List Building using Google+ Notification circles

List Building using Google+ Notification circles

Google Plus Notification CirclesThere is a feature in Google Plus that allows you to “push” a notification of your post to a set of users in one or more circles. This notification will appear in the user’s Google+ notification tray, saying “[your name] shared a post with you”.

If you have push settings (phone and/or email) enabled for when people share a post with you, those notifications will appear as well on your phone or inbox (or both).

What this means: the real benefit of these notifications is to build awareness of a post, so that users interested in your content won’t miss it. Sounds a lot like email marketing, doesn’t it? Someone opts into your email list, and you send them an email when you have something important to say, hoping they react to it.

I think so, and as a result am going to give you some suggestions to make the most out of this feature. Because, like email lists, there’s a delicate balance of overuse and misuse, which on Google Plus could lead to your being blocked by your “subscriber.”

List Building / Opting In

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

Before I get started, I want to also direct you to +Mike Allton‘s excellent tutorial about creating notification circles on Google Plus. He beat me to the punch, as I was working on a very similar post myself; but it worked out for the better, because I am going to give you some next-level ideas on how to expand on what he wrote.

Your ultimate goal should be gaining the trust of your notification circle subscribers such that they want to join your email list. Why? Your email list is yours, it’s portable, and in the event the format of Google Plus notifications changes, you’ll still have access to these most loyal fans.

And as with all things related to list building, you need to make this as simple a process as possible. I would recommend creating a post on Google Plus that lays out the foundation for your notification circle strategy:

  1. What types of posts you share
  2. How often you share them
  3. What a notification means
  4. How to adjust your push settings to stop emails and phone notifications
  5. How to unsubscribe

Here’s the the post on Google+ that I will be using for my notification circle strategy.
If you want to be added, go ahead and comment right from the embedded post!

Subscriber Management

Like any good email marketing program, careful subscriber management is important. I’m not talking about honoring subscribe and unsubscribe requests, that’s a given. I’m talking about making sure your list doesn’t get stale. Remember, this is a social list, your goal should be engagement, especially comments and shares.

Periodically, you should go through your posts to see who is engaging, and reach out to those in a private post to ensure they are still interested in staying subscribed.

Here’s a big tip: You can only email a maximum of 100 users through the push notification (and the 100 counts toward the total number of profiles included in the notification, irrespective of whether they have the actual email setting turned on). If you’re getting close to 100 people in your notification circle, consider getting some of them off the circle and onto your email list, especially those who aren’t engaging on your post.

It’s very, very possible that these users aren’t on Google Plus much, but just don’t want to miss your content. Honestly, that’s the perfect description of an email subscriber. But remember, you want social interaction, so get them off the Google Plus list and onto your email list! You do have one, right?

Bonus suggestion: Set up an RSS feed email campaign that you can offer as an alternative to social notifications. This would work like Feedburner (whose days might be limited?) and could easily be set up to run a campaign of your latest posts every day, or even every week. For the casual observer, an RSS based campaign is a very good option.

Opting Out

At some point, people want off. In the email marketing world, it’s called “list fatigue” and it’s perfectly normal. The most important part of the opt out process is to honor it, honor it quickly, and keep it simple. If you become known for managing your subscribers efficiently, then believe it or not, more people will be willing to opt in.

I would recommend placing the following instructions in every post (or something like it):

“To stop receiving notifications, tell me in the comments or send me a private message. No hard feelings, and no questions asked.”

If it happens, just hover over that person’s name, and right from their hovercard remove them from your notification circle. Boom. Done.

Using a “footer”

Email campaigns usually have a required block of information in the footer, for compliance purposes. A post that includes a notification circle should be no different. So, you should have this (or something like it) copied down so you can just paste it into each message:

My email list ( gets first crack at all my blog posts, but I also have a Google+ notification circle
To be added to it, tell me in the comments or send me a private message.
To be removed from it, tell me in the comments or send me a private message.
To learn more about my notification circle policy, click here (

Why would you use a footer in the first place? I mean let’s face it, that’s a lot of extra text to drop into every post. However, the biggest benefit is that by putting this out there, all the shares of your post (which is a big part of why you’d have one of these circles in the first place) will have this information on it. That’s the equivalent of having a signup form directly in your newsletter. It’s built-in marketing!

Getting filed into the “junk” folder

The major difference between Google+ push notifications and email campaigns is that your message will never have deliverability issues. There are no SpamAssassin algorithm triggers either. But there is an issue of sender reputation to uphold. Put simply, if you overuse and abuse your privilege to send push notifications to a subscriber, they will find it much easier to mute or block you than ask you to unsubscribe them from your circle.

If you’re blocked, every post you write is hidden from that user. Every post. Not just the ones that are pushed to that circle. Every. Single. One. That, to me, is a huge blow to your sender reputation, and to your ability to reach that particular user for any type of content, even the posts that legitimately would be of interest to them.

This is why it’s so important to keep on top of your notification circle subscriptions, and provide simple instructions for opting out in every post that includes push notifications, like the sample above.

Parting thoughts

We’ve made several parallels to email marketing today, and there’s one more. As my email marketing consultant buddy +DJ Waldow says, “best practices are what work best for you.” So test, test, and test some more!

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.

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