Thursday, 16 January 2014

Google + (Part One) ... The What and the Why.

Part One - What & Why


A random collection of factors came together recently to persuade me that learning the basics of Google + (henceforth known as G+) was worth an investment of my time.

  • I've read a number of predictions on blogs and press reports announcing G+ is THE place for author networking in 2014.
  • A conversation in a writing forum where I'm a member. Two writers thought they'd each been blocked by the other on Facebook as they no longer saw each other's posts. I suddenly realised I'd not seen recent posts from them either, yet, when checking their feeds discovered they were indeed both posting daily.
  • An increasing frustration with numbers on Facebook. Triskele Books, have over 300 followers to their page, yet on average less than 30 friends view each post (unless it has numerous shares) and sometimes that is down into single figures. For example, a recent book giveaway attracted dozens of entries via a weekend of posts on Twitter but not one single entry over the same time frame on Facebook.
Items two and three pushed me into investigating further and I discovered the phenomenon of 'Facebook Insights' - the ability to view measurements and statistics on your page - also has the power to place a restriction on your posts, limiting who is able to view them. On average I learned that only 12% of your friends actually get to see your updates. While I've no proof this figure is accurate, it almost exactly mirrors my own findings. Yes, there could be numerous reasons (not following Most Recent threads, not online, etc.) But I'm under no illusion that the main reason is that every time Facebook asks you if you'd like to pay to 'Boost' your views, it's holding back circulation in the hope it can make extra cash out of promoting on your behalf. How else could it offer to boost your updates when you have a finite number of friends/follows?

Hmmm. Not particularly fair or helpful you might be thinking if you hope to be communicating with hundreds, or thousands, of potential new readers. And you'd be right. Imagine your excitement when announcing your new cover, or latest five star review, to your eager audience - to discover only nine people actually saw your post and you didn't have a single Like or Share?

So, if Facebook isn't providing the service you thought you were getting, what's to say any other provider would differ? After all, we're living in the 'no one gives you anything for nothing' age, aren’t we?

One of the main benefits I found with G+ is that 100% of your friends and follows see your updates, not only that but you can organise and group followers, and select particular groups (called Circles) to update separately. This may prove useful if you have a wide range of contacts. For example, it may help on occasion to only post updates to genre writers, or indie authors, or writing groups or close contacts and family. G+ gives you this flexibility without having to set up separate Pages.

I’ve also researched G+ for Business Users. Writers increasingly, and especially indie-authors, most definitely fall under that category. There must be good reason why many businesses are now turning to G+ to promote their services. There are numerous resources and training plans offered online, but key benefits seem to include:
  • It’s rapid expansion – According to sources the fastest growing network resource ever.
  • It’s more active than you think – Over 135 million active users, 60% of which log in daily.
  • It influences search rankings – G+ Shares (called +1s) act as recommendations and influence what searchers see while logged in.
  • It improves your search engine presence – All G+ posts are indexed immediately increasing chances of visibility.
  • It offers 100% visibility - No extra costs to have posts 'boosted'.
  • It allows authored content – Enables you to link updates automatically to your website or blog.
  • It allows for local searches – You can set up a Local page (or merge into main one) so people who make regional specific searches are directed to your site.
  • Newly launched G+ Communities gives your clients, readers, followers a place to mingle and research your products. It’s a great way to get feedback and engage with followers in a meaningful way, with the options to post Public or Private messages.
So, how can any of this help you, specifically from a writing aspect? And before you groan and imagine where you're going to find another few spare hours a day to update yet another social network, let's examine a few key facts, and most importantly discuss what you - as a writer - hope to gain out of the hours you spend promoting and sharing posts online. I think it's important to spend a little time in examining the big players in social networking and deciding what, if anything, G+ can add to the mix for you. If the answer is nothing, fine, it's one more thing to cross of your to-do list.

Putting G+ aside, looking at Social Media from a writer's viewpoint, I categorise as follows:
  • Twitter : Real Time (Events and promotions)
  • Facebook : People (Updates and keeping in touch)
  • Pinterest : Pictures (Online bulletin board)
Where does G+ fit in? Well, after playing around with the site, and reading lots of research, I'd suggest Communication.

Is this something that would be useful to me? Well, yes of course. More so probably than telling my friends (or approximately 12% of them anyway) what I was watching on television that evening. Or boring the same 12% of my followers with the same news over and over.
If your answer to the question - do you want to enhance and expand your audience? - is yes (and which right-minded author would reply with a no?) then I believe G+ is the place to focus your attention.

And also this is Google. GOOGLE. I am as much of a Google junkie as I am Apple. I use Google Chrome as my main search engine. I use Gmail. Find Google Drive particularly useful. Regularly rely on Google Maps. And ADORE Google Earth. And while I'm probably a bit old to be drawn into the world of You Tube, I recognise its appeal and success.
So, why would I doubt the validity or success of G+? I've no doubt that if G+ had been launched five years ago alongside Twitter and Facebook it would be an industry leader today, but we're not dealing with a level playing field. Not yet. I am sure it's only a matter of time though. As Bradley Horowitz, vice-president of G+ said. "G+ is Google itself. We're extending it across all that we do - search, ads, Chrome, Android, Maps, You Tube - so that each of those services contribute to our understanding of who you are."

So, what does the future hold for G+? Will it explode like Twitter or implode like My Space? Research would suggest the former and that authors should get onboard now to maximise its full potential.
So, for now, sign yourself up for a Google Account if you don't already have one, find the G+ logo in your GMail inbox or on your Drive dashboard. Log in with your GMail user name and have a nosey around.

In Part Two of my G+ investigation, we will deal with Google + ... How. I'll run through how to get started on G+, pass on some handy tips for getting the full potential from your time, highlight my favourite advantages and look at future opportunities G+ have to offer.


  1. Hi Gill,
    Interesting thoughts. I heard the Facebook issue summed up recently: Facebook makes everyone an advertiser.
    I'm in a number of google+ communities both in writing and in IT. It's friendly - most people follow back and people like and comment regularly so it's very active. The writing communities have been great for advice. For example, I posted my book blurb and got great comments back.

  2. Thanks, Fiona. I'm a month in now and it's appeal is growing on me. I'm using it for author page and my business and I can see lots of appeal plus as I said the benefits over Facebook are becoming more and more obvious. See you on G+!

  3. One of the interesting aspects of Google+ is that the more you post there the more Google likes it, and will reward you with a hike in page rank - or, at least, Alexa rank. Since I became active on Google+ 12 months ago I found the Alexa ranking for my site improve dramatically, although I was doing little else.

    However, I would question that 100% of my followers - some 3500 to date - see my every post. Perhaps only 10% of them do. Google+ is like a fast-flowing stream in front of a window, If someone happens to look out the window at that moment they might see that post. Otherwise, not :(