The Indie Author's Guide to Social Media - Part 2: Google+

Welcome back indie authors, to the second instalment of our Indie Author’s Guide to Social Media. In part two, we will be covering the often-overlooked member of the social media family: Google+. If you missed our first part of the Guide that covered Twitter, click here to go give it a read.

Google+ has gone through a lot of changes since its inception. It has had its ups and downs and has generally garnered a negative reception. In its current form, however, Google+ is a fantastic social media platform and is the fastest growing one out there.

Unlike other social media platforms, Google+ is designed to connect you with strangers and people from all reaches of the globe based on your shared interests. It is built on Communities and Circles of people, not just your friends and family. And, though you might not know it, Google+ is a great tool for indie authors.

Without further ado, say hello to Google+.

How Does It Help Indie Authors?

Even though Google+ only has a fraction of the audience of platforms such as Facebook, it allows for a lot more networking and platform building opportunities. Remember that, as an indie author, who you know and can connect with is just as important as what you write. Networking is of the utmost importance and Google+ lets you do that.

To start, Google+ is built on Communities. A Community is essentially a group started by a Google+ user that has some sort of theme. It is a hub for other users to discuss and post about topics under that central theme, thus connecting them to one another. Communities range from occupations to book genres to favourite pastimes. Once you are part of a Community, you are free to post within it (subject to the rules of the Community).

Google+ also has Collections, which are Google’s answer to Pinterest boards. You can create your own Collection on any subject you wish, and then fill that Collection with posts and shared content. As an indie author, you can create Collections which highlight your short stories, your blogs, articles you have found useful, or anything else related to your writing. By making helpful resources out of your Collections, you can attract and keep followers.

Sharing on Google+ is also different than other websites. You can post content to the public (visible to anyone), specific Communities, your Collections, or to your Circles. Circles are ways of organizing the people you follow into private groups. Only you know who is in your Circles. But the most important part about Circles is the ability to post your content to them. Even if that person does not follow you back, posting to a Circle allows everyone within that Circle to view your content, though it will not appear on their homepage.

Google+ helps indie authors by growing their platform and connecting them to people that they might never have known. But even more importantly than that, Google+ posts have better results in Google searches than any other social media platform (for obvious reasons). If you want to connect with others and make your indie author content stand out, Google+ is a great platform for you.

Common Mistakes People Make on Google+

Before you even get started on Google+, here are some mistakes that you should try to avoid.

Use Text-Only Posts. On your homepage, your profile, your discover tab, and in Communities, posts are tiled. Thus, is it very easy for simple text posts to get swallowed up and drown among all the multimedia posts surrounding it. You need something to make it stand out.

Spam Communities. Communities are places where people come to soak in all the stuff they love. They are not there to see you promoting your own product endlessly. Show the Communities some mercy by sharing every now and then, but by +1ing (liking), reposting, and commenting on the things that others share.

Exist Only on Google+. Because Google+ is growing so quickly, a lot of people have decided it is the only platform they will work on. They have even decided that it will be where they blog. Remember that all social media is someone else’s property, you are just renting a spot there. Have a presence on other platforms and drive traffic back to your website.

How to Get Started on Google+

Because of all its unique features, Google+ might seem like it has a steeper learning curve than most social media platforms. Here are a few easy steps to get you started, without making you feel overwhelmed.

1. Fill your bio with beautiful keywords. You have a tagline to draw people in, and an introduction that has no character limit. Fill it with as much as you want to make it easier for people to find and connect with you. Mention that you are an indie author, your genres, your work, and everything you are interested in.

2. Upload a profile picture and header image. This is a must for all social media platforms. The ideal size for your profile picture is 1000x1000 pixels. It will appear much smaller when you post though, so make sure it is recognizable as you. Your header image should be 1600x900 pixels and represent you, while being eye-catching.

3. Follow 100 people. 25-30 of those should be influencers or people you look up to. The remainder should be accounts similar to yours; follow people with common interests to increase the likelihood of them following you. Make sure to make various Circles and sort each of your followers.

4. Find 15-20 Communities and join them (or ask to join them). Find ones that are relevant to indie authors and your genres, or anything else you might be part of professionally. Start +1ing and commenting in some of these Communities, then share some of your content. Remember not to spam them!

5. Create three or four Collections. These will highlight what you are all about and allow people to figure you out at a quick glance. They will also prove that you are valuable and worth following. Again, you are here as an indie author, so focus on genres, tips and tricks, and articles.

Take Your Google+ Up a Notch

1. Use multimedia posts. And not just photos. Currently, indie authors can add videos, polls, locations, and links to their posts. Accent your post with a gif or a custom image. This will make sure your posts are noticed, even among the sea of images.

2. Be active in Communities. You start out by +1ing and commenting on posts in Communities, but soon you will find that you have content to share or your own ideas to post. Try starting discussions, or maybe talk to the leader of a Community to begin a weekly post that you want to write. Do what you can to make yourself visible and valuable. That is how you will grow your platform.

3. Create longer posts based on your content. Rather than posting a few sentences to summarize what you are linking, make your Google+ post a small article itself. If you are linking to a Top 5 blog, tease what those top five are. If you are linking to a short story or your book, post a small excerpt. Again, you are trying to stand out on this platform. You are trying to make yourself more interesting to strangers. Do something different.

4. Create your own Community. This is a time commitment, but well worth it. If you can identify your own niche or specialty, create a community. By running your own community, you will extend the reach of your author platform while adding to your own credibility. But do not take this lightly! Running a Community means moderating, creating and administering rules, and some busy work. But if you think you would enjoy running a Community, it could payback your author platform in folds.

5. Acknowledge and work on your Author Rank. Your Author Rank is like a secret ranking that Google gives you. Based on how active you are, how much you +1, comment, share, and write your own content, your Author Rank will increase. This rank not only increases engagement on Google+, but it increases your search engine ranking as well. And in an ever-growing community like us indie authors, standing out has never been more important.

Google+ still feels like a relative newcomer in the social media scene, primarily because it has gotten so many facelifts over the years. In its current form though - with its focus on Communities and connecting people with common interests - Google+ can be a dream come true for indie authors. You have a chance to make yourself known to potential fans and other indie authors. What more could you ask for?

If you haven’t checked out Part One of the Indie Author’s Guide to Social Media, click here to learn how to make the most of Twitter in your indie author journey.

Is there something we missed in the Indie Author’s Guide to Google+? The Guide is not static, so your input is more than appreciated. And leave a comment below saying which social media platform you want to see covered in the next Indie Author’s Guide to Social Media. And lastly, sign up for our newsletter to get more indie author tips and expanded versions of the Indie Author’s Guide.