Larry BraunerSeveral colleagues have asked that I share my experiences and thoughts about Google Friend Connect on this blog. So as to humor these fellows and show them that I can — at least on occasion — be thoroughly amicable and completely reasonable, I’ve acceded to their demands.

Google Friend Connect or GFC is a set of widgets or gadgets, as Google calls them, that you install on any website or blog site, in order to develop a community of users and fans on that site.

If you aren’t familiar with Google Friend Connect, it would be worthwhile to take several minutes right now to check out a CrunchBase blog post on Google Friend Connect or, if you prefer something much more terse, try the Wikipedia article on the same subject.

Here are ten of my personal Google Friend Connect observations:

  1. While the official Google Friend Connect instructions are not totally adequate, the GFC gadgets aren’t  too difficult to install, at least not on a blog site sidebar.
  2. It happens infrequently that the Google Friend Connect gadgets can’t be installed on a website because of a script conflict. I haven’t found a way to work around this problem, but I’m still on the lookout for a solution.
  3. Once gadgets installed, visitors to your site begin joining, almost if by magic.
  4. As with Facebook pages, you can actually see who your members are and reach out to them if you choose.
  5. The rate at which people join is lower than I would have expected, yet slow and steady, they do keep joining. I suspect that too few people understand what Google Friend Connect is.
  6. The single most valuable feature of Google Friend Connect is the website newsletter. Make sure you click the check box in the newsletter tab that reads: “Ask visitors to subscribe immediately after their first sign-in.” A high percentage of your site’s GFC members will elect to receive email updates from you.
  7. Another valuable feature of Google Friend Connect is member polling that helps you learn about your members and their preferences. You can download your data into a spreadsheet to analyze.
  8. The Google Friend Connect comment box enables members to have discussions with you and with each other. I’ve only installed it on blogs so far. Since visitors can comment on individual blog posts, I don’t feel that the gadget has added much to these sites. I’m looking forward to installing it on a site that has no blog in the very near future.
  9. If you log into Google sometimes using one account and other times using another, your Google Friend Connect membership may suffer a split personality. Unfortunately, there isn’t even a name yet for this disorder. GFC gives you so many ways to connect that you can easily become fragmented.
  10. I originally joined Google Friend Connect because I believed it might help with my search engine optimization. I reasoned that any data that Google owned, they ought to use to assist their search algorithms. I have no proof, but my analysis leads me to believe that they are in fact using these data. If they aren’t, they might in the future. In any case, considering the brand building benefits of GFC, you can look at search influence as a possible plus.

I highly recommend Google Friend Connect. While it won’t totally transform your website, GFC will make it more social.

Please join Google Friend Connect on my blog’s right sidebar.

Larry BraunerA blog site is any website, which has been created and is managed with a blog tool like WordPress — even if that website has no blog at all.

WordPress is called a content management system or a CMS. WordPress was originally developed for the blogging community to make it easy to set up blogs and update blog content. This blog and my other one, Online Social Networking, are both WordPress blog sites.

Over time, WordPress has evolved into a general purpose web development platform. WordPress enables you to create a blog, a conventional web site or a combination of both.

Joomla is another such content management system, but it’s less popular than WordPress and more difficult to use, according to many people.

WordPress Blog Sites for Small Business

WordPress Blog SitesEase of use and flexibility make WordPress an excellent selection for your next blog site, either for your small business or for personal use.

WordPress is so ideal for small businesses that a great number of web developers have started using it to power their clients’ websites.

There’s no cost for using the WordPress content management system, but you’ll have to host your blog site yourself, or as I do, pay a web hosting service $5 to $10 per month to host it for you.

Although WordPress is easy to use, setting it up can be complex, especially if customization is desired. I recommend that a social media consultant, myself or another, set your blog site up for you and show you how to add content and maintain the site.

You’ll be able to manage your blog site by yourself without enormous effort and won’t require a webmaster — unless, of course, you prefer a hands-off approach.

Say good-bye to expensive web developers and big-ticket websites. Say hello to WordPress blog sites, affordable online homes for small businesses.