Even though Google+ only went public yesterday, it’s being touted as the best new tool for writers, destined to replace both Facebook and Twitter. While I think those claims are likely exaggerated, Google+ is providing some great tools to make managing your social media platform easier.
Last Monday, Lisa explained why writers should be on Google+. Today I’m starting the first in a two part series on how writers can get the most from Google+.
Separate Your Private and Public Life into Circles
As writers, we face a unique challenge. We need to let our readers get to know us, but we also need to maintain a certain level of professionalism, and most of us want at least a scrap of privacy even though we’re expected to be public figures. We don’t necessarily want our readers knowing that we’re looking for a recommendation on a business to pump our septic tank.
On Facebook, we try to deal with this problem by having our personal profile and our professional page. It doubles our workload.
In theory, Google’s idea of circles is brilliant in how it solves this problem. You have all your contacts linked to a single Google+ account, and you slot people into appropriate circles (e.g. friends, family, business contacts, church). You can place people in multiple circles. When you post a status update or share a picture or a link, you choose which circles see it. Facebook does have a similar feature, but it’s less well known and more cumbersome to use.
Though Circles sound simple, many early users struggle to figure out the ideal number of circles to create. While you’ll have to play around a little with what works for you, here’s how I’ve organized my “writing related” circles to keep them general enough to be manageable but specific enough to be useful.
- Writers (both published and unpublished)
- Agents & Publishers
- Speculative Fiction (my circle for writers in my genre)
- Newspaper/Magazine People
Hangout With Like-Minded People
Hangouts are a group video chat feature (though you can also turn off the video feature and just use voice if you want). Lisa and I have already used it to conduct business meetings, as well as to collaborate remotely.
Why is this ideal for writers? Image management for one. Hangouts let you check what your webcam will show before anyone else sees you. Have a poppy seed stuck in your teeth from lunch? Did you forget to move your kids’ toys from the bookshelf behind you? You’ll know before your webcam image goes live.
Writers in the beta version have also already started participating in writer hangouts consisting of 45 minutes of writing and 15 minutes of chatting. If you’re tired of working in isolation, this can be a fun change and motivation to focus for 45 minutes of solid writing.
You can hangout with up to 10 people at a time. If you start a hangout, you can also control which of your circles knows you’re available to hangout. Don’t want strangers dropping in on the planning of your family reunion? Only invite family (or specific people) to your hangout.
Google+ also offers Huddles for when you’re accessing G+ from your mobile device. Huddles are a group chat feature.
Spark Your Way to Entertaining Your Audience
Google created Sparks to let users easily keep up-to-date on what interests them. Click on Sparks on the left-hand side of your stream page, and you’ll be able to search for a term and add it to your interests. Seeing new content relating to that term is now only one click away.
Your writer’s heart should be breathing a sigh of relief. When you’re trying to build a following, you need to continually provide content that will interest your target audience.
Sparks to the rescue.
For example, romance writers can add the Sparks “romantic vacations,” “chocolate,” and “romance novels.” You’ll use your sparks to find and share appealing links with your followers on Google+ with half the effort.
Stalk Follow You Everywhere
I don’t know of any other social media program that allows you to receive notifications and reply to them without ever leaving the website you’re on. Google has provided a Google+ notification bar that follows you across all Google-related sites. If you use Google Chrome, it will always be at the top of your browser. This is an extremely convenient and time-saving device.
Or it’s a distracting, disruptive, time-sucking leech. It’s all a matter of perspective 😉
I struggle to keep social media from interrupting my day and taking up time when I should be writing or editing. If I were to stop to read and respond every time a notification came in, my productivity would plunge like a mob informant in cement shoes. To avoid this, I don’t like knowing every time something new pops up. I have set times when I’ll swing by Facebook, Twitter, the blog, and now Google+. I need it to be that way.
If you’re like me, I’d recommend sticking with Firefox or Internet Explorer so that Google+’s enticing red notification box isn’t always hovering in the corner of your eye.
What other ways have you found Google+ helps with your writing? Has your opinion about Google+ changed based on this post and Lisa’s post last Monday?