Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween and businesses on Google+

Happy Halloween! Has your business done anything special for today? We’ve rounded up some creative ways that businesses have gotten in the spooky spirit using Google+ features to interact with their followers.

  1. Using photos: It’s pretty hard not to want a cupcake after looking at these festive photos on Food Network’s Google+ page. Food Network not only shared ideas for decorating desserts, but also a variety of other recipes for Halloween-inspired dishes, all with images. Photos help share your products with customers, especially if you’re in the food business. You can learn more about how to add photos here.
  2. Posting videos: Travel Channel shared video clips of its latest episode of Ghost Adventures so followers could get a sneak peek and know when to watch. Videos provide another way to share even more information in an engaging format. Own a boutique? Create a short video showing clothes in your shop and ways to style an outfit. Have an auto repair shop? Post a clip of an interview with a customer sharing a positive experience.
  3. Regular posts and sharing content: Scoot & Doodle created a weekly challenge where they asked users to draw their Halloween costumes, design and send Halloween e-cards with “spooky stamps,” and sketch out plans for pumpkin carvings. Regular posts keep your followers coming back to your page, and using hashtags (Scoot & Doodle used #weeklychallenge) makes it easy for others to find related content. Sharing photos, videos, or posts created by your customers also lets them feel more connected to your business.
  4. Ask followers questions: Zoo Atlanta posted Halloween-themed animal trivia and shared information on “creepy” animals like tarantulas. Posting questions is a great way to not only interact with your followers, but also to get customers engaged in conversations with other customers.
  5. Share promotions: Have a special sale going on at your store? Get the word out by creating a post on Google+. Google Play shared its Halloween sale on its Google+ page to get the word out to even more users. You can even create different circles for your followers and pick who can see your post, so you can share special deals with your most loyal customers.
You can learn even more about how to use Google+ by visiting the help center.

Take your social strategy to the next level with Learn with Google Hangouts and Webinars

Over the next few weeks, we’re offering five opportunities to learn more about Google+ for your business. We kick off with a Learn with Google Hangout on Air with bestselling author +Chris Brogan on November 5th at 10am PT / 1pm ET. Chris will cover tactics for successful social marketing and discuss his new book, “Google+ for Business: How Google's Social Network Changes Everything.” RSVP for the Hangout on the Google+ Event page.

Learn Chris’s recipes for how to grow and engage your Google+ community to build your brand and drive your business’s visibility and conversions. Hear about Chris’s own experiences helping companies succeed in their content marketing and social projects. Chris Brogan is a New York Times bestselling author, CEO of Human Business Works, and advises companies on marketing, business strategy, communications and more.

If you have a question for Chris, leave your question as a comment on the Google+ Event.

Boost your success with Google+

Want to learn more about using Google+ for your business? Sign up for our Learn with Google webinars. Here are some great upcoming webinars to help you get the most out of social for your business:
  • Social Media Best Practices for a Successful Holiday Season (Wed, Oct 31, 10am PT / 1pm ET)
  • Social that Adds Up: Performance and Measurement (Thurs, Nov 8, 10am PT / 1pm ET)
  • Supercharge your Social Media Initiatives with Video (Wed, Nov 14, 10am PT / 1pm ET)
  • Building a Digital Brand with Google+ (Thurs, Dec 6, 10am PT / 1pm ET)
Posted by the Learn with Google Team

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Introducing the new compose in Gmail

Editor's note: This post has been cross-published from the Gmail blog. For more ways on how your business can use Gmail efficiently, check out our Gmail tips post.

We're always trying to make Gmail faster and easier to use, so today we're introducing a completely redesigned compose and reply experience that does just that.

How many times have you been writing an email and had to reference something in another message? Saving a draft, opening the old email, and then reopening your draft wastes valuable minutes. The new compose pops up in a window, just like chats (only larger).

This makes it easy to reference any other emails without ever having to close your draft. You can even do a search or keep an eye on new mail as it comes in. And because the compose window works the same way as chats, you can write multiple messages at once and minimize a message to finish it later.

Easier to use
The new compose is designed to let you focus on what's important: your message. The controls are still there when you need them but get out of the way when you don’t. We’ve even added some new features like the ability to easily insert inline images and have more to come.

And, when you add recipients to your message, you'll see profile pictures of your contacts in autocomplete helping you find the right person faster. You can also drag and drop the new address chips between to:, cc: and bcc:. When you’re done adding recipients, the address area collapses automatically to get out of your way.

You’ll also see these same changes when you respond to a message. The reply experience has been designed to fit better inline as part of your conversation -- replies take up much less vertical height, intelligently expand to fit your content, and always keep the recipients and other controls in view no matter how long your message gets.

We're rolling out a preview of the new compose and reply today. After we've added some finishing touches over the coming months, we’ll enable it for everyone.

Monday, October 29, 2012

SMB Newbie Hangouts on Air: Increasing Your Business' Video Exposure

Editor's note: This is our sixth post in a series on SMB Newbie Hangouts on Air, where experts on the AdWords support team are hosting short Hangouts on Air to walk SMBs through AdWords-related topics. Here on the Google and Your Business Blog, we'll be providing a wrap-up of the Hangouts. This particular post is cross-published from the AdWords Google+ page.

Google AdWords Specialists hosted a Hangout on Air last week as the sixth installment of the SMB Newbie Hangouts on Air series.

During the Hangout, we talked about how businesses can expand their video reach by keeping their targeting groups broad and separated by targeting type. We also discussed different video ad formats, which ad formats align with different business goals, and the benefits of linking your YouTube and AdWords accounts.

To watch the full 25-minute Hangout on Air or previous topics, visit the Google Business YouTube channel.

To learn more about how to get started with AdWords, visit our Help Center, check out the AdWords Community forum, or call us at 866-2-GOOGLE if you already have an AdWords account.

And remember to tune in to the live stream of our next Hangout on Air at 11 a.m. PDT, Thursday November 8th, when we discuss one of the top issues you talk to us about: what to do when you can’t see your ad.

Stay tuned!

Forget NaNoWriMo - Try NaNoFiWriMo!

Later this week, hundreds of thousands of writers will be sitting down to start NaNoWriMo - NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. It all kicks off on the 1st November and finishes at midnight on 30th November.

Well, why not forget NaNoWriMo and have a go at NaNoFiWriMo instead? Okay, I've just made that up, but NaNoFiWriMo stands for NAtional NOn-FIction WRIting MOnth.

If you've never come across NaNoWriMo before, the aim of the game is to spend November writing 50,000 words of your novel. Some writers get the 50,000 words written and then spend December working at a slightly slower pace to finish off their novels. The idea is that with 50,000 words behind you, by the end of November you're on the downhill stretch to finishing the novel, or rather the first draft of a novel, so you're much more likely to complete that first draft. I know of many people who have successfully achieved this, and this scheme can be an excellent way to get you writing.

But why write a novel? Why not write a non-fiction book instead? If those writing novels get their 50,000 words done by 30th November, they are two-thirds, or perhaps only half way through their novel. They still have between 30,000 and another 50,000 words to go in order to write a 'standard length' novel. But with a non-fiction book, 50,000 words is one of the commonest standard word lengths. So why spend November writing half a book, when you could write a WHOLE book instead?

Several of my non-fiction books are 50,000 words, including The Positively Productive Writer, Best Walks in the Welsh Borders, Fundraising for a Community Project, and Running A Writers Circle.

In fact, you could register for NaNoWriMo and write a non-fiction book instead. They don't check the content, just the number of words you write.

What works really well about NaNoWriMo is that non-writers get the concept. Tell someone that you're entering a competition to see how many writers can write 50,000 words in a month, and everyone understands. They also understand when you tell them that you won't be socialising much during November, because you're doing NaNoWriMo. Friends will acknowledge this, knowing that come December you'll be back on the social scene. You're not locking yourself away forever, just November! Even family members can cope with a bit of disruption, if it's only for a month.

So, to all of you out there who are taking part this year, whether you're writing a novel or a non-fiction book during the month of November, I have two words to say to you:

Good luck!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

10 in 10: Google Plus

Editor’s note: For the 10th month of the year, we’ll be sharing 10 tips each week for using a different Google product. Our final post features 10 ways your business can get the most out of using Google+. Previously we’ve featured tips on Gmail, Chrome, and Calendar.

Businesses getting savvy with social, stay tuned. This week, we’ve got 10 tips on using Google+ for your business, from posts with pizzazz to happening Hangouts. Learn about using features like Circles and Events and pick up some general social media tips, too.
  1. Use circles to segment your audience and reach the right people. For example, if you sell sporting equipment, you might have different circles for bicyclists, swimmers, and runners.
  2. Add photos, videos, or links to your posts by dragging them directly to the share box. To add a link, drag the icon next to the URL from the address bar to the share box.
  3. Share behind-the-scenes photos. You can can edit your photos directly in Google+ and share animated GIF photos--a great way to draw attention to your page.
  4. Check out the drop-down arrow at the top of Google+ posts. You can manage the way people interact with your own posts, like disabling comments or editing your post. You can link to, report abuse, or mute other people’s posts.
  5. Want to add style to your posts and make them more visually appealing? To add italics, use underscores around your words: _ italics_ → italics. Asterisks make words bold (* bold* → bold), and hyphens will add a strikethrough (- strikethrough - → strikethrough).
  6. Create a posting schedule to post at least once a day. Engage your community with questions and +Mention your community so they feel the love and share your post with more people. Try posting at different times of the day to see what best engages your audience.
  7. Create an Event to drive foot-traffic to a sale or new product launch, and to drive attendance for your Hangouts. With Events on mobile, guests can RSVP, get directions, and even have their photos and videos uploaded to the Event page if Party Mode is enabled.
  8. Host regular Hangouts or Hangouts on Air to have real face-to-face conversations with your followers. Consider behind-the-scenes tours, launch new products in person or simply say thank you to your supporters.
  9. Get creative and stay current with your Google+ banner. We’ve seen some delightful use of animation and fun seasonal banners, too, that keep a page fresh and fun.
  10. Have your whole team help with the page--add managers by navigating to Pages on the navigation ribbon on the left, hovering over the page, clicking on Managers, and adding more people there.
Get even more tips on how your business can use Google+ by checking out the help center or the Google+ Your Business page!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Art of Slipping On A Banana Skin

This weekend I went to a workshop about writing humour. And it's not as simple as slipping on a banana skin.

It was led by Paul McDonald, author of The Philosophy of Humour (click here for Amazon link) and led to some interesting discussions about how to inject some humour into your own work.

Many people know that some of the best sitcoms (written in both the UK and the USA) are produced by a team of writers. It's because humour can be competitive. There's a phrase called 'Topping the Joke' where one person will try to come up with a funnier punch line than the previous one, something that is frequently seen on quiz panel television shows where the panelists comprise of stand-up comedians (who always seem to be sitting down ... but I digress.) One will say something funny, and another will try to come up with something funnier to get a bigger laugh, and so it goes on.

Whilst we can't all be part of a comedy writing team, being in a humorous mood can make us more creative, so it might be worth spending some time watching a few sitcoms to get you in the creative mood. But what makes something funny?

Paul McDonald suggested the following:

  1. Incongruity. (I've never written that word as many times as I did on Saturday's workshop!) This means something that is incompatible, or unexpected, from what we normally perceive, and features in most humour. Often, the punchline of a joke uses incongruity because what makes it funny is the joke leads us to one expectation and then the punchline is something completely different.
  2. Exaggeration. This can make things funnier. Or perhaps I should say exaggeration makes things SO funny, you'll laugh your head off, split your sides and force a fart from your bum.
  3. The Rule of Three. Having three things leads to repetition, which can be funny, especially, if each of the three elements use the 'Topping the Joke' theory and try to be funnier than the last item. Look at the final sentence in point 2 - there were three things listed there - laugh your head off, split your sides, and force a fart from your bum. I'm not saying that forcing a fart from your bum is funnier than the other two (because humour is subjective) but the rule of three certainly came into play there.
Editors like humour, so try injecting some into your next  piece of writing. 

Good luck.

Friday, October 19, 2012

10 in 10: Google Calendar

Editor’s note: For the 10th month of the year, we’ll be sharing 10 tips each week for using a different Google product. Our third post features 10 ways your business can use Google Calendar. Previously we’ve featured tips on Gmail and Chrome.

The daylight hours are getting shorter, but the work day is as busy as ever. If you use Google Calendar to schedule your business’s days, weeks, and months, check out our tips for organizing and using your calendar more efficiently.
  1. The Google Calendar Android app lets you manage all your calendars in one place--including those from your Google accounts and other synced calendars--right from your mobile device.
  2. Use keyboard shortcuts to make and manage your events quickly. For example, when you’re on your calendar, try typing c to create a new event, d to display your calendar in day view, or n to see the next date range.
  3. Collaborating on events with co-workers using Google Calendar? Pass on the torch and transfer ownership of the event to the new coordinator. When you're editing event details, visit the "More Actions" dropdown then click “Change owner.” You'll have the option to send them a note letting them know this change is effective now.
  4. Unclutter your calendar by auto-hiding events once you've declined them, letting you to focus on the more important parts of your day/week/month. Just click the gear icon at the top of any Google Calendar page, go to Calendar settings, and then the General tab. Select "No" in the “Show events you have declined” section and then save.
  5. Tired of the white grid look on your calendar? Add a photo to personalize your background.
  6. Planning on meeting with people in another time zone? Enable the world clock in Calendar Labs to find a convenient time. Out of town and not by your computer? You can automatically decline events during times when you’re busy. Check out other Labs features you can try.
  7. Create a to-do list that will appear right next to your calendar. You can even assign calendar dates to tasks, and then sort by the due date.
  8. Want to share special events happening at your business with your customers? Create a separate calendar and then embed it on your website.
  9. Customize your notification settings for events. You can choose to get reminders between 5 minutes and 4 weeks before your event, and pick whether you want the reminder delivered as a pop-up notification, email, or text message. You can also add multiple reminders for an event.
  10. Organize your calendar by color-coding different events or calendars and make it easier to get an overview of your schedule with a quick glance.
Find even more tips on ways to use Google Calendar by checking out the help center!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Measure Your Success: Call Reporting Now Available in AdWords Express

Editor's note: This article is cross-posted from from the AdWords blog.

How did you find us? There's a good reason so many business surveys include this question: understanding how people connect with your business is important. When people search for local businesses on Google, they may want to check out a website, but there's a good chance they'll want to just give you a call. That's why we initially launched call reporting for AdWords customers—to help businesses use search to connect with people over the phone. Now, we're expanding this feature to AdWords Express customers so local businesses can benefit as well. Call reporting allows you to quantify the offline value of your ads by seeing how many phone calls your ads generate.

How search ads can make your phones ring
When you sign up for call reporting, we will replace the phone number in your Google Search ads across desktop, mobile, and tablet with a toll-free Google forwarding number. When customers call this number, we’ll automatically forward the call to your business and report in your dashboard that the call was made. This allows you to keep track of how many calls your ad is generating for your business. You can see it all right in your AdWords Express dashboard.

Okay, I’m in! How can I do this?
To edit your call reporting preferences, go to your AdWords Express dashboard. Click the ‘Manage your ads’ tab and you’ll see a checkbox for call reporting. If this is selected, on your dashboard you will see calls in addition to clicks and views for your ad.

Currently, call reporting is available for US businesses using AdWords Express. For more information on how it works, set up, and pricing, please visit the AdWords Express Help Center.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

5 Characteristics of a Healthy Local Google+ Page

We know your business’ presence on Google, Google+ and Google Maps is important to you -- it’s important to us, too. Here are some tips and tricks for keeping those pages healthy. Simply sign in to your Google Places for Business account (or Google+, for the upgraded pages) to make any of the necessary changes to your listing.

Service Area Businesses without Storefronts Must Hide Their Addresses 
If you serve customers at their location, we ask that you hide your business’ location on Google Maps. A good test to know if you should be hiding your address: could a customer arrive at your location without an appointment and expect to conduct business? If not, your address should be hidden.

If you operate a service area business without a storefront, you must use Google Places to hide your address. Unfortunately, this feature is not yet supported for local pages made in Google+ with social features.

Address Formatting 
If you need to specify where you receive mail within your physical address, put a mailbox or suite number on the second address line. Your address may end up looking reformatted in Google Maps, but it’s important that this information on the second address line in your Google Places for Business dashboard for data processing purposes. There’s no need to put any information other than the address and mailbox number when entering your address.

Real Location and Phone Number 
We don’t accept mail-receiving agencies, like P.O. Boxes or UPS Stores, as business locations. Even if your business normally receives mail like this, please input your actual location into Google Places for Business account. If you do not want to show that address (for example, if that is your home address), there is an option to hide your address and instead specify a general area of service in the Google Places for Business dashboard. The location that you list should be staffed by your business during its operating hours.

Spelling and miscellany 
We’re all for keeping your copy fresh, but you should avoid switching 0ut ©hara©ter$. If your listing is in English, keep the letters you use to the standard alphabet, and so on.

And remember, please do not include any URLs in your title, unless it’s actually the name of your business.

Multiple Businesses
If you manage multiple businesses, remember that you are responsible for keeping all of your listings in compliance with our quality guidelines.

These are just some common mistakes we often see with business owners’ listings. Please review our guidelines in detail and make sure your listing is as healthy as it can be and ensure that your prospective customers are finding your relevant listing information. If you have additional questions or concerns, contact our support team under Fix a Problem.

Posted by Roger Chen, Google+ Local Search Quality

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hello? Do You Remember Me?

I've had a couple of queries from students recently asking how long they should wait before they receive a response to their unsolicited submission. Unfortunately, the general answer is to wait as long as necessary!

Responses to submissions, whether they're submitted by post or by email, varies from publication to publication and publisher to publisher. Some are quite good at it, others less so (if they bother to at all). Some editors appear to deal with submissions in strict date order, whilst others give the impression that they sit down for a couple of days every three months and have a good clear out!

Generally, if the work you've submitted has been commissioned, it will be used quite quickly, because an editor will probably have commissioned it for a specific issue. But if you've submitted something on spec, I would certainly suggest you leave it for several months before you start chasing. When you do chase, be polite. It's usually simplest to ask an editor whether they can confirm that your submission arrived safely in their offices, rather than demanding that they make a decision upon your work right now. (No, is by far the easiest option for the editor.)  If they reply that they haven't received your submission then you have the option of enquiring if they'd like to see a duplicate copy, or whether you want to take your chances and rewrite the material for a slightly different market.

Some publications will confirm safe receipt and say that they'll get back to you when they can. If they don't give a time scale, be prepared for a long wait. Some will mention when they hope to respond by. Others will simply return your manuscript, rejected.

Always keep an accurate record of when an item was submitted, and also when you chased. In my experience, being able to list three or four dates of contact attempts over the period of 18 to 24 months shows that at least one side of this business relationship is professional, if not the other! Although, do bear in mind that for the one writer who has submitted something it is much easier to keep track of things than it is for the one editor (with no staff) who receives 200 unsolicited submissions a week, and has just been off work for two weeks because his father-in-law broke a leg whilst cutting the lawn and has needed looking after.

If you are submitting topical material, then editors understand why you are chasing. If they're not interested in your submission, they know that you want the opportunity to offer it elsewhere, so do make this clear when you make your enquiries. Of course, this is another reason for why it's useful to submit well in advance. You want to give the editor plenty of time to consider the material, as well as give yourself enough time to chase, and then rework it for another market!

And the waiting period is another reason why you should crack on and write the next thing. How depressing would it be if you'd written an article, submitted it and then waited for 12 months, only to discover that your work has been rejected. However, if after making this submission you'd written another ten pieces, by the time you'd received this rejection, you may have made a sale with one of your other submissions - and if not, at least you still have the hope of acceptance because you have ten other submissions out there!

Good luck!

Friday, October 12, 2012

SMB Newbie Hangouts on Air: Driving foot traffic

Editor's note: This is our fifth post in a series on SMB Newbie Hangouts on Air, where experts on the AdWords support team are hosting short Hangouts on Air to walk SMBs through AdWords-related topics. Here on the Google and Your Business Blog, we'll be providing a wrap-up of the Hangouts. This particular post is cross-published from the AdWords Google+ page.

AdWords Specialists Courtney Pannel, Cassie Shamey, and Steven Ness hosted a Hangout on Air yesterday as the fifth installment of the SMB Newbie Hangouts on Air series.

A lot of advertisers are trying to drive visits to their storefront in addition to visitors to their website, so we chatted about AdWords features to help you accomplish that goal. We discussed how to target local users with location targeting and ad scheduling and how to showcase your store location with ad-level and campaign-level location extensions.

To watch the full 25-minute Hangout on Air, visit the Google Business YouTube channel here.

To learn more about how to get started with AdWords, visit our Help Center, check out the AdWords Community forum, or call us at 866-2-GOOGLE if you already have an AdWords account.

And remember to tune in to the live stream of our next Hangout on Air at 11 a.m. PDT, October 25, when we discuss how to optimize your account to drive video exposure.

Stay tuned!

 Courtney Pannel, Cassie Shamey, and Steven Ness, Adwords Team

Thursday, October 11, 2012

10 in 10: Google Chrome

Editor’s note: For the 10th month of the year, we’ll be sharing 10 tips each week for using a different Google product. Our second post features 10 ways to get the most out of using Google Chrome. Last week, we featured Gmail tips

Want to get even faster at work? Use Google Chrome shortcuts to start working as fast as you browse the web:

  1. While reading online, have you ever seen a word or phrase that you wanted to learn more about? Next time, just highlight the term(s) and then drag it to your tabstrip to the right or left of your current tab--a new tab will open with search results for the highlighted text. You can also try the Dictionary extension so when you highlight a word the definition will hover over it. 
  2. Have a site (or a few) you always keep open, like Gmail or Rdio? You can pin those tabs so that they open the next time you launch Chrome. To pin a tab, right-click on it then select “Pin Tab”.  
  3. Sign in to Chrome to access your bookmarks and quickly sync your tabs on any of your other gadgets where you’re signed into Chrome. Just go to the “Other devices” menu when you open a new tab to find them. The back and forward buttons will even work, so you can pick up browsing right where you left off. 
  4. Try using incognito windows to browse in stealth mode. With Incognito Mode, pages you view won't appear in your browser history or search history, and they won't leave other traces, like cookies, on your computer after you close the incognito window 
  5. Want to hide your bookmarks bar? You can also use the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+Shift+B (Windows and Chrome OS) and ⌘-Shift-B (Mac) to toggle the bar on and off. 
  6. To save a webpage as a PDF, press Ctrl + p (Mac: Cmd + p) to bring up the print dialogue, then Destination > Change. 
  7. Need even more space to browse? You can toggle full-screen mode with these handy keyboard shortcuts: Fullscreen Key on a Chromebook, F11 on Windows & Linux, and Cmd+Shift+F on a Mac. 
  8. Accidentally close a window? Just use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+t to open the last tab you closed. Keep using this shortcut to open your previous tabs. 
  9. Bookmarks are just a click away. Like a page? Click on the Star next to the omnibox, and the page is automatically bookmarked. 
  10. Use apps from the Chrome Web Store to do things like get notifications, take notes, edit screenshots, and more. 
You can learn even more tips for using Google Chrome by checking out the help center or Chrome’s Google+ page.

Jacky Hayward, Google Chrome Team 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Case Study: Scoot & Doodle Sparks Creativity With Their Google+ Hangout App

Cross-posted from The Google+ Developers Blog.

San Francisco-based startup Scoot & Doodle brings people face-to-face in a shared online play space in real time. Scoot & Doodle chose to launch their first product as a Google+ Hangout app, and since launching built a user base of 100,000+, achieved strong engagement with returning users averaging 28 minutes per session, and increased their Google+ followers to nearly 900,000.

Scoot & Doodle chose to launch their first product as a Google+ Hangout app because the platform offered advantages to gain traction in the crowded, competitive online social space. Those advantages included:
  • Access to 400 million highly engaged Google+ users already connected through
  • Circles, Gmail, YouTube, and Calendar
  • Easy, streamlined discovery of Scoot & Doodle on Google+, through viral channels such as Notifications
  • Quality, strength, and reach of face-to-face on hangouts, which let Scoot & Doodle users connect, create, and collaborate with up to nine people, simultaneously, worldwide
  • Relatively simple development in the Hangouts API, they went from concept to launch in just three months

Scoot & Doodle has seen extremely high engagement with its product in Hangouts. The average visitor spends 22 minutes per session, and returning users spend 28 minutes per session. They’ve also found their users are engaging in ways they hadn’t expected, like anime artists collaborating daily with each other and with Japanese writers to create and design characters for online games. Also, students from junior high school to college use the app to illustrate, collaborate, discuss, and solve problems for their class work; for fun breaks, they doodle and play Pictionary-like games together.

U.S. and Japanese artists use Scoot & Doodle to collaborate on anime projects like this one.

“We’re seeing users engage with the product in creative, diverse ways. As a result, Scoot & Doodle has captured far more user communities than we initially envisioned,” says Patty Chang, company cofounder and product lead. “Scoot & Doodle on Google+ Hangouts has pushed the bounds of how we look at our product and where we’re going with it.”

Scoot & Doodle has identified new uses for its product from its followers, and connects with them regularly in hangouts and via Google+. The company also conducts focus groups using Hangouts. Its latest features—talk bubbles, stamps, and scrapbook—arose from discussions between users and customer reps on Google+.

We think Scoot & Doodle is a good example of a company who has built a strong audience on Google+ through its use of Circles, content rich posts, interactive Hangouts, and creative promotions. These promotions have focused primarily on community building and engagement, with good results from encouraging users to create with the app, then share and engage with others in their Circles.

Follow Scoot & Doodle on Google+ and download the full case study here. To learn more about Google+ Hangout apps, visit:

Monday, October 8, 2012

A new-look friend ...

It happens to most publications at some point and last week it happened to one of the UK's most traditional markets, The People's Friend. It's undergone a revamp, although the updating has not been a radical change for this conservative (small c) readership.

Whilst The People's Friend is known as a magazine for short stories, it is also a useful market for features too. One of the biggest changes is that the magazine has increased pagination: by an additional 16 pages. That means it needs more writing!

Whilst it now boasts 7 short stories (one for each day of the week) as well as two serials, it also has new features, tackling many issues, such as health and well-being, and gardening. The People's Friend has always carried travel features and the new-look issue had three. It has also extended it's letters page, and for those of you interested in poetry, they now need more of these too.

So, if it's been a while since you last looked at this market, it might be worth your while spending the 97p and buying a new copy to look at. Remember, this is one of those nice markets that actually pays on acceptance, rather than publication (which is good, because they once accepted one of my travel features in 2005, and it was published in 2011!).

For detailed guidelines, take a look at their website.

Incidentally, this is one of the few markets where you DON"T have to submit your work to a specified name, but instead you submit it to the Features Editor, or the Fiction Editor. (When you hear back from your first submission you'll then have a contact name to use for future submissions.

Good luck! 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Help Desk Hangouts: Chrome for Business

Editor’s note: Each week on the Google+ Your Business page, we’re putting you in touch with Googlers and users who can help you as a business owner get the most out of our products and features.

In our latest Help Desk Hangout On Air, we chatted with the Chrome team, who gave us 11 reasons to use Chrome at work. We learned about productivity on the web and the power of web apps, and we chatted about how Chrome reaches the lightning speeds it does. We got a tour of how businesses can tweak and customize Chrome to fit their needs, and we also answered your questions, live, during the Hangout.

Miss the event? You can watch the whole thing on the Google and Your Business YouTube channel.

Check out the video description on the YouTube page for a minute-by-minute breakdown.

Some of the questions we answered during the Hangout:
Can I configure Chrome to fit my needs as a business? How would I do so?
Sure. We’ve built an MSI installer for Chrome for business to make the transition easier. You can manage group policies easily using our pre-built templates, too. We don’t recommend it, but you can turn off auto-updates, too. Aside from these special business tools, Chrome comes with all of its standard customization features, too.

Can I still have the benefits of using Chrome (like speed, security) on an older computer?
Definitely. We think Chrome’s speed and security are particularly noticeable on older computers, in fact. Give it a try!

How is Chrome a more secure browser?
Sandboxing on Chrome adds an extra layer of protection between your computers and malicious websites that try to install unwanted programs or take your personal information. Chrome also protects you against what may be malicious websites by displaying clear warnings. Keeping up with auto-updates helps keep your browser prepared to keep your computer safe, too.

Help Desk Hangouts are hosted on the Google+ Your Business page every other Wednesday. Don’t miss our next Hangout at 11a.m. PDT on Wednesday, October 17. Look for the topic announcement on the Google+ Your Business page.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Win Moments that Matter with Learn with Google Webinars

Editor's note: This post is cross-published from the Inside AdWords blog

As we’re nearing the end of 2012, we’ve all got business goals to meet. Some of you might even be prepping for your busiest season. Today, we’re announcing our next series of Learn with Google webinars, which will arm you with the tools you need to get the most out of your holiday ad dollars. We’ve got a special series on remarketing as well as a few holiday-specific strategies to help you navigate the season successfully. Over the next couple of months, 20 webinars will teach you tips and how-to’s to help make the web work for your business.

Check out the full schedule of webinars below:
  • 10/16 [Search] Drive Traffic to your Locations with your Online Campaigns
  • 10/18 [Video] TrueView Video Advertising Strategies for the Holidays
  • 10/23 [Mobile] Understanding your App Users with Google Analytics
  • 10/24 [Research] Real-Time Insights with Google Consumer Surveys
  • 10/25 [Display] Remarketing Series: Getting Started with Remarketing
  • 10/30 [YouTube] TrueView Video Advertising for Agencies
  • 10/31 [Social] Social Media Best Practices for a Successful Holiday Season
  • 11/01 [Video] Optimizing TrueView Video Ad Campaigns
  • 11/02 [Analytics] Attribution Modeling for Digital Success
  • 11/06 [Video] YouTube Analytics for Advertisers
  • 11/07 [Video] Remarketing Series: YouTube and Video Remarketing
  • 11/08 [Social] How to Make your Google+ Marketing More Accountable
  • 11/13 [Analytics] Getting Started with Google Tag Manager
  • 11/14 [Social] Supercharge your Social Media Initiatives with Video
  • 11/15 [Display] Remarketing Series: Getting Started with the New Remarketing Tag
  • 11/27 [Display] Remarketing Series: Getting Started with Similar Audiences
  • 11/29 [Mobile] New Research: How to Win on the Third Screen
  • 12/05 [Mobile] Capturing the Full Value of Mobile with Click-to-Call and Call Metrics
  • 12/06 [Social] Building a Digital Brand with Google+
  • 12/12 [Analytics] Remarketing Series: Remarketing with Google Analytics
All webinars are at 10 PT/ 1 ET.

Visit our webinar page to register for any of the sessions and to access past webinars on-demand. You can also stay up-to-date on the schedule by adding our Learn with Google Webinar calendar to your own Google calendar to automatically see upcoming webinars.

Learn with Google is a program to help businesses succeed through winning moments that matter, enabling better decisions and constantly innovating. We hope that you’ll use these best practices and how-to’s to maximize the impact of digital and grow your business. We’re looking forward to seeing you at an upcoming session!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

10 in 10: Gmail

Editor’s note: For the 10th month of the year, we’ll be sharing 10 tips each week for using a different Google product. Our first post features 10 ways to get the most out of using Gmail.
Is your inbox piling up like fall leaves outside? While they won’t help with raking, these Gmail tips will let you organize, clean up, and more efficiently manage your email.
  1. Find all the keyboard shortcuts you can use by typing ? when you’re in your Gmail inbox.
  2. Add color and organization to your inbox with different colored stars or exclamation points and labels.
  3. Use "in: anywhere" to search all folders, inboxes, Spam, and Trash when you’re looking for a message.
  4. Keep unauthorized users out of your account by using 2-step verification, which adds an extra layer of security when you’re signing in.
  5. Use sub-labels to organize your labels into groups that you can collapse and expand.
  6. Add a theme to customize your inbox or be festive for the seasons. Choose a stock option or upload your own photo by just clicking Themes under the gear icon.
  7. Set vacation responses when you’re out of town so people who email you don’t wonder why you haven’t responded to a message.
  8. Lists and notifications clogging your inbox? Sort them as they arrive with "Filter messages like this."
  9. Manage multiple email accounts? Use Gmail to send mail "from" your other email addresses while only being signed into one.
  10. Customize how you view actions like Archive and Mark Spam by picking icons or text.
Want even more tips for using Gmail? Check out the help center, Google Apps Learning Center, or Gmail’s Google+ page.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Google's Economic Impact Across the Country

Through Google's search and advertising programs, businesses find customers, publishers earn money from their content and nonprofits solicit donations and volunteers. These tools are how Google makes money, and they’re how millions of other businesses do, too. In fact, in 2011, Google’s search and advertising tools helped provide $80 billion of economic activity for 1.8 million advertisers, website publishers, and nonprofits across the U.S. You can see Google's economic impact in each state on Google's Economic Impact site, along with the stories of local businesses who have used Google to help grow their businesses.

Posted by the Google and Your Business Blog Team

Taking small steps

Forging a relationship with an editor can be like any other relationship. Often, the longer lasting relationships are those that develop over time. Slowly. Gradually.

If there's a magazine that you've always wanted to write for, sometimes offering the great article as your first piece might not be a good start. Instead, start off small. Get to know the editor. If a magazine asks for letters, or news items, try sending off a few of those first.

Send in useful smaller snippets and the editor will get to know your name. Then, when you offer something more substantial, the editor may look at it more favourably.

The news section in Writers' Forum magazine openly asks readers to send in news stories. Each month, the editor selects 'the best' and the writer receives a year's subscription. I've noticed how it is the writers who've sent stories in over a couple of months (so that's regularly, most months) who are rewarded with the annual subscription. And some of those names have later had full length articles published within the magazine.

One of the travel magazines has a section where readers can send in tips and advice. Again, it's common to see some 'regular' names crop up, but it's also noticeable to see some of those names appearing as the writers of longer travel articles a few months later.

My first published pieces in Country Walking magazine were for some of their smaller, filler slots. I'd sent a couple of reader letters in, and I'd had a few fillers published on their filler pages (news, humorous stories, photos of great views, etc) before I approached them about their walking routes section. Because I was a name they recognised, they agreed that I could have a go at writing for this section. Nine years later I'm still writing for the magazine, and have helped them out with a couple of last minute deadline pieces, too.

Sometimes it can be worth thinking about what you want to achieve with your writing. Consider it as another relationship, and begin it as you would any other relationship. (Don't go for a seven course meal to start off with - meet up for a drink first!) Start off small, and see if you like each other. Who knows, it could be the start of a long and fruitful relationship.

Good luck!