This week while I am taking short breaks from editing A Quill Ladder, which is now available here for pre-order, I am wrestling with the pros and cons of spending more time posting my content on Google+. And wrestle I have, let me tell you. I have now read so many almost incomprehensible articles on the advantages of Google+ that my head is spinning. Editing was far more relaxing.
Why care about Google+?
I already have a Facebook account, and posted here about the pros and cons of setting up a Facebook author page versus just having a personal profile. I decided to go the route of keeping my personal profile and have added a lot of writer friends, and have done some very successful promotion on Facebook. I also have a Twitter account and have a not too shabby 885 followers.
But I keep hearing that Google+ is better than Facebook and Twitter, and certainly, even with my limited use of Google+, I can see that I have had 2,456 views with almost no effort at all. I find Facebook a bit awkward for book promotion and talking about writing because my non-writing related friends do not always want to hear about my writing, and my writing friends are not necessarily interested in my trip to Oregon, or my son’s habit of wearing filthy clothes. Twitter just seems like a scrolling newscast in which there is too much noise for most people to catch much. I definitely tweet, have a list of tweeters that I watch, and try to engage with some of my writer friends there, but in my mind Twitter is not ideal.
So I decided to explore what Google+ can do for me. You will have to be patient with me as I review the material and formulate my opinion—and this is just a layperson’s view. I am not a super techie or social media expert. But perhaps that will help me to consider some of these things in plain language—or explore where Google+ and its cadre of experts are just not making themselves clear. This week I am going to look at why people think Google+ is the best social media platform for authors. In subsequent weeks, I will talk about my experiences using the tools Google+ provides.
Main advantages of Google+ for writers
1) You can more easily direct your content via circles
Google+ easily allows you to direct your content to the people you want it to go to by allowing you to classify all of your connections via circles. So you can establish a circle for friends, family, writers, agents, and so on. When you share content, you can easily decide who it should go to, and you don’t have to worry about continually spamming your friends with news about your writing. You can also share content publicly or to specific communities. Technically, Facebook allows for the same option via lists, but circles are built in to Google+ and much easier to use.
One downside though is that it doesn't seem like you can share something publicly and to communities at the same time. I like to post to communities such as the Indie Readers and Writers community as I feel that is more targeted than posting publicly, but does that mean that the post does not appear on my Google+ page?
2) You can write longer posts and format them
This, I suppose, allows for somewhat more versatility than Twitter’s short posts and Facebook’s lack of formatting options. But how big an advantage is this? Sure, formatting can increase readability, and you can make it look exactly how you would like it. But is that really going to cause engagement with your post to spike? Isn’t it more about what you say?
One of the posts indicates that you could share an entire chapter of a novel. This would allow you to send it to a single person in one of your circles a chapter to review. Great, but why wouldn’t I just use email for that? The post also suggests you could use Google+ to send a chapter to multiple agents at once. I’ve never heard of agents accepting chapters via Google+. They usually have lengthy formatting and submission requirements, and Google+ is not one of them. If I posted a chapter publicly, would people read it? Maybe. I guess I would have to try.
3) Posting your content on Google+ increases the Google ranking of your post and therefore your visibility
Apparently Google (you know that search engine that so many people use, that google has become a verb), favours posts made on Google+. This is a big one, and honestly might be the most compelling reason to use Google+.
4) You at one point in time could claim Google Authorship for your posts
Google Authorship meant that you ended up with a headshot and byline next to your content in Google searches—which supposedly increased your credibility and click-through rates. And if people stayed on your website for more than two minutes, Google would suggest more of your content to them when they hit the back button. This Copyblogger article contains a lot of reasons why Google Authorship was supposedly great.
However, Google seems to have announced that it will no longer be doing Google Authorship, as the information did not prove as useful to its readers as it had hoped. Read an article about the announcement here. Maybe this explains why I could not get it to work as it was supposed to, as I described below.
I went through the confusing process of trying to set up Google Authorship up for myself, which involved repeated messages like this from the Google+ team when I tried to click verify in the verification email address they sent: “There's something wrong with the link you clicked to verify your email address. Try pasting the entire link into your browser.” I found a different way to do it, but that did not work either - probably because the whole thing had been cancelled. Either way Google, I love you, but please if you are going to do something like Google Authorship make it easier for people to use.
5) Google+ does not use algorithms to decide what people see
We all know this is one of the major complaints regarding Facebook. People can like a page, but then never see the posts by the author of that page if they have not engaged with the page enough. I have many pages that I have liked that I don’t ever see a post from. Apparently, Google+ does not do this. If people put you in a circle, they will see what you post. Although this does not affect me as much, because I use Facebook mostly to interact with my friends and only occasionally post information regarding my books, it is still confusing to know what Facebook is sharing with whom.
6) According to some of the experts, Google+ is the best place to extend your reach and draw in new potential fans and customers
According to these same people, Facebook is for engaging with the people you already know, and Google+, because of its better reach and searchability, is where you meet new people and create new relationships. Perhaps this is a relevant point. Obviously my profile has been viewed 2,456 times—presumably by new people. I am not sure what impact that has had on my book sales though.
7) Google+ provides automatic hashtagging
I think this may help increase the visibility of posts. However, to be honest I am not really sure how big an advantage it is.
Google+ also offers features such as hangouts and a tool that works much like Google Alerts. I am not going to cover those here, as they are not as relevant to what I do on social media. However they may be worth considering.
So there you have it. My take is that Google+ may be a better platform in some ways, and the fact that it potentially increases your blog page rank means that it is definitely worth pushing your content to your Google+ page, but as a place to spend a lot of time on, I’m not sure. It certainly has its strong proponents, but Google+ still has fewer users than Facebook or Twitter and the people who do use it apparently spend less time there. I am going to start posting more to Google+ and will let you know what I learn.
This article about which is social media platform (Facebook or Google+) is going to emerge as the winner offers a lot of good commentary on the future of Google+, as well as some of the key ways to get the most out of it, which I will consider in the coming weeks.
So what is your take? What have I missed? Which platform do you favour?
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