Google+ & Authors (do I really have to join this?)

I read an article on Mashable.com a few weeks back where writer Nova Spivack states “welcome to ‘Sharepocalypse,’ a new era of social network insanity.” According to Spivack, Sharepocalypse takes place when “hundreds (if not thousands) of online friends share content with us across various social networks, culminating in massive information overload.” It can seem extremely daunting trying to keep up to speed with all these social sharing sites. But as self-published authors looking to market our books, we rely on them. The problem is … as writers, we are busy people. We don’t always have the time to just start a new online profile, or a second, or a third, etc …

Chances are, you’ve heard of The Google+ project – Google’s cloud-based tool to help “make sharing on the web more like sharing in real life.” If you’re like me, you may have received an invite from a friend but your indifference has yet to give way to the societal pressures to join. In reality, you probably just want someone to tell you if it’s worth it or not. The good news is … I am here to be that somebody. Let me give you some cliff notes on Google+.

NO NEED TO RUSH
First and foremost, there is not a huge rush to join.  Unlike Domain names and Twitter handles where you have the potential for “
name squatting,” Google+ profiles consist of unique 21 character numbers that then need to be put into a URL shortner – http://www.gplus.to/.  So unless you crave being an early adopter of these types of things or have a certain affinity to a 21 digit number, there is no need to rush in to secure your spot on Google+.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
If you have time, I recommend reading the following article “
How Authors, Bloggers and Journalists can use Google Plus?”  In it, the author rightfully points out that “most of the early adopters of the site have been techies, social media marketers, and bloggers.”  If you are a tech writer, then chances are you are already on Google+.  For the rest of us, it may still be a while before many of our readers set-up a profile (if ever).

GOT GMAIL?
Currently, I think Google+ is only worth it to Authors that already have
GMail accounts and lots of readers in their contacts.  Because your Google+ profile is tied to your GMail account, the minute you log-in, you have access to your contacts in ways once only restricted to email.   The only caveat is that many of your contacts will not have Google+ accounts, so you’ll need to send them invites to join.

WRITING WORKSHOPS AND BOOK GROUPS
Google+ has two features that could be very helpful to Authors: “Circles” and “Hangouts.”  When you join Google+, you can create customized circles of your contacts.   You could easily create one for your readers and provide them with updates, savings coupons, and preview chapters of your book.  The second feature that is pretty cool is Hangouts.  Hangouts is a video conference tool similar to
WebEx or GoToMeeting® — that’s free!  You are limited to 10 participants and can’t use it with mobile devices.  With that said, you could easily use the tool for web-based writing workshops, book readings, or just a good old book group. DukeReads has been doing something similar to this for 5 years now which you may want to check out.  In short, Google+ Hangouts allows you to do cheap, but small, virtual book clubs.

CONCLUSION
I intentionally kept the above list very short.  We live in an era of information overload and you probably just skimmed over this post anyways, which is fine.  When bombarded with information, our time and attention are our most important assets.  If you need more information on Google+, check out
Chris Brogan’s list of 50 points you should know about the tool.

My summary of Google+ is as follows.  As self-published authors, we should be promoting our work using as many different free services as possible.  Google+ has some tools that can be beneficial to authors with strong followings, but you may want to wait until more people join.  For now, there is no immediate need to rush in.  Don’t feel you need to subcome to the pressures of social sharing.  Join Google+ if and when you think you need to …

 

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15 Comments

  1. Gavin

    Below are some more helpful resources on Google+ including a list of Writers and Librarians using the tool as well as stats, i.e., who is using it?

    Writers on Google+
    http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/writers-on-google_b34711?clickid=0004ab42af1f72730a2a838492cf2534

    Librarians on Google+
    http://gpc.fm/l/library

    “83 percent of Google+ users are inactive” “males still dominate the network at around 70%”
    http://www.websitemagazine.com/content/blogs/posts/archive/2011/08/23/who-is-using-google.aspx

  2. Great article you have here Gavin,a little long tough…. ^^

    I have a feeling that sooner or later everyone will join Google+…And like this most of the authors will join too.

    Thanks for this nice reading,

    Have a nice day!

  3. A key point for authors worth adding to your evaluation is that Google is against the use of pen names. Its policy of deleting the accounts of people who have not signed up under their ‘real name’ has caused great controversy over the last couple of months.

  4. Gavin

    Very interesting point Huckleberry. “Nymwars” now has a Wikipedia page – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nymwars . As pointed out on the Wikipedia page, there is great deal of chatter on Twitter with the hashtag #nymwars. It is interesting to see what other people are saying.

    I can understand why Google would want to restrict pseudonymity. As a function of design, discussed a great deal by Writer Jaron Lanier, anonymity allows people to act as trolls and generally post flamewars and act inappropriately online. With that said, the lack of pseudonymity does not address the fact that many people have numerous online personas nowadays.

    I agree with you that Authors and people who wish to have greater control over their online identity should be mindful of this restriction. Perhaps that’s more reason to not rush-in to setting up a Google+ profile and wait a while to see where this tool goes.

  5. You’re right that anonymity allows people to behave as trolls, but should we ban it for the behaviour of a minority? There are plenty of arguments in favour of it besides those applicable to authors – for example if you’re a blogger in a country that restricts free speech. Should we ban alchohol because it’s used by some as fuel for abuse? Something to ponder!

  6. Gavin

    Huckleberry,

    I agree with all your points, and I think they are all valid. “Nymwars” raise a lot of very important questions about identity, accountability, and speech in the online world. While I don’t like trolling behavior, I do agree that there are plenty of logical reasons why regular people, not just Authors, need pseudonyms online.

    Understanding the Nym Wars
    http://boingboing.net/2011/08/20/understanding-the-nym-wars.html

  7. Gavin

    Mashable.com Founder and CEO, Pete Cashmore, wrote an interesting article below for CNN.

    “Why Google+ will never back down on real names”

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/social.media/08/29/googleplus.real.names.cashmore/index.html

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