Advantages of Using Google+ for Writers

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.

Photo Credit:  Yuko Honda  via flickr  Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Yuko Honda via flickr Creative Commons

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.

Conclusions

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?

Find me on Google+

 

Setting up a Facebook Author Page

I've been trying to decide whether to set up a Facebook Author page for my writing. I have a website, a personal Facebook account, a LinkedIn account and a Twitter account. I also dabble in Google+, but I really haven’t figured out how to use it yet so my apologies if I have inadvertently not added you to my circles yet (or done anything else that is egregiously against Google+ etiquette).

To date, I have kept most of my writing information and updates confined to my website and Twitter account with some erratic and unskilled use of Google+ on the side. I have kept my Facebook account mostly for personal use, although I follow a lot of writing organizations and am friends with quite a few writers. I use LinkedIn for my consulting work only.

This divided approach has worked for a while and has allowed me to avoid pestering my friends and family with information about my writing efforts – because really, do they want to know? And it has prevented some of my Facebook friends (ex-boyfriends, certain family members, friends who might laugh at me) from knowing too much about how seriously I take my writing “hobby”.

Facebook.jpg

The Power of Facebook

However there are times when I think it would be valuable to use Facebook to talk about my writing and promote my books a little bit. Facebook is a platform that offers significant reach and has significant SEO (Google yourself and you will find that your Facebook account is probably in the top results). It also allows for longer updates than Twitter, but more informal ones than my website – to talk about my writing (and more importantly, unlike Google+, I get how it works).  In addition, although Jane Friedman correctly argues that a Facebook author presence does not replace your personal author website, there are some things that you can do on Facebook – such as give aways or other contests, through things such as Fan Appz and RSS Graffiti that you often cannot do on your personal website (see the article by Emlyn Chand on how to do this). This functionality might be useful. At this point in time, my website won’t even let me have more than three font sizes on a page. I could also add a “like me” button to the sidebar of my website giving people an opportunity to stay connected.

Which Facebook Approach is Best?

As a result, I have debated setting up a Facebook Author page that people can “like” that will allow me to post more about my writing and continue to avoid bugging my friends. Some of my writer friends have done this, while others use their personal Facebook account to talk about their writing. I decided to look into the pros and cons of each approach.

Using Your Personal Facebook Account

Jane Friedman at Writer Unboxed recommends using your personal Facebook account to connect with potential readers and talk about your writing. Nathan Bransford and Ann Hill agree. Friedman suggests using Facebook lists to group your friends and manage who sees what. Bransford and Hill note that you can turn on subscriptions on your personal Facebook page, thereby allowing people to follow your public posts, without you having to accept friend requests from people you do not know. You can set each post to either be public, which means it will go to everyone, or to just go to your friends. This is an option that I was not aware of. Not that there is a line up of people I don’t know waiting to friend me (yet). Hugh Howey uses this approach, as does Bransford himself.

So what are the pros and cons of using a personal Facebook account for writerly communication?

Pros

  1. Your personal Facebook account is probably already set up, and you already have friends on it – you won’t have to suffer the ignominy of having only two likes on your “fan” page, and having to beg for more, or invite your existing friends to “like” you. (As one writer noted, asking people to “like” your page isn’t his idea of an enjoyable way to relate to others… of course I spend so much time alone with my cat I am not sure if I am totally up on enjoyable ways to relate to others).
  2. As Bransford observes, you only have to maintain one profile, which for me, given my more sporadic posting record, might be the best approach. (After all they say to only post interesting things, and I’m afraid it takes me a while to think of interesting things).
  3. As Friedman observes, not using your personal Facebook page is essentially ignoring your first potential circle of fans – friends, family, colleagues, and others who probably (hopefully) want you succeed and support your work.
  4. I can potentially connect more with other writers with whom I am friends on Facebook. I enjoy reading their posts and shares on writing, so why wouldn’t they enjoy mine? (But I’m Twitter friends with most of these writers anyway so we already connect with regard to writing on Twitter – is there a value-add associated with Facebook? Most of my writer friends do both, so I conclude there must be some value-add.)

Cons

  1. My Facebook friends may not be interested in writing at all – or if they are, may not be interested in me as a writer.
  2. Many of my Facebook friends might think it is strange if I post about writing.
  3. If I use the subscription approach suggested by Bransford, then I will have a big Follow button on my personal page, which might look a bit obnoxious to my friends.
  4. I may have to become more interesting, which for me appears to be a lifelong endeavor. This means I may have to stop posting so many photos of my cat.
  5. Apparently - and this is a biggie - using Facebook to promote or "sell" your books is against the Facebook Terms of Service. I'm not sure where the line between legitimately "talking" about your writing and books with Facebook friends and "selling" your writing and books is. A lot of writers do use their personal Facebook pages for their writing, but beware of tripping over the line into selling.

Creating a Facebook Author Page

Hill argues that a Facebook Author page is the best approach for veteran writers with multitudes of fans and many books, who want to keep their personal life and writing life completely separate. That doesn’t exactly apply to me, but there are still some pros associated with a Facebook Author page that should be considered.

Pros

  1. I don’t have to worry about pissing off/boring my friends (any more than I already may do in person) by spamming them about my books and/or writing.
  2. I could set my cover photo to include my book covers or some personal branding splash and update my personal information to reflect my writing information.
  3. I would have access to analytics with an Author page that I would not with my personal profile.
  4. A Like button seems a bit more benign than a Follow button.
  5. People who want to check out your Facebook Author page do not have to be Facebook users to do so, and there is not the commitment of following. 
  6. You can have more than 5,000 fans, whereas on your personal account you can only have 5,000 friends. However the subscriptions approach on your personal account gets around this as you can have unlimited followers.

Cons

  1. Although I am trying to be more consistent with my blog posts, I don’t have a clear schedule for using Twitter and I am not a big poster on my personal Facebook account. So if I did not update my Facebook Author page regularly, that may reflect badly on me. This is a con for both approaches though. See number four above.
  2. The dreaded lack of likes. Melissa Foster has 12,659. Many of my writer friends have a respectable over 100 likes. What if I only end up with four?
  3. Hill observes that Facebook has changed its algorithms such that Author Pages, or Fan Pages more generally are showing up in the news feeds of only a small fraction of the people who "Liked" their page, unless they pay to "Promote" their posts to ensure that they showed up in more followers' news feeds. 

Once you have made a decision which way to go, there are many posts with regard to how to set up a Facebook Author page, or manage subscriptions and lists on your personal Facebook account. There are also many posts with tips on how to use your Facebook account or page for your writing information. Friedman of course reminds us not to misuse it as a marketing bullhorn. Probably good advice. Bransford also notes that you can set up a Facebook page for your book, so that when and if people search out the title they can easily find it. Then you have to maintain two, and perhaps three, Facebook pages though and that seems (for me anyway) onerous.

That is all I could find on the pros and cons of a personal Facebook account versus a Facebook Author page. I would love to hear any additional thoughts. I am still undecided, although now I’m leaning towards using my personal Facebook account, or nothing at all (I’m still working on becoming more of an extravert, and besides I’m sure my cat understands me).

Photo Credit: mkhmarketing http://mkhmarketing.wordpress.com/