Google+: Do Writers Need It?

by Joel Friedlander on December 13, 2011 · 18 comments

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When Google launched Google Plus (Google+) a few months ago in their latest attempt to gain a foothold in the social media world, a lot of people weren’t sure whether to applaud the move or bemoan the fact that we had another place to try to build a community.

After all, the world of social media isn’t exactly lacking in things to keep authors who want to market their books occupied. You can work on building a tribe on Facebook, promote and connect with people in your niche on Twitter, keep track of colleagues and discussions on LinkedIn, and maintain relations with readers on Goodreads. Isn’t that enough?

The New Kid Has Some New Tricks

And yet Google+ quickly grew to millions of members and is now the fastest-growing social media site in history. Faster than Facebook, faster than Twitter, faster than LinkedIn. Right now, by recent estimates, there are already more than 40 million people using the service.

There are really good reasons it’s become so popular so quickly. Some of these reasons make Google+ a great location for authors. Let’s take a look at three features that distinguish Google+ from the other networks we’ve come to know, and see where these features present opportunities for self-published authors.

Circling

Before talking about the features, take a moment to enjoy the look and feel of Google+. I don’t know about you, but I find the Facebook interface—at least the last time I looked—to be quite busy and distracting. Twitter, of course, isn’t encumbered with much of an interface, since it’s mostly a stream of short text messages.

Google+ for writers

Contrast that to Google+, which bears the mark of most Google designs. Simple, spare, blue and white, and lots of “negative” space make it seem clean and functional, focusing your attention on the content that’s being shared rather than the accoutrements of the interface.

On Google+ there are no “followers.” Instead you can “circle” people and they can circle you. But you don’t just add people to a circle; you can have many circles if you like, and each can have its own uses. For instance, you can sort people you circle into different areas, like high school friends, colleagues, friends you like to play music with, or bloggers who review books. People can be in more than one circle, too.

When it becomes time to share something, you decide which circles will receive it, or if it’s available to the public (that is, anyone at all on Google+).

Google+ for writers

This solves the ongoing problem I have with Facebook, and I suspect a lot of you have too: mixing personal and professional contacts. With Google+, the ability to segment your interests is built into the program, an intrinsic part of its functioning.

One thing that this makes immediately obvious is that you can craft messages, shares and announcements for specific groups. Authors can easily maintain lists of book reviewers, readers, media contacts, editors, designers, and other authors.Segmentation is the foundation of direct marketing, so this ability alone gives you the opportunity to market in new ways.

You can also follow the circles other people have put together, which is a quick way to gain access to the updates and information being published by leaders in your field.

Hangouts

One of the amazing features Google+ incorporated from the beginning is Hangouts, the ability to have quick video chats with other Google+ users.

If you’ve ever wrestled with videoconferencing software or services, this is an amazing feature. With no more effort than just clicking the “start a hangout” button and inviting others to join you, you can instantly have a real-time video conference right inside Google+.

Authors could use this capability for face-to-face meetings with their editors, to have a chat with a designer, or to bring in virtual assistants and marketing people for a strategy session on a book launch. The ideas for hangouts are pretty endless, and that’s even before you start using them to connect to readers.

Shares

Some people have tried to explain Google+ as being somewhere between Twitter’s rapid-fire text updates and Facebook’s robust photo- and video-sharing abilities.

But Google+ is really different from both other services, and one reason is the flexibility of sharing. On Twitter, of course, you’re limited to 140 text-only characters, although updates are often used for links to other content.

Google+ for writers

On Facebook, the status updates are limited to 420 characters, enough to write a very, very short story perhaps (see Lou Beech for examples). On Google+, I don’t think there’s much of a limit. You can post a one sentence update, and it makes sense. Or you can post an entire article if you like, with photos, videos or other content as part of it. Darren Rowse, for instance, the author and professional blogger, uses Google+ this way to communicate with his vast tribe.

This flexibility combines really well with the ability to segment your lists, since not all communications with all communities can be made to conform to the same restrictions. For instance,

  • you might want to send a 300-word article to your community similar to an email update.
  • short messages to marketing partners like affiliates or other authors in a blog network are just as easy.
  • personal messages with a photo gallery from a trip or celebration can easily be shared with friends and family.

Altogether, Google+ has made a big impression on the social media community. Many users report spending a lot less time on Facebook, as the clean, uncluttered, and easy-to-use interface attracts them. Others say they enjoy the longer communications possible and don’t market quite as much on Twitter. There are communities of authors, readers, and lots of other kinds of people forming on Google+.

All of these developments will become more and more important to you as an author as the service continues to grow. Google has just recently added the ability to create pages for businesses, brands, products and companies.

The more Google+ grows, the more Google will combine it with its search, video, and advertising streams, and that combination is potentially explosive. I think you should be on Google+, and it looks like it’s going to be a great destination for some time to come.

If you have a Google account, you can just go fill out your profile and spend some time checking it out. I think you’ll like what you see.

Google+ Resources for Writers

Debbie Ohi’s master list of literary people on Google+
The Mashable.com Guide to Google+
Book reviewer Natalie Luhrs’ site on Google+
Jason Boog’s GalleyCat roundup of writers on Google+

This article was originally published as “Is Google+ Good for Writers?” on CreateSpace.com on November 17, 2011

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    { 12 comments… read them below or add one }

    Joanna Penn December 13, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Hi Joel, there are two very good reasons people should be on Google+ , even with just a basic profile.
    (1) The G+ profile will always be top ranked on a Google search so just fill it in and link it to all your other sites as a starter
    (2) If you share a post on G+ it instantly gets into the Google ranking machine – as in you don’t have to wait for the crawlers to get to your site. This is fantastic and can get your article to the top of Google search before other people if you get it ranked quickly.
    For example, you can see this by Googling “the flinch” which is the title of the newest Seth Godin book which loads of bloggers linked to when it came out the other day. My article is on the front page above some big bloggers because I got it on G+ fast and before others.
    Very cool!
    Also, G+ is way superior to Facebook and I’ll be leaving FB just as soon as everyone else gets on G+. I’ve never liked FB so it will be good to leave. But still my favourite is twitter – no change there!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 13, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Hi Joanna,

    The synergy between Google+ and Google search is one of the leading reasons I jumped on there as soon as I could get an invitation when the service was in beta.

    Partly this comes from my expeince with the way Google ranks Google Profiles, which are now linked with your Google+ profile. I’ve seen some great SEO results from Google profile and I’ve noticed you use yours also. Although I’ve encouraged other people to create a free profile, I’m surprised more people don’t use them.

    On the usability side, I’m totally in agreement. Although I love the ability to connect to old friends on FB, the rest of it seems like a disaster to me and I spend virtually no time actually on the site any more.

    Google+ is refreshing and seems to hit the sweet spot in so many areas. I haven’t tried the Hangouts yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

    Thanks for your feedback, valuable and to the point as always.

    Reply

    christopher wills December 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Hi Joel
    I’ve never really got into Facebook although I have an account. I am wary of exposing my life story to others; I’ll save that for my autobio if I become famous… Reading your post has got me very interested in Google+ though. I think I’ll give it a go for a few months and see what happens. Thanks (also thanks to Jo).

    Reply

    Sylvia Liu December 16, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Hi Joel,
    This is an excellent and comprehensive post. I’m still exploring what Google+ can do, and I tried Google Hangouts yesterday (in a hangout organized by Debbie Ohi). You’re right, the possibilities for online cooperative collaboration are endless. I blogged about my experience hanging out with other children’s illustrators here: “Google+ Hangouts: a promising tool for online artistic collaboration” (http://bit.ly/rZQGWf)

    Reply

    Gordon Burgett December 16, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Again, very well done: clear, lays a strong case for exploring Google+. Sounds like an ideal place to specifically identify and communicate with my seminar attendees about niche publishing and empire building. Thanks for the nudge, Joel.

    Reply

    George Angus December 18, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Joel,

    I had dug my heels in and was going to avoid plus altogether. After reading this, you’ve convinced me to give it a whirl. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    Cheers

    George

    Reply

    Dorothy Thompson January 4, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I’m thinking what happened was that when Twitter took off like it is today, people who weren’t tweeting but had joined Twitter realized that these things can amount to something huge and that’s what I believe happened to Google+. It was confusing at first sure as was Twitter but I learned my lesson. I love it.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 4, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Hi Dorothy,

    Good point. It seems to take some critical mass of users before growth really takes off. I’m enjoying Google+ quite a bit. I tried to connect with you there but came up with a looooong list of “Dorothy Thompsons.” If you connect from your end, I’ll circle you back. I’m at +JFBookman

    Reply

    Dorothy January 23, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Sorry Joel! I’ll go connect with you now. ;o)

    Reply

    Adrian Middleton March 5, 2012 at 6:02 am

    Hi Joel,

    Great article. As the others have said, you make a great case. I don’t suppose you know if it’s acceptable to say, use a specially created logo (for your book series) in place of a standard photo of myself? Will Google allow that? I know there are issues regarding the account name, that it should be your real name, but wanted to check. I was planning originally on using Facebook and Twitter alongside my author blog but I’m tempted just to go with G+ and see how it goes. I’ve never been a fan of facebook, or twitter to be honest, though I can see the benefits of them both. I’d just prefer to focus all my social media efforts in one platform only (aside from my blogging that is).

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 5, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Adrian,

    I’m not sure if the curent guidelines allow logos for avatars, but I do think your plan of concentrating on one service is very sound. It’s much more productive to really get to know one service in depth with all the ways you can utilize it instead of skimming the surface everywhere. Let us know how it goes.

    Reply

    Adrian Middleton March 6, 2012 at 12:19 am

    Thanks Joel, and I will do. I know some may say i should use others as well, such as facebook, but in a way I’d rather break the mould and go with Google+ only. I don’t want to go on FB just because ‘everyone’ is on there, apparently. I’ve never liked their interface, far too busy for my liking. One thing I hope won’t be an issue with G+ however is their support service, as I’ve had problem getting assistance from google at times, if at all. That’s my only gripe right now, otherwise I’ll be sticking with them.

    P.S. Are there any other ways to get in touch with you? If I may, I’d like to go into greater detail about my plans and (hopefully) get your advice.

    Reply

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