By Evo Terra
Google has built an interesting and useful platform that’s designed to be approachable. Many elements baked into Google+ make it the ideal social property for an author. But like anything, it takes a little learning to understand all the moving pieces. Even those familiar with other social properties or the inner workings of Google+ can get a little tripped up with some of these terms.
Google+ is a social network based on shared interests and people you want to know rather than friends and people you already know. If you’re familiar with other social networking sites, many of the bells and whistles will be familiar to you. Some terms have the same or similar meaning on Google+ as they do anywhere else, but there are often subtle nuances you should be aware of.
Profile (for people): This is you and the things you’ve chosen to display to the world or a small subset of the world. When someone wants to learn more about you on Google+, they’ll often click through to your profile to see not only who you are, but how you behave on Google+. It’s equal parts resume and audit trail. It’s a place to show who you are and who you want to be, and serves as a repository for all the things you’ve opted to share on Google+.
None of this should scare you. The only things that go in your profile are those you’ve opted to make public.
Page (for brands): Businesses and brands don’t have profiles on Google+, they have pages. Any brand can start a page–even brands that don’t really exist. And while brand pages have largely the same features and ability to interact with profiles on Google+, there are some restrictions. Some authors have experimented with using a page as their primary presence on Google+. None of them have worked out very well, in my opinion.
That’s not to say that pages are worthless for authors. Many excellent pages exist for individual books, series, writing collectives, publishing houses and more. Those are more advanced options I would encourage you to explore once you’ve mastered Google+ as an individual author. But that’s a topic for another book.
Home stream: Once you start adding people and brands to your circles (q.v.), the content they share shows up for you here. The content you’ll see here is mostly in reverse chronological order (read: newest on top), but not always. Lots of factors like popularity, quality of content, your prior engagement history, and your preferences play a role in what shows up here and in what order. My recommendation: don’t lose any sleep over it. I spend a lot of time looking at my home stream because it’s always filled with great content.
Ripples: Google+ makes it easy to see how the content you’ve shared travels through the Google+ ecosystem. They call this Ripples, and any post made to the public that has been re-Shared at least once will display this option. Look for it (currently–Google likes to move things) under the the little down-arrow on the upper right-hand corner of any post that has been re-Shared.
A good use for this feature is to see if that post you’re thinking of re-Sharing has already been shared a lot. There’s no harm in that, but if something is a few days old and has already been everywhere, you may appear a little late to the party.
+1: The +1 button is the best and most underutilized feature on Google+, in my opinion. Giving a post a +1 means “I enjoyed this content this so much, I’m showing my public support!” It’s fast, easy, and helps Google figure out what kind of content you want to see. It also lets the original creator of the post know that you thought highly of their post, encouraging them to create more like it. It’s an easy, feel-good thing to do, and I’m not doing it enough. Do a better job than me, OK?
Circles: If it helps, think of circles as lists or groupings of the profiles and pages you’re adding. This helps gives you some order should you choose to segregate content shared with you. For example, I have lots of authors in my circles, separated into two circles: fiction and nonfiction. I have another circle for editors and one for luminaries in the publishing world. And because I’m into more than just indie publishing, I have circles for people who share information on craft beer, one with a few hundred super-smart science geeks, and one just for people who talk about commercial space exploration. Google+ allows me to look at streams for just each circle, if choose.
Circles can be organized any way you want. Profiles and pages can be in multiple circles. And you can have as many circles as you want. My advice is to not worry too much about where to place someone, because people cross the lines. I can think of a couple of authors who are big craft beer nerds and share a lot of great information about science and commercial space. To top it off, they write both fiction and nonfiction. You’ll go mad trying to keep your circles spotless, so pick a direction and move on. You can always move things around later. And you will. Lots!
Communities: A relatively new feature of Google+, Communities (also called GPCs) allow like-minded people to congregate in a sectioned-off area. Jeff and I run the Digital Publishing community, and we’d love for you to join. Anyone can start a community, and anyone can join a public community. There are also private communities that are invite-only, and some communities require moderator approval before new members can join. Communities are fun and interesting, and beyond the scope of this book. But yes, you should play in them, too.
Hangout: Remember how I showed how you can record a video and use it as a Share? Google+ takes that one step further, and lets you “hang out” with other people. Think of a video call–a video conference call if you like–and you’ve got a working knowledge of Google+ Hangouts. You and up to nine other people with webcams can have a live, interactive session. You control who you invite and can invite a single person, anyone from any given circle, or even the public and see who shows up. On second thought, don’t do that last part. That’s ill-advised if you have more than a few thousand people who’ve added you to their circles Some of them are rather unpredictable.
Hangout On Air: Also called an HOA, a Hangout on Air is a broadcasted Hangout. And Google+ means “broadcast” very literally. HOAs are, by definition, public. You can control who can interact with you inside the Hangout, but anyone can watch. HOAs are automatically uploaded to your YouTube channel–if you have one–and are simulcast on YouTube live. Jeff and I produce a weekly HOA called The Books & Beer Hangout on Monday nights at 6:00 PT. And yes, you can produce your own show, too. That capability is built right into Google+.
Wow! That’s a lot of info. I appreciate you plowing through it, even if it didn’t make all that much sense to you. As I said at the beginning, come back to this as you need. It’s not important that you memorize anything, and I sure hope I didn’t scare you off with all of that. Google+ is a great place to show your true expertise as an author.
About the Author
Evo Terra is an American podcaster, writer, radio broadcaster, and businessman based in Arizona. He’s the author of Making Killer Google+ Profiles, Writing Awesome Sales Copy (and Book Blurbs), and Podcasting for Dummies.