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Every year, it seems, a new form of online communication emerges. In the beginning, there were message boards. Then e-mail. Then e-mail newsletters. Then instant messaging, blogging, texting, social networking, micro-blogging, location-based social networking and many others.
Which is great. There's just one problem. As new media are born, the old ones never die.
Worse, each of these services is offered by several companies. We have to use more than one of each.
For example, you may have personal e-mail and work e-mail. Your colleagues are on Linkedin, but your relatives are on Facebook. If you write, publish or sell anything or provide services for a living, you've got to have a blog, a separate Twitter feed, a business Facebook page and more.
The result is that we spend hours every day going from one service to the next, trying to keep up. In my case, I’ve signed up to literally dozens of such social and communication sites.
Imagine if you could use only one service. Imagine if that service could replace everything. You could monitor only one feed, and you could post everything from a single place. And imagine if those posts would automatically show up on Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and other services, with links back to your original post where friends, family, customers, readers and fans could comment and interact together in one place.
It turns out that such a thing exists! It’s called Google+.
(If you'd like an invite to Google+, I'll give you one. Just go here.)
For the past five weeks or so, I've been on what I call a "Google+ Diet." I'm trying to give up all other forms of communication and do everything from Google+.
When I want to send e-mail, I post a private Google+ message, and address it using the e-mail address of my recipient. When I want to post a blog post, I simply market it "Public" (my profile page is my blog now).
At first, I went silent on Facebook, Twitter, my blog and all the rest. Little by little, however, I have activated various methods for posting on other services from Google+, while having the links bring people back to a public Google+ page where everybody can comment.
Now, everything I post on Google+ is also automatically tweeted via my Twitter account, and the link brings Twitter users back to Google+ for commenting.
When I want one of my Google+ posts to show up on Facebook on either my personal wall or business page, I select that option using a Google Chrome plug-in, of which there are several. (I happen to use G+me.) When my Facebook friends click on the link, they're taken back to my Google+ post to comment.
There are now many well-understood ways to do all this. Here's a list of instructions, for example, for set-it-and-forget-it posting on a WordPress blog, Twitter and Facebook all from Google+.
The problem is that for the past five weeks I had been ignoring my thousands of subscribers to my e-mail newsletter, which I've published since the 1990s. But now I've figured out how to do it.
How to Publish an E-Mail Newsletter from Google+
The best e-mail or "listserv" hosting services will auto-import an RSS feed, and then broadcast e-mail that feed in a formatted, user-designed e-mail newsletter. In other words, anything that generates an RSS feed can also become an e-mail newsletter that publishes itself.
A free service called PlusFeed will give you an RSS feed for your Public Google+ posts. However, since this feed is generated on the fly, it apparently can't be used with some or all of the services that use an RSS feed. I've discovered that by importing the PlusFeed-created RSS feed into Feedburner, I can use the Feedburner URL successfully for publishing an e-mail newsletter.
In my own case, I'm using a list host called MailChimp, which is the friendliest and easiest-to-use list host that I'm aware of. (It’s also free if you publish to fewer than 2,000 e-mail addresses.)
Here are the step-by-step instructions for auto-publishing your Google+ Public posts as an e-mail newsletter via MailChimp:
1. Grab your Google+ ID, which is the long number in your profile's URL. Mine, for example, is: 113117251731252114390
2. Type into your browser URL box plusfeed.appspot.com/ followed by your Google+ ID and hit enter. That URL is now your RSS feed. Mine looks like this: http://plusfeed.appspot.com/113117251731252114390
3. Because this URL does not create a "standing" or existing RSS feed acceptable to MailChimp, you've got to "launder it." Go to feedburner.com, log in with your Google username and password, and paste in your Google+ RSS feed URL into the "Burn a feed right this instant" box. Click Next. Type in a "Feed Title" and click Next, and copy the URL it provides. In my case, the Feedburner URL is: http://feeds.feedburner.com/MikeElgan-GoogleUserFeed
4. Use MailChimp's tools to create a custom template. To initiate an automated e-mail newsletter, click on "Create Campaign" from the MailChimp dashboard, but select "RSS-driven campaign" from the menu that drops down. Every other aspect of creating the newsletter is the same as an ordinary from scratch newsletter on MailChimp. You’ll want to choose the frequency, and experiment with all the settings until it looks and behaves exactly as you want. When it’s ready, just click on the giant button that launches the newsletter.
5. Tell everybody where they can sign up. MailChimp and other list host services give you a sign-up link where people can subscribe. Grab the link and add it to your Google+ profile, and also post the link from time to time on your Google+ profile.
It’s all perfectly automatic. Now that it’s set up, I simply post things on Google+, and everything marked “Public” becomes part of my automatic e-mail newsletters.
This whole scenario is ideal for business people who need to publish an e-mail newsletter to customers, maintain a blog, business page on Facebook and a presence on Twitter – but who don’t have time to be a full-time publishing company. Just post on Google+, and everything just happens.
I have finally achieved a longstanding dream of mine: One service that replaces all forms of online communication – even e-mail newsletter publishing. I no longer have to log in to, manage and cope with dozens of disparate services. It’s incredibly liberating.
And the best part is that all my communication now triggers a comment conversation where people from all over the Internet come together in one place to talk about it. I’ve never had better feedback or interaction with all my people.
If you’re on Google+, please circle me here.