Five steps to a Googlier you
The Googlification of the world affects not only companies, industries, and institutions but individuals. It brings new means and expectations for how we can advance our careers, lifestyles, and agendas. If we want to be Googley and take advantage of these new opportunities, then we need to understand how Google values creation, openness, connections, uniqueness, collaboration, and invention.
Create. The best way to be found via Google is to make something of value and make it public: a blog, a feed of photos or videos, a contribution to a discussion, an opinion, an application, a product, a company.
You may protest that you’re not creative—“I’m no writer,” I hear people say all the time. But you talk, don’t you? Think of the web as a conversation. If you have something of interest and value to say, say it. Others can hear you via links and Google. Your online portfolio becomes your persona, your résumé, and your personal brand: You are what you do, what you show, and what you say. Nothing can stop you.
To get started, go to Google’s Blogger, WordPress.com, Typepad.com, or MySpace. It will take you—I guarantee—only minutes to publish to the world. Share what you know and what you care about, whether that is your profession, your hobby, your town, your taste in movies, or your pets. Be open and generous. If you are a teacher, talk about life in the classroom and how children learn; parents will read it. If you’re a gardener, share your secrets. If you’re a veteran, share your memories. If you’re a tattoo artist, show us pictures of your oeuvre. If you’re a birdwatcher, give us a Google map with your best spots. Everybody knows something others want to know. Whatever draws you into the conversation will help you understand the internet better. That’s how I did it.
If you want to stand out, specialize—think small. If as you search for sites of interest you find a void, fill it. Maybe you’re a First Amendment expert and you find tons of blogs about it but none about your real specialty, free speech and comics. Grab it.
You don’t have to blog. You can leave comments on others’ blogs when you have something to contribute: a fact, a correction, a new perspective. Can’t stand to write? Then talk. Go to Google’s YouTube or to Seesmic and say what you think to a video camera. Take photos of your vacation, post them on Flickr, and tag them with the destination; they will help someone else decide whether to go there and you’ve become a travel writer. Leave a restaurant review at Yelp.com or TripAdvisor or a book review at Amazon and you’re a critic. Just create. That is the way to Google’s world.
Listen. Before you write, read. Use Google blog search, Technorati.com, Blogpulse, Icerocket, and the other sites to search for topics that interest you. I’m asked all the time for one place to get started reading blogs. There isn’t one because the web is filled with as many conversations as there are interests. The trick is to find someone writing about what you like and to follow links from there to find more people and sites.
You can keep up with these blogs, people, and topics using RSS, an elegant technology that simply lets you read constantly updated feeds of the latest from most any site or search. I use RSS every day to keep track headlines from publications and blogs I like, to follow what’s new about topics (companies, people, places, and words like “Google” and “journalism”), and to see what’s being said about me and my blog. You can get started with RSS at Google Reader.
Link. Here’s the single most important and counterintuitive lesson of the age—the Golden Rule of Google: Link unto others if you want them to link unto you. Linking to others is how they discover you. Other bloggers and sites use search and RSS to keep track of conversations about them. If you link to them, they may see what you have to say. If you add something of value to a conversation, they may link back to you—and their readers will also discover you.
You may link directly to a post a blogger wrote to add your knowledge or perspective. You also may curate a list of good sites you find as a service to your readers.
Remember that Google values links, which power PageRank and determine which sites are listed higher than others. Links are Googlejuice.
Links are like invitations to a club. Through them, you may join a network of bloggers writing about your area of the law or shows you love or a medical condition you have. I learn via links. I make friends via links. Linking is social.
Join. The internet is not just about data. It’s about people, connections, relationships. You may join Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebo, and other social services to link up with people you know and to meet more. You can have these services check your email addresses to see whether there are people you know already there. You may be surprised at how many you find. When you do find a friend, you ask to connect and both parties must agree. Then you may invite others in. And you can search for interests—marketing or BMWs or France—and join groups.
Some people connect with anyone and everyone, others only with people they know. I am among the latter. So don’t be insulted if you contact me on Facebook and don’t hear back. That’s because I use Facebook and LinkedIn to organize people I work with. The services are especially valuable at reconnecting me with former colleagues so we can keep up with each other.
Innovate. You need your personal 20 percent rule. Spend some piece of every week doing something new: research, learn, experiment, invent. You don’t know where it can lead. But you do know where doing the same old thing week in and week out will take you: nowhere.
My blog has been my 20 percent rule. I didn’t know that when I started. I thought I would blog for a few weeks until I ran out of memories to share from surviving the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. But it soon filled all available time and changed my view of the world and my career.
My blog taught me a great deal. It allowed me to experiment and to explore new ideas. It helped me connect with a new professional network. It enabled me to advise old media companies and new media startups. The blog helped me build a new reputation and to launch new careers as a teacher and now an author.
Your 20 percent doesn’t need to be a blog. It could be a company, interactive art, how-to videos, an online group, or something I can’t imagine. But this much I know: You must create, share, link, connect, and join if you want to succeed in the Google age.