Google Apps for Creatives: Making the Switch

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I consider myself social-media savvy. An early adopter. Mr. Connected. I have friends who delete me from their networks just to add me back again so we can re-live that first “poke.” I check-in with Foursquare more than I do with my girlfriend. I am a self-proclaimed social-media whore. Yet, there’s this big rainbow-coloured elephant in the room: Google+.

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This is the first of a three-part feature highlighting a Toronto small-business’ switch to the multi-coloured dark side. In this article, I will dissect setting up a new account with my own domain (instead of @gmail.com) and the practical application of Google Apps for hard-working creatives like us. In this installment, I walk through setting up a custom domain and managing Google’s all-seeing profiles.

A Little Background History

Tired of my own hosted solution’s strict rules and un-user-friendly administration, I decided it was time for a change. The price was right with Google = Free. Before writing this article, I had 3 different username+password combinations to get into Google’s suite, which includes the venerable YouTube, shared Calendars, and Gmail to name a few. The tipping point for me was Google Docs (now Google Drive). Collaboration is key to any creative, and the feeling of sharing a document with a colleague in Melbourne, Australia, watching him type ideas in real-time, grammar mistakes and all… that’s powerful stuff.

But it was when I started collaborating with business partners who had shared items with me at different Google IDs; when I was spending more time logging in and out of my accounts to find the right documents than actually using those Docs, I needed a Christian-Science Miracle to get productive again. And it hit me: I need to check myself before I digitally wreck myself.

The economy is down the shitter, jobs are scarce and more and more I’m seeing my peers take jobs in fields they didn’t go to University/College for. Then there are those following down the lonely road of entrepreneurship; self-starters looking to kickstart their own ideas for a profit eventually. A big part of creating your niche on the web is branding. Personally, I have gone through registering more domains than I care to remember – and I’ve survived a near-fatal, yet so crucial Twitter-handle reboot. I don’t wish these first-world problems on anyone.

To @Gmail.com or not to @Gmail.com. Was there a question? 

A Google Account ID is increasingly becoming what I liken to a digital passport. Log-in when you’re online, and essentially any site that you visit can utilize that information for your activities – for example, drop a comment below and you’ll see the opportunity to post from your Google profile. Now, with this ID appearing everywhere you interact online, it’s important it represents you – yes, even you, LizardLips87. I co-own and operate another company, 1812 Entertainment, and because we were late to the table to register 1812.com, we craftily chose my1812.com as the domain for our production house. Likewise, jawn@gmail.com was taken already. It was a clear sign. That brings up another question; how does a Gmail.com address look for a business? A digital media business at that. Not good.

If you’re like me, you remember Hotmail – literally my Gramps’ email client of choice, or lack of choice, rather. These free hosted services make sense monetarily: free. But as a business operator, it looks unprofessional and amateurish. I need my clients, my colleagues, and my peers to see me and my team differently.

Luckily, with Google Apps, I can use my company’s domain of my1812.com, while still getting some serious functionality from the free cloud services that Google offers. Best of both worlds. Still free.

Register your Domain

With the recent attacks on GoDaddy, I recommend looking for another place to give your business. I can recommend my long-time registrar Tierra.net for your custom domain needs. It costs you approximately $12/year for your digital home but if you think about, our relatives were buying their first homes 20-30 years ago for a tiny fraction of the price of what I paid for my condo 3 years back. I’m no Nostradamus, but I predict a price increase on domains, as they become digital commodities.

If you get nothing else from this documentation of my Google journey, do yourself a favor and register your own domain today. Hell, grab yourname.com. Unless you share Chris Martin & Gwenyth Paltrow’s child name, then it might be a little trickier. For me, I needed a domain for my brand, and my team needed a casual, short URL to share with their contacts while integrating in this Web 2.0 world.

The set-up is wizard driven to begin with so there is not much more information I can give you than what going through the motions yourself can provide. In the next part in this Ions series, I will be documenting the steps to set this up, but first I want to address that elephant I mentioned earlier.

Facebook has long been my de facto social network and its tie-ins which allow sharing information across all my other my networks – one-click broadcasting. But, as you’re aware, “privacy” has been a hot-topic all over the Internet and it’s something to really consider, as more of what you do and share becomes public information on these networks.

Enter Google+

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The first step of this journey into Google-ville involves a profile. And tied to that profile is Google’s social network: Google+. Now, when it comes to business affairs, sometimes public profiles are not to be affiliated with employees at a company in terms of liability in a public forum. For me, I embrace the idea of social media and connectedness; if you don’t, Google Apps has the option to enable or disable users from having a Google+ profile for their username.

As I’ve been creating my new profile, it feels like I have the chance to makeover my online identity. New profile pictures, new likes, or as Google has branded them; +1’s, and new networks. There are wizards when you first log-in to import all your friends into your connections – I beg you to resist. Take this time to develop your new method of online communication – realistically, if you wanted the same people and information as you have on Facebook, then just use Facebook for that. Use Google+ to right the wrongs of the past: sure you “like” Red Bull, but don’t clog your feed with pointless ads this time. Here’s a list of worthwhile follows on Google+, all of which update regularly. By following these people and brands, you’ll start to see the true capability of the social network.

Recommended:Guy Kawasakii
Richard Branson
Larry Page

Follow updates on Curiosity:
NASA

My personal favourite:
Calgary Flames Hockey Club

In other news, this is the first thing I saw when I logged in today.

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#Geeked

This brings us to the next step in the Google+ adventure: Circles.

Most, if not all, of the above people are interesting, but they don’t know you from Adam. Likewise, your updates are not intended for them anyways, right? Right. Google+’s Circles enable you to section out your life and always make sure you’re broadcasting your updates to their intended audience. I am a writer and a musician, I have friends that follow my work and I have mentors that I follow. Old bosses and old friends too. When you add me to one of your circles, if you’re not a personal friend, you’re likely not interested in this picture of my puppy:

Puppy in snow

At the time of adding me, you can select what network(s) I should belong to – adjusting what you see when you log-in to the homepage and whether I see the updates that you post. It’s a handy tool for those of us with multiple-personalities within our networks. So when I post a link to an artist’s soundcloud page

, I can make sure all my circles know about it, but when my girlfriend takes a picture of Emi, I can choose where it’s shared.

Fitting a Square into a Circle

With all the projects I have on the go, the most useful tool in Google’s belt is Drive for me right now – without a doubt. Whether I’m sending the Rough Cut of a documentary I’m working on to a client, or writing this feature article right now, Drive has given me the freedom to share large and dynamic content with colleagues. Those circles you created in Google+? Guess what. You can share a GDoc that you’re writing with them in 3 clicks. I’m sold. This is me: more-productive, better-connected me.

Stay tuned next week for part two of the “Google Apps for Creatives” series as we dive deeper into the administration dashboard and how to set-up co-workers with their own hosted email and calendar service for free.

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