Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Google+ for Writers and Authors

The social media site Google+ can help writers promote their work three ways: by letting writers interact with online groups frequented by potential readers, by increasing writers' visibility in Google searches, and by allowing writers to host free online video calls using a feature called Hangouts.

Note: Google+ recently got bad press because of management reshuffling that has led to predictions that the site might disappear. Other pundits believe the site will stick around but in a diminished form. The tips below use features that will likely remain intact regardless of management changes at the company. (Six months ago, pundits predicted Google would shutter a product called Feedburner -- this has yet to happen. I use Feedburner for this blog)

Posting to Google+ Groups

I am not a fan of spending time on social media sites trying to develop a huge number of followers. The main reason: The sites can change their rules, hold your followers hostage, and force you to pay to reach them. (For more on this, see my article on Facebook Pages for Writers) As a result, I prefer to spend my time connecting with people in social media groups.

Google+ has a lot of offbeat groups you won't find on Facebook or Linked In. For my fiction and humor, I found a group called Cynical Singles filled with funny, smart people with bad attitudes. For my nonfiction (marketing for writers), I found a group called Literary Agents Hate Kittens, which is also filled with funny, smart people with bad attitudes.

Tips on Posting to Google+ Groups
- Search for groups the same way you do on other sites: search on your topic, verify that there are lots of active members, look for intelligent posts, and read the group's rules to make sure it's OK for you to post links to your work.
- When posting one of your articles or blog stories to a Google+ group, make the post longer than what you'd typically post in Facebook or LinkedIn groups. For Facebook and LinkedIn, I post the headline and a link -- and that's it. For Google+, I include half of my article with a link at the bottom that directs people to the rest of the story. Google+ allows for longer posts.
- When someone comments or gives your post a +1, give their comment the same, comment on their comment, and follow them -- you may have found yourself a fan.

When posting one of my pieces to a LinkedIn group, I copy and paste the headline and article url, and LinkedIn takes care of the rest.

Ditto with posts to Facebook groups.

When posting to Google+ groups, I copy half to two-thirds of the article and include a link to the rest of the piece at the end of the post. (see red arrow)


Boosting Your Visibility in Google Searches

Google and Google+ have interrelated features known as Social Search, Google Authorship, and Author Ranking that claim to make you more visible to search engines. The features are relatively easy to implement by tweaking your Google+ profile (easy) and tweaking your blog or Web site (a little more involved.)

Definitions and Details

Social Search: When one of your followers on Google+ performs a search, relevant articles created by you will appear higher in their search results.

Google Authorship, Author Ranking: Articles written by you that appear in a Google search will include your photo and information from your Google+ profile.

For example:

I implemented Google Authorship by connecting the bio used in my blog to my Google+ profile.

With Google Authorship implemented, my smiling face appears in searches. Does that mean people are more likely to click my stuff?

Note: I implemented these changes a while ago and have noticed no increase in search traffic. Would my traffic have dropped off had I not implemented them? Don't know. But I'm the superstitious type and prefer to appease Google search algorithms.

More than you want to know about these topics and how to implement them:

From Google

From Social Media Examiner

From Search Engine Journal


Google+ Hangouts

This features lets you easily create free video chats, which could be useful for talking to book groups or other gatherings of potential readers who are on Google+. A feature called Hangouts on Air, lets you create lectures, webinars, and other events that can be broadcast to the general public. Setting up Hangouts on your Google+ account requires a Web cam, downloading some software, and some fiddling around. Hangouts on Air adds another layer of complexity because the feature uses your Youtube account.

Note: I have not used Hangouts extensively, but plan to in the coming months.

An opening screen for setting up a Google+ Hangout. Here, you choose who you want to invite to your video Hangout. You can invite up to 10 people. Adding more people requires a feature called Hangouts on Air and your Youtube account.

A Hangout in action: It will take some work to make a Hangout look professional, but tools (red arrows) can help. If you got a mug like mine all the tools in the world might not help.

Instructions for setting up Hangouts

Interesting Uses for Hangouts


More on Google+


More on Social Media for Writers

Using Groups to Find Readers

Building a Writing Platform: My Results for 2013

Why Facebook is Not Your Friend

Google+ Art at top of page: By B!ttu (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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