Google Plus, the new social network from Google, has been rapidly expanding. But contrary to early perception, it isn't just being used by techies to talk about Google Plus. Trey Ratcliff is a well-known photographer and already Google Plus has become his main social platform - despite already having large fan bases on Facebook and Twitter. Trey, a leading exponent of the HDR photography technique (high dynamic range imaging), runs a very popular travel photography blog called StuckInCustoms.com.
I interviewed Trey about how he's using Google Plus and why he's not focusing so much now on Facebook and Twitter. Below are his responses, including facts and figures about Trey's social media accounts.
As of writing, Trey has 41,516 followers on Google Plus. His Facebook Page has 20,513 fans and his Twitter account 23,788 followers. That goes some way to explaining why Trey is using Google Plus so much - after only 3 weeks he already has twice as many people following him there, compared to Facebook and Twitter. But as you'll read below, the reason he has so many fans on Google Plus is that the platform suits his purposes better. In particular, by driving more engagement with his community.
RWW: How many times on average per day do you post to G+?
I post 3-5 times per day and try to show new and favorite photos from my portfolio. However, there is a strange "Trey Ratcliff Virus" happening because of a coding peccadillo in Google+. Whenever anyone comments on any of my 300+ portfolio images, it creates a new post, which, unfortunately, makes some people think I am spamming.
RWW: How often do you consume other peoples G+ content?
I believe curating my own list of people to follow is very very important. I need constant inspiration and ideas, so I circle up people that give me ideas, make me happy, and make me think. I hope everyone starts to do this.
Google+ is more about who you follow, so that you are constantly inspired... so I hope people are more careful with who they follow this time around. If you follow too much nonsense, you get "noise" - and stop looking eventually, because you are overwhelmed. But, it is patently impossible to be overwhelmed with inspiration.
RWW: Has your usage of G+ meant a decrease on Twitter?
It has hit Twitter the hardest. I get 100x the engagement on Google+ over Twitter.
RWW: How about your blog, where all of your photos are published - along with tutorials and the like.
My blog StuckInCustoms is still the mothership and my main presence on the internet. I believe it is in the best interest of every artist to find a way to digitally extend their natural selves, so having a website is still important for that. I think of Google+ and these tools as leaving scent trails to a bigger food source, if you accept the super-organism communication analogy.
Many Google+ people ask "How did you make this photo?" So, I use this as an opportunity to drive them to a popular and easy tutorial on the blog - in the HDR Tutorial section. This allows me to branch off and say a lot more than I can say in a Google+ post.
There is also some important long-form content that is not appropriate for the Google+ environment; and many people do have a deeper interest in learning more.
RWW: Has Google Plus impacted on your usage of Facebook?
Facebook as been a problem, although the problem is anecdotal because it has worked out that I am both a person and a brand. Since many fans try to friend "Trey Ratcliff" and I hit that 5,000 friend limit years ago, I started a "Fan Page" for Stuck In Customs. It is popular, but many people can't find it. This causes confusion.
However, the FaceBook Page still has had 1.3 million Post Views per month, although I don't think I get as much engagement as I do with Google+.
A good example is exclusivity of posting - I try to exclusively post things to different communities to see engagement levels.
Less than 12 hours ago, I exclusively put up a new photo of Paris, and the level of engagement has been 100x higher than anything on FB. So, I feel like I will probably spend a lot more time on Google+, because this is where people ask questions, get to know the community, and more. It's a great threaded conversation where I can answer questions, give back, inspire people, and help them along their artistic quest to create new works and share them online.
Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France; a photo by Trey Ratcliff via www.stuckincustoms.com
In the next few days, I'll be exclusively posting a 'Making-of Video' of the Paris photo. If people want the information first, ask questions, find out more, then Google+ is the place to be. I very much value the feedback I'm getting - and I get a lot of energy out of the interaction. I'm happy to give back and keep the circle of love going round.
RWW: Other than the engagement you talked about above, what else about G+ that has made it such an attractive activity for you?
It has that ineluctable element of "fun". I can't put my finger on it, but there is something here that feels right as a way to give and receive stimulation.
Also, it's very human in a way. The interface of the streams and the hangouts enable me to get to know new people in a more human manner. Comparing it to Twitter, there is a not this matrix-like stream of symbols and bit.ly codes flying by my eyes. Here, I see photos, visual thoughts, videos, and the sorts of retinal stimulation that humans expect.
RWW: What features would you like to see in G+, given that you're an early and active user.
The video hangouts have been very popular. We have thousands of people trying to connect, but only 9 can get in at a time. I don't know much about the bandwidth technology, but it would be great if 11+ people could simply watch and listen - even if their faces are not shown.
Thanks Trey for a very informative interview! If you'd like to learn the basics of Google Plus, check out our launch post on how to use Google Plus. Also of course you can connect to myself and the rest of the RWW team on Google Plus. Here are some of us to get you started: Richard MacManus, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Sarah Perez, Audrey Watters, Dan Rowinski.