B.L. Ochman
In this conversation with social media expert B.L. Ochman, originally broadcast and now archived as a Google Hangout on Air, we make the point that communicators and marketers can no longer ignore Google+.

B.L. Ochman is a Certified GooglePlus Helpout Coach for brands and agencies as well as a Google-certified YouTube Channel Creator. She works with the biggest brands and has been doing this since before most marketers even knew what “digital revolution” meant. My favourite quote about B.L. comes from Adweek. They say: “B.L. Ochman: A consultant and social-media savant who actually knows what she’s talking about.”

You can watch the video of the interview here.

In this conversation, among other things, B.L. Ochman outlines the great work in G+ of some big brands, and also offers this advice:

  • Be sure your Google+ profile is complete
  • Use a great headshot; be sure yours is the correct size and orientation
  • Remember Google+ is a very image-friendly place; use photos and other visuals to your advantage
  • Take advantage of Google+ Communities
  • Be sure to try out Google Hangouts, which offer rich features to enhance your online communications
  • Keep in mind that Google has changed its search algorithms so that engagement matters!
  • Google+ is Google after all, and tightly integrated with Google Search.
  • Think about working with a Google+ guide to help you navigate the ins and outs.

Contact B.L. Ochman for more information.

If you’re in the Toronto area, be sure to check out Donna’s upcoming Hands-on Social Media Workshop.

Where to send comments: email to Donna AT or  comment here on the blog.

Theme music for Trafcom News Podcast is “Beneath Your Surface” by the Elisabeth Lohninger Quartet from Music Alley.

UPDATE: Below is a transcript of this podcast. Transcription service provided by

D. Papacosta:
What You Need to Know Right Now about Google Plus.  This is the Trafcom News Podcast for January 10th, 2014, show number 126, and I’m Donna Papacosta at Trafalgar Communications in Oakville, Ontario, just outside Toronto. Trafcom News is a podcast about communications tactics. Tactics for people who care about communicating, whether that’s in person, in print, or online.

Today I’m excited to be bringing you an interview with my friend B.L. Ochman talking about Google Plus. This is the first time I’m doing an interview for my podcast as a Google hangout on air. Although I’ve been doing hangouts for at least a year, it’s my first hangout on air. I will include a link in the show notes. You can watch the recorded version, which is on my YouTube channel, or you can just listen to this podcast.

Here’s my chat with B.L.

D. Papacosta:
Okay, hi. This is Donna Papacosta at Trafalgar Communications in Toronto, and I am delighted to have a special guest with me today, B.L. Ochman in New York. Hello, B.L.

B.L. Ochman:
Hello, Donna. How nice to be here with you.

D. Papacosta:
It’s wonderful. You and I have been talking about Google Plus for a while now and, of course, I’m watching what you’re doing online. As I was mentioning to you, sometimes when I do my own workshops I have people who say to me, “Well, you know, I’m into … I really want to learn about Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, but, you know, Google Plus, it’s sort of out there. I don’t think anyone’s using it,” and I say, “You have to know about G+. Now is the time.” I think it’s the perfect opportunity to ask you to talk about G+.

First, for anyone who doesn’t know you, the famous, I call the famous B.L. Ochman, I just want to say a few things about you because I know you won’t say these things about yourself, but I can.

The reason I invited B.L. is that she is an expert at social media and at marketing. She is a certified Google Plus Helpout coach, which probably some of you don’t even know that that exists. She works with brands and agencies in that capacity. She’s also a Google-certified YouTube channel creator. B.L.’s been working with the big brands. She continues to do that now and she’s been doing that for many years. But my favorite quote about B.L., and I don’t think you knew I was going to say this, comes from Ad Week. They say, “B.L. Ochman, a consultant and social media savant who actually knows what she’s talking about.”

That’s an important thing, right? That’s probably distinguishes you from a lot of people. Let’s get right into it. First of all, how do you answer those people who say, “Oh, Google Plus, it’s irrelevant. It’s too soon. Don’t need to know about it.”

B.L. Ochman:
These are the same people who in 1995 said, “Use your credit card on the internet. I will never do that.” Then in 2007, when Twitter came along, they said, “Ah, Twitter, how ridiculous. I don’t care what anybody ate for lunch.” When I posted about Twitter in my blog in 2007 saying it was important for marketing, people who shall remain nameless called me all sorts of names. They’ve since apologized. They’ve eaten their hats.

It’s the same thing now. There is something new that you have to learn, like it or not, Google Plus is the evolution of Google. It is integrated into everything that Google does. It’s integrated into Gmail, into YouTube, Analytics, Blogger, Search, most importantly Search.

Larry Page, the former CEO of Google has said, “If you ignore Google Plus, Google Search will ignore you, and you just can’t have that happening.” A few months ago, I lose track of time on the internet, but recently there was a huge change in Google search algorithm and basically keywords are not what counts anymore. What Google is counting right now is your engagement with followers in Google Plus. It is not a matter of how many followers you have. You don’t go by followers. That’s not what’s important. What’s important is are people interacting with what you say? Are they resharing it? Are they commenting on it? Those are called ripples. Even if you have a small number of followers, if those followers are engaged with you, then you’re going to have a benefit in Google search. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. That’s the key. Google search is clearly the key.

D. Papacosta:
I have seen this myself with certain posts I put on Google Plus where, especially when I use the hashtags. Then, if someone searches on that topic, you really do rise up in those search rankings. If for no other reason search alone, and as you say because Google looking at that engagement, it’s important for brands and consultants and anyone who cares about search and that’s most people who are in business probably.

You’ve touched on this, but I want you to expand on the idea that Google Plus is not just another social network. I remember people saying, “Oh, this is Google’s answer to Facebook.” Just not true.

B.L. Ochman:
Absolutely not. What we’re doing right now for those who may not know, this is the hangout on air. It is arguably the best video meeting platform ever. If I were Gotomeeting, if I were Adobe Connect, I’d be quaking in my boots right now because what is happening right here, because your YouTube channel is integrated with your Google Plus page, is that this live hangout on air is automatically, or as some people like to say, automagically being recorded and will automatically show up in your YouTube channel.

You then will have an opportunity to put a custom thumbnail on it, to add links to it, to add keywords to brand it in any way that you choose, to edit it. Google has rather rudimentary … YouTube has rudimentary editing capabilities but you can’t edit in another program, put it back up. There will be a recording of this live hangout on air that anybody can watch afterward. We could have had up to 9 … You can have up to 10 people in the hangout, meaning … The little thing on the bottom is called the filmstrip and we could’ve had 7 other people participating with us, invited into this hangout to participate with us.

There also is software allowing you to have up to 100 people in a hangout and to be able to interact with each other. We are able to share documents, PowerPoint video, photographs, whiteboards. We can do any kind of business collaboration right in a hangout. We can use these privately or publicly. We can limit the people who see them. We can limit the number of people who are able to view this afterward.

Nothing like this has existed before and it’s free and it’s open to anybody. The issue here, and that was your question originally, the issue here is that there’s a learning curve and it’s a steep learning curve. I won’t kid you. I’ve spent the past year learning the ins and outs of how to use Google+ and I’m still learning every day. Google keeps adding to it. Google keeps changing it and fussing with it. Some of the changes they make are for the better and some of them are not. Then the community of our users, whatever you want to call us early adopters, will say, “No, no, no, you can’t do that,” and they change it. They fix it.

This is an evolving platform. In the same way that you could choose to make your own website, you could come here and mess around and you could say, “I don’t get this. Nobody’s following me. Nobody’s listening to me. Nobody’s here. It’s a ghost town,” blah, blah, blah, and you’d go away.

It’s because you really do kind of need a chauffeur guide here. Google has not been known ever for explaining things well. They have thousands and thousands of pages of documentation, all of which is unintelligible. You really need to find somebody like me and like many other people who have stepped up to the plate to guide you and coach you and help you here. Many brands are already involved and they’re doing amazing things.

D. Papacosta:
I want to get to some of those examples about what some brands are doing, but I just want to touch on a couple of really great points you made. First of all, about Google hangouts. This is my first hangout on air that I’ve been involved in the production of, thanks to you, B.L. You had to be my sherpa. I did manage to mess it up even with your guidance and had to turn it back to you and say help, help.

As a person who creates content, I do love the idea of the hangouts on air and as a podcaster, I will be taking the audio from this video from my YouTube channel and then publishing it as part of my podcast, which is one of the things I love to do is to repurpose and repackage content.

You made the point about it’s not just another social network. The integration with Google, great for people who want to create content, but that it is not simple. You’re right, of course, that Google keeps changing it, too, so even if you think you’ve learned it you go back in the next time and the interface has changed.

More important, I really would love for you to talk about what some brands are doing well so that people can learn from some of those examples.

B.L. Ochman:
One of the things that I just wrote about the other day is Google is experimenting with several companies and agencies and I don’t know whether everyone’s seen the Toyota Collaborator. It’s a really remarkable app within Google that allows you to customize a Toyota, I think it’s a Corolla, I forget if it’s Corolla or a Corona, and you can customize the inside and the outside in a hangout.

You can have 10 people in the hangout and we can be discussing … We’ll do like the gray leather inside or, what do you think about these? Then if you have questions that aren’t answered within the hangout by the tools that are given to you, you can actually bring in a local dealer and they have people standing by who are ready to join you in the hangout and answer your questions.

You can also do, which is really wonderful … First of all, you can move the car with your head which just blows me away every time I do it, but you can do a virtual test drive. You say, “I want to drive at the beach,” and Google Maps or Google Earth, I forget which it is, is integrated into it so if you want to do a test drive at the beach, boom, you have a beach scene and you’re driving your car. That’s one thing. That is really a see change in how people will be able to shop.

Diane von Furstenberg worked with Google in, I believe, October, to do a shop to hangout where you could come to her collection and you could go backstage and you could see, because the hosts were wearing wearable cameras and wearable computers and you could buy things right from the show. Several other designers have done the same. Topman in London just did that with their fall 2014 collection. Right now that’s an experiment. Who knows whether that long term is going to be the end product, but something like it will be. Burberry, also. Fashion brands are really being smart about this.

NASA does demonstrations and has meetings that up to a million people watch where they talk about the space program. The World Wildlife Foundation has done some really terrific hangouts. There have been … I’m trying to think of some other brands. Cadbury shares recipes and people are able to interact.

I was on a hangout yesterday where 6 chefs were talking about how they are using hangouts for … it was called Krafty Cooks, K-R-A-F-T-Y Cooks. They were talking about how they used hangouts to build their audiences. There are so many different experiments going on here and yet I look at the, I don’t want to name names here, but the top 10 rated digital agencies in New York, I looked at their web sites. Only one of them links to their Google Plus page which has 47 followers.

The reason for that is that Google gave every business on the planet a local page and the businesses don’t realize it’s there. So here they are saying, “We are a digital agency specializing in innovation,” and you click on their Google Plus page and it’s blank. There goes your credibility, folks. Agencies need to get on the horse here and take a ride, because this is here. It’s happening. You cannot ignore it anymore.

There’s an article today, we have to mention this, there’s an article today on Mashable, who should be ashamed of themselves for publishing this inflammatory thing, with a guy saying, “I hate Google Plus. Google Plus is a waste. How dare they, blah, blah, blah, and someday I’m going to use it.”

It’s been reshared more than 10,000 times last time I looked, and pretty much he’s getting taken to the wash because everybody’s saying, “Yeah, well, come back after you use it.” Ghost town? What do you mean ghost town? What are you talking about?

The other thing we should mention is the really wonderful private communities that exist in here. I belong to several invitation-only communities where the way that people help each other is just … Last night when you and I were like, oh my god, what should we do? I went into one of those, I said, “Help, somebody help.” Six people said, “Let me walk you through this,” in less than 5 minutes. Tell me where else do you find that?

D. Papacosta:
Yeah.  No, you’re right. I’m glad you mentioned communities. I belong to quite a few. I’m active in only maybe 4 of them. But really amazing people. One is the FIR podcast that I listen to with Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson. There’s been this organic growth of the listenership. People listen to the podcasts and they can go on the communities and talk about things they’ve heard on the show or ask each other questions.

I belong to other groups for podcasters and some other sort of digital media things. It is wonderful. The fact that you can create a private community or public community is great. I do want to get into some tips for brands, but before that I do want you to mention the helpouts, because it’s fairly new and I don’t think everyone knows what they are. I know you’re a certified helpout coach, or whatever that terminology is, but maybe you could talk a little bit about the helpouts.

B.L. Ochman:
Yes. I find them disappointing at best. Google invited 500 people who were in their sights to teach other people how to use Google Plus hangouts basically. They gave us a platform called “Helpouts” and if you go to my blog you can go to my listings on there.

It quickly devolved into a situation where there are both paid and free helpouts, and there are people who actually are experts and people who actually are not, so it’s a bit confusing and Google has not gotten behind it in a way one would hope they would to support it.

They actually suggested to us and gave us a template for a flier that they suggested we put around town to advertise our Helpouts. I think not. That said, there are some people who are offering really valuable advice.

You can go there and learn how to use Camtasia. You can go there and learn how to do yoga. You can go there and learn how to cook. There’s very little that you couldn’t go there and learn how to do. But I would have to say that pretty much like anything else, what you get for nothing is worth what you pay.

There are people who have really pure motives and they are absolutely doing these free helpouts in the spirit of whatever it is, cooperation, just brotherhood, and some are trying to build their audience. But for me, it’s not what I was hoping it would be, which is a really professional forum. You either pay by the minute, or you pay by the hour, or you pay by the project.

It’s a good idea that has not been well executed. But again, it’s an experiment and it will evolve and it will become something better. I’m really sure of it.

D. Papacosta:
The facility is there. It’s now a matter of, as you say, getting it to work the way it should. You’ve given us some really great examples of what some brands are doing, and I love what you said about it. I think I read this in one of your posts about how a lot of these agencies in New York, and I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of other places, maybe even worse in some other cities around the world, that they’re just not getting into this.

When you work with a brand, it doesn’t even have to be a giant brand, but say a midsize company even who says, maybe I can exploit this a bit. What do you suggest to them that they … how to get started? I don’t want you to give away anything proprietary, but what would you say in general to someone? Or even a consultant who says maybe there’s a niche here for me in G+? How should they get started?

B.L. Ochman:
First of all I’m thrilled to tell people how to get started, because the more people who come the faster this will grow.

The most important thing that you need to do is you need to fill out your profile. The way that you recognize a newbie in Google Plus is that they don’t have a little tagline underneath their photo. If somebody sees a post of yours or if you follow somebody and they see your picture and it says nothing under it, then if I want to find out who you are I have to click on that picture, go to your profile, go to ‘about you,’ try and find out what you’re about. I’m not going to do that.

If you put your little 160-character tagline saying who you are and what you do under your picture, that helps people decide whether or not they want to follow you. That’s tip number 1.

Tip number 2 is that you really need to have a very good photograph of yourself, very clear. It should be your head only because if you have other things in the picture, when that’s reduced to the postage-stamp size that it will be when it’s on everything else Google. It’ll show up in search. It’ll show up on your e-mail. It’ll be all over the internet. If you don’t have a picture where people can tell that it’s you, you’re kind of wasting that effort.

The next thing you need to do is you need to fill out your background. When you first come to Google Plus, there’s like this generic background. As soon as you see that you know it’s somebody who’s a newbie and who doesn’t know how to use it.

There is a site called Social Media Image Maker. We can add that link and it will resize the photos that you want to use in your cover. In Facebook you have a cover and you have your photo. This will automatically resize your image to the way that Google Plus requires it, which is huge, by the way.

What’s also important is that it’s helpful for you to be facing to the left in your picture or flip your image so that you are so that you are looking into the content which guides the eye in a heat map toward what you’re saying.

You then need to fill out every aspect of the profile with what you do. They’re asking you what are your skills, why are you here? The more full-bodied your profile is, first of all it will help you in search, but secondly it helps people know whether or not they want to engage with you. That’s crucially important.

The next thing … The reason that it is so important to do this is that when you start to participate in Google Plus, what happens eventually is you gain authority, and I’m going to talk a little bit about how you also do that. When you show … If you put my name into search and you get the results, you’ll see that my little picture comes up next to the results on my name and it will have my Google Plus page and it will say how many people follow me and it will say something there about me. Research proves that having a picture in a search result makes it minimally 10 times more effective.

When you get really, really good at using Google Plus, like for example my most favorite internet guru, Howard Rheingold, is who is the futurist who predicted all of this back in the early ’90s, you end up in search with half a page about you culled out in a big box next to the first search result and it’s free. It’s all free and it’s not advertising. It’s content.

Using Google Plus has rewards.

D. Papacosta:
I just wanted to say that about Google authorship. I was doing a workshop recently and I wanted to see how many people in the group were using Google authorship so that their picture would show up. I was only one out of 25 …

B.L. Ochman:
Let’s explain what that is. You want to tell them what it is?

D. Papacosta:
You can set this up, as B.L. was saying, when people do a search, say you do a search for a certain term, in my case it might be a podcasting term, and the first page of results comes up and that’s usually where you all look at page one or page two, you’ll see certain people have their little photo and other people don’t.

The way you get your photo there is to actually go through this process of setting up Google authorship, and the easiest way to do it is to just Google “Google authorship, how to.” It isn’t … I know one of my friends said she had trouble with it and it was a little finicky and all that and if you’re afraid of computers, it might be intimidating but really it’s not that difficult. It’s good. When I do searches, I tend to look at the ones where there’s a face there. It’s a person. But, as you said, B.L., anything to do with Google is usually not that simple, but it certainly is such a great thing. As you say, it’s free. It’s almost like the idea of having an ad per se, but it’s not an ad. It’s content, but it’s …

B.L. Ochman:
It’s incredible.

D. Papacosta:
Personalization makes it incredible, exactly.

B.L. Ochman:
That code … By the way, that code can be added right into a WordPress blog and certainly into a Blogger blog because Google owns the blogger so that it will be automatically added to your content. But what that does is that lets Google know that you are, in fact, the author of your content, that it is original to you. It’s an effort to stop the outright theft of content that anybody who blogs is very familiar with.

Recently Google said, okay, there’s enough people doing this now, they’re not all experts. They just in the past week said, okay, now we’re going to start to qualify the ranking of the authorship based on what their real authority is. Based on interaction and original content and so on. For early adopters it just happened automatically. You’re starting to have to earn that already in order for you to have the little picture next to you in search. If you wait forever, it’ll never happen.

D. Papacosta:
I didn’t even know that. As you said earlier, they change things so often. I should’ve known that you would have the latest on Google authorship. Any other tips or maybe some things that people should avoid or not do when they’re new to G+?

BL Ochman:
The temptation is to follow back absolutely everybody who follows you, but there is a limit on 5,000 people that you can follow so you want to be a little bit careful of … Don’t follow anybody just because they followed you. Follow them because they’re somebody whose content you really want to know about.

The temptation to big numbers is given to us by Facebook and Twitter. It is not the important factor here. I think that … The best advice that I can offer is experiment, is try it. One of the things that I see people talk about is how do I put my Google Plus content on all my other social networks and the answer to that is you don’t.

You need a different type of content on Google Plus than you do on Twitter. You need to have … One of the things that really helps you to get attention to your content is to use images. Guy Kawasaki says this, when you reprint an article, when you link to an article that has appeared, the little thumbnail that comes from that, don’t use that. Upload a big picture first and then just have the link in your post because, like anywhere else, a big picture will get more attention than a little picture.

It’s a very visual medium, and you want to keep that in mind at all times. Who you follow is critical, because you are able to have contact with anybody. You can have direct contact with people at Google. They’re on there. You can look at them. You can follow them.

You can find circles that other people have shared that have … I have one of professional photographers whose work I think is just beautiful and when I want a break I go and I look at what they’re doing recently because it’s always so exquisite.

There are so many tools. You just have to kind of get in and play around with them. There are so many people giving workshops and classes, including me and my partner, Al Navis. We have just started Maximum Plus workshops. Our specialty is associations and agencies. We’re seeing that associations really are lagging behind on this platform, along with agencies.

Brands will get it. They will get it because they’ll see what other brands are doing. The game is so early and so huge and we can save you time, money, and aggravation. You can come in here, you can look around and you just need help. I needed help. Everybody needs help.

Everything you can read. Everything webinar you can attend. Everything that will give you information about Google Plus, do it. You have to study it. You have to learn it. It’s not just handed to you, like here, tweet here, or like Facebook is.

2.5% of the people who follow you are seeing your posts on Facebook now. Facebook wants advertising and they’re trying to force you to pay for it. Guess what? There’s an awful lot of noise there, and I don’t care about it. I’m tired of it. When I want to know what’s going on, I come here.

D. Papacosta:
That’s well said, and certainly we’re quite aware how Facebook is — brand pages in particular really have such low visibility unless they buy advertising, right? I do want to share with people where they can learn more.

B.L. Ochman: On Twitter I’m @WhatsNext. I write for Ad Age. I’m here on Google Plus. Please look me up. Please follow me.

D. Papacosta:
That’s the best place to follow B.L. right now is on Google Plus. This, if you’re joining us late, the audio of this hangout will be on my Trafcom News Podcast, but also, of course, it will be archived on my YouTube channel, which I will be talking about on Google Plus and elsewhere.

Right now I just want to thank you so much, B.L. It’s such a pleasure to see you. Not as nice as seeing you in New York. The last time I saw you we had dinner together which was so nice, a hundred years ago.

D. Papacosta:
Thank you so much for doing this today, and I’ll see you on G+.

B.L. Ochman:
Thank you so much for having me. Much appreciated.

D. Papacosta:
Okay, we’re signing off now. Thanks for everyone who joined us and let us know what you thought of this conversation. Thanks so much.

D. Papacosta:
Thanks again for B.L. Ochman for taking the time to speak with me today. I know she’s a very busy lady. You can contact her on Google Plus or look for her blog, I will include a link in the show notes, of course.

I would love to hear your comments. We had quite a few comments on G+ right after the hangout on air, but I’d love to hear from you about the podcast.

Perhaps you didn’t see the Hangout on Air. You can send a comment to me by email at You can attach a short mp3 file if you wish, less than 2 minutes, please. Or you can send an audio comment using the Speakpipe feature on the right-hand side of the page for this episode at or you can just comment there on the show blog at That’s where you’ll find the show notes, too.

If you are in the Toronto area, there’s still time to sign up for my hands-on social media workshop on January 17th. People who attend tell me that their social media comfort level increases dramatically by the end of the day, and they’re more confident moving forward with social media as part of their marketing or their communication efforts. Of course, yes, we talk about Google Plus, and I will be updating my information with the latest from B.L. I’ll include a link about the workshop in the show notes.

Thanks so much for listening, and thanks again to B.L. Ochman. Until next time, this is Donna Papacosta for Trafcom News.



  1. Dave – Look at the Google+ pages and communities of Cadbury, Toyota, H&M, World Wildlife Foundation, and this list of the top 100 brands on Google+. They have large, egnaged followings who are there by choice

    If it’s advertising you want – and you can’t make me believe that Facebook advertising is effective – then take a look at the experimentaion by Toyota and Cadbury and +Post ads.

    Here’s how TechCrunch describes the launch of the program: “Brands can now take any photo, video or even Hangout that they create as a publicly visible piece of content on Google+, and then pay Google to turn that into an ad for its network, which is used by over 2 million sites worldwide. Google says this “lets brands think of the entire web as their social stream.” The subtext of this kind of effort is clear: ‘our social ads reach the entire web, not just your network, unlike on that other blue social networking site which shall remain nameless.’”

    If it’s unique benefits you want:
    – private, invitation only communities with the opportunity to use Hangouts – arguably the best video platform EVER – for teaching, demonstrations, presentations and more to a select, engaged audience
    – the search benefits are massive. After all Google+ = Google and Larry Page, former CEO of Google said in no undertain terms “If you ignore Google+, Google search will ignore you
    – the ability to precisely target who sees each and every one of your posts

    GooglePlus is not a Facebook competitor, not a Twitter competitor. It is a sea change in online communications and you will do your clients a dis-service if you don’t get in and learn how it works.

    The caveat – it’s got a steep learning curve and you really do need a coach to show you how it all works.

    I’ve tested every social platform in the past 20 years, and, hands down, GooglePlus is the most robust, interesting and rewarding.

  2. Still not convinced that the effort in G+ is worth the returns big brands are getting there when compared to Facebook & Twitter. No paid media units and a much smaller organic audience there won’t do much to get them to do more than the bare minimum there to ensure they don’t miss out on the search benefits.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good platform with lots of potential. It’s just not showing enough unique benefits to get most people to add it to their core social footprint beside Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.


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