares) today of this post I saw a couple people point out the fact that “gaming” the Education field might be questionable. I totally understand that point of view, however, the primary reason one puts their places of education into their profile is to connect with other classmates…it’s part of the social graph that helps users find each other. So, I submit that if you’re out of college, and have nothing to put in that field that’s “Current”, then why not use it for marketing yourself?

    • Gina Fiedel

      I was one of those folks that saw the education line looking odd in my
      cover once I entered a “current” for the sake of my hovercard and I just
      want to pipe in and say it didn’t stop me one bit. I agree that most
      users look at the hovercard rather than the cover. So, I’m sold.

  • Warren Whitlock

    Great advice. I’m updating my Hover Card now

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      Thank you Warren! So sorry it took me this long to see the comment; I rely on DISQUS for email notifications and didn’t get one for some reason.

      • Warren Whitlock

        Yeah, it’s hard to see them on you Hover Card :)

  • MJ Bush

    This has been wonderfully useful. I would add one more place that your tagline shows up though it isn’t the full hovercard: to the right of ‘permalink’ posts, where the post has a page of its own. Just another reason to have an effective tagline.

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      Just saw that yesterday, MJ, good find!

  • Wade Harman

    Great find! I actually stumbled across this…very cool to know that you can do all of this!

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      It’s an extremely important part of your Google+ presence, Wade. Combine this with the other profile-related posts on my site (the cover photo, the profile optimization and cover photo SEO tips) and you can paint a very complete picture of yourself for both Google and Google+ users.

  • Peg Fitzpatrick

    Fabulous job, Stephan!

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      Thank you as always Peg!!

  • Christine DeGraff

    I feel like I want to be on a mission to find more places to add to your list now Stephan!

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      I’m expecting YouTube comments next, now that they’ve been integrated with Google+. There’s already a YouTube channel hovercard, but that’s not the same hovercard as your Google+ profile (understandable, and probably going to stay that way for a long while). Thanks for the shout-out in your blog, by the way, it means a ton!

  • Joan Stewart

    This is a golden nugget that I’m sharing this with my followers. But two things are stumping me:

    –I can’t get my short tagline “Tips, tricks & tools for free publicity” to show up under my name on my hover card. I know it doesn’t show up when you are logged in. I log out and still can’t see it.

    –Under Education, your hover card does not include the word “Attended” but it includes your company name. How did you remove that word?

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      Joan, your hovercard is different than the profile page. The tagline doesn’t show on that new section of your profile page where your profile pic is. If I mouse over your name, I see the tagline. Honestly I don’t know why Google does this, hopefully they’ll read this article and say “hey, we should fix that” ๐Ÿ˜‰

      It also doesn’t show “attends” or “works at”. Just the company and education. Again, not sure why they aren’t consistent other than maybe to conserve space.

  • Lia

    I’m sorry, but this hovercard idea is somewhat annoying. I get the idea of wanting to promote your profile but not allowing people to dismiss the hovercard is bothersome. I would just like to read the comments without it popping up. Furthermore, the hovercard DOES NOT GO AWAY even on my home page!

    • Stephan Hovnanian

      Hi Lia, I agree with you that sometimes the scripts that run on (all of these) sites can trip over each other and make it difficult to see what’s behind the hovercards. Thanks for adding the photo for context.