4 Ways Google+ Communities Help Authors Build Their Platforms

Google+ is a social platform I always knew could be useful, but beyond setting up an account, I just couldn’t figure out the best way to approach it. So, I asked someone in the know, my good friend Marcy Kennedy, and wow did she open my eyes to a world of possibilities.

I’m super-excited that Marcy accepted my offer to drop in and share her Google+ mastery with all of us.

Take it away, Marcy.

Four Ways Google+ Communities Help Authors Build Their Platforms

Did you know that Google+ has the second most active user base of all social media sites? (And yes, Facebook, no surprise, is number one.)

Yet one of the biggest complaints I hear about Google+ from authors is that they struggle to meet potential future readers and to get others to engage with what they’re posting.

The solution to both problems is Google+ communities.

Google+ rolled out communities in December 2012, and communities are already rapidly growing around topics as diverse as Star Wars, Javascript, parenting, running, football, and photography. If you’re interested in it, you can probably find a Google+ community built around it. They’re a little like Facebook groups, only better.

Before you think that’s great for a non-fiction writer, but I write fiction, let me stop you. Every novel will touch on topics you can find a Google+ community about.

Someone like Elizabeth Spann Craig with her Southern Quilting mysteries could join communities organized around quilting. Erotic romance authors like Roni Loren could join the community that discusses what to read after Fifty Shades of Grey. Does your novel feature vampires or zombies? There’s a community for that. Does your main character have an autistic son? There’s a community for that too. You’re only limited by your imagination.

Here’s the official Google+ trailer.

Why are Google+ communities better than Facebook groups?

Google+ is run by…Google. Public groups are indexed, and will show up high in Google searches, which means they’re much more discoverable.

Hangouts and Hangouts on Air. Hangouts are a video chat for up to nine people. While hangouts on their own provide great opportunities, the real value is Hangouts on Air. Hangouts on Air are live broadcasts. They’re automatically recorded and saved to your Google+ group, as well as your YouTube account. This is a great option for anyone who doesn’t have the time or technical skills to record videos in other ways.

You don’t have to pay to reach people who’ve already said they want to see the content. The grumbling about Facebook charging to promote posts makes Google+ look even more attractive. You shouldn’t have to pay so that people who have already agreed to be connected with you can see what you’re posting.

But the real question is, how can Google+ communities benefit writers? After all, I did say that Google+ communities can help us meet potential future readers and grow our platform.

(1)   Find new ideas for blog posts.

What are your potential future readers already talking about and interested in? Those are perfect topics to blog about. Instead of writing into the void and hoping someone will be interested, you’ll already know what you’re posting on is something they’ll want to read.

Some communities prohibit direct sharing of blog posts so read the rules carefully. However, keep going down this list. The next point is key for developing relationships that will have people adding you to their circles. And once you’re in their circles, they’ll see your status updates—where you can freely share your posts.

(2)   Establish yourself as an expert (and as interesting) by starting valuable discussions.

Anyone can start a discussion in a Google+ community, and topics are organized by categories for easy access (another benefit over Facebook groups).

The best discussions result in active conversations, as well as people sharing it to their own circles. If people see your name attached to great conversations often enough, they’ll add you to one of their circles so they can see everything you post.

(3)   Get an inside look at what your potential future readers love or hate.

If you’re a quick writer and want to self-publish, you could fill a hole in the kind of books people want to read by listening to the likes and dislikes expressed in communities.

This is also a great way to understand the nuances of your genre. Fantasy fans are vocal about what tropes they’re tired of. Steampunk fans are also very vocal about what does and doesn’t belong in a book labeled “steampunk.” Each genre comes with built in expectations.

A large part of success is knowing readers’ expectations and exceeding them. If a reader buys your book expecting one thing and finds another, they’ll be disappointed no matter how great your book might be apart from those disappointed expectations. Once you’re educated on the expectations, you’ll be able to meet them…or choose to forge a new path, while making it clear to readers what they’ll be getting. Knowledge is power.

(4)   If you’re an established author, build a community for your readers.

Google+ communities definitely have a forum feel. Host chats with book clubs. Encourage fan art. Answer commonly asked questions. Provide deleted scenes or interview your characters. If you already have an established audience, Google+ communities provide a low maintenance option for you to encourage conversation among your fans and to be accessible to them.

Google+ is currently a very under-utilized (and poorly utilized) social media platform by writers, but I hope this helps you see the potential hidden inside it.

On Saturday, April 20th, I’m teaching a 90-minute webinar called A Crash Course to Using Google+ to Build Your Author Platform. The cost is only $35, and we’ll look at how to effectively set up your profile, what to do about circles and communities, how to use hangouts, and more. This webinar is great not only for those who are already on Google+ but also for those who aren’t sure if it’s the right place for them! If you can’t make it at the time it’s scheduled but still want to attend, sign up anyway. The webinar will be recorded and sent to all registrants. Click here to register!

Gene here: See what I mean about the host of possibilities Google+ Communities has to offer authors? I know I’ll be taking Marcy’s webinar and hope you’ll join in as well and unlock the potential of this fantastic tool. Have a question for Marcy? Drop it in the comments, we’d love to chat with you *smile*

Marcy KennedyAbout Marcy Kennedy

Marcy is a fantasy writer who believes there’s always hope—sometimes you just have to dig a little harder to find it. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance editor. (Check out Marcy’s editing services here.) You can find her blogging about writing on Wednesdays/Thursdays and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth on Mondays and Fridays Because Fantasy Is More Real Than You Think…

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About Gene Lempp

Gene Lempp is a writer blending elements of alternate history, the paranormal, fantasy, science fiction and horror for dark and delicious fun. He unearths stories by digging into history, archeology, myth and fable in his Designing from Bones blog series. “Only the moment is eternal and in a moment, everything will change,” sums the heart of his philosophy. You can find Gene at his Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, WANATribe, Google+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.
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31 Responses to 4 Ways Google+ Communities Help Authors Build Their Platforms

  1. emmaburcart says:

    Well, that makes me feel like I need to give G+ another try. I didn’t get much interaction when I tried using it before, so I quit. And, really, I hated that you can’t switch your email and because I had hotmail when I signed up I have to sign out of gmail and re-sign in to Google to use it. Such a pain! So, really, I’m just waiting until the fix that. 🙂

    • Gene Lempp says:

      While I agree that email issue is a bit frustrating, I think what Marcy is showing us is that Google+ holds a wealth of potential worth pursuing. Even if things aren’t quite perfect yet. Thanks for the comment 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by, Emma 🙂 I think each social platform has “best practices” that we need to figure out if we want engagement, and so the biggest challenge is always going to be figuring out things like this.

      As for waiting until Google+ removes the restriction about needing a Gmail account, I’m not certain that will change any time soon 🙂 I think they were hoping connecting the two would woo more people over to using Gmail.

  2. I freaking love Marcy Kennedy. She knows everything. ANd since you know everyone, Gene…well, you two are quite power duo. I was a beta tester for Google + and I was underwhelmed. I have never done anything with it — and I still have followers. I use it more as a reader than a way to interact. I never knew that you could troll around looking at other things. I’ll have to do a little recon. Thanks you guys.

    And since I can’t make this Saturday, I’ll assume that MAYBE this is something you’ll offer again if it turns out to be something I’m really interested in pursuing. Right now, I’m feeling overwhelmed with Facebook, Twitter and my blog. I’m actually trying to cut back on social media to finish the edits on my fiction WIP. Is there a site for that? *wink*

    • Gene Lempp says:

      I was with you on the underwhelmed have a presence front, Renee. That is until I talked to Marcy, which has drastically changed my thinking about the value and functionality of G+. Recon sounds like an excellent idea.

      While I can’t recommend a site that will help finish or make edits easier, I can say “keep watching this blog” for tips on how to streamline your social media. This is a passion and project of mine as well, and I’ll be sharing what I’m learning right here as time allows.

      Just to reiterate, even if you can’t make it to Marcy’s class in person, signing up will still grant you a full recording of the webinar.

    • Thank you for the lovely compliment, Renee! I think my husband would tell you that I don’t know everything 😉 I am honored to be here at Gene’s blog though. He seems to have a magical talent for finding the best information on just the topic I wanted to know about in his weekly mash-ups.

      I got in on Google+ as a beta tester as well, and while I liked it, I didn’t really see what unique value it added at the time. So I waited and watched. In the last few months, they’ve added some great features that I’m excited about.

      I do hope to run the class again, but I can’t say when at this point. You can always sign up, get the recording, and ask me any questions you might have by email after you listen to it 🙂

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  4. K.B. Owen says:

    Marcy, I feel overwhelmed just with the social media I’m doing at the moment. Maybe later down the road I’ll consider it, but right now the thought of jumping into yet another social media forum (I’m on there, but not active) makes me want to crawl under the covers, LOL. 😉

    Thanks for sharing your expertise with us!

    Kathy

    • Glad to help. What I recommend for people who are already feeling overwhelmed is that they do set themselves up on Google+ and at least get to know a little bit about it even if they can’t afford to invest as much time there. The social media landscape is always changing, and so it’s nice to have a “back-up platform” should Twitter or Facebook go the way of MySpace. If you’re already set up and at least know the lay of the land, you’ll beat the mass exodus from the dying site, and be ahead of the game. Which means that when every other author is panicking, you’ll be able to continue focusing on your writing 🙂

  5. I really love G+. It’s enough like Facebook that I ‘get’ how it works. I was a beta tester and got on a few early lists. I’ve got more followers on G+ than any other platform (in terms of numbers) but I haven’t put a lot of effort into engaging there, but I plan to. I’ve found it’s definitely more popular with the nerds and geeks crowd so fantasy and its various genres are over-represented there. Would be good to see other genres better represented.

    • What you’re seeing in terms of fantasy and science fiction being more popular there than on other platforms is due in part to the large male demographic. On most other social media platforms, women outnumber men. On Google+, men outnumber women.

  6. June Kramin says:

    Great post. Is it okay if I share this on the Tips tab of my website?
    Thanks
    June

  7. Jami Gold says:

    I’m on G+, but haven’t had the time to do much there. You’re absolutely right about the potential of the communities though. I’ll have to think about how to fit it in. (*goes off and tears hair out* 🙂 )

    • Finding enough time is always the real trick, isn’t it 🙂

      • Gene Lempp says:

        Time is always the big factor. My suggestion is to start small and stay targeted at what will mean the most to your platform. Write paranormal, just stick to few of that type and build out as time allows.

        One way I know that will help turn time to the best advantage is to gain as much knowledge as possible in the shortest time – which is the primary reason I’ll be in joining (as a student), Marcy’s webinar next week. Knowledge always saves time 🙂

  8. I’ve never even heard of this. (I guess I live under a rock.) Thanks for sharing. I shall check it out.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Gene Lempp says:

      You aren’t alone, Patricia. Before talking to Marcy, I had no idea about the Communities or what an excellent place they present to connect with readers.

  9. Gene Lempp says:

    I’d like to thank Marcy for sharing her wealth of knowledge with us today. Always a pleasure to have you here, Marcy 🙂

    I’d also like to thank all of my great peeps for the warm reception and massive sharing of this post you all did throughout the day. You are the best and know that I appreciate each and every one of you 🙂

  10. I got on G+ probably 2 years ago and have done absolutely nothing with it. I hadn’t heard of communities – sounds like something worthwhile, except I’m barely engaging on Facebook and Twitter, much less another social network!

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  14. lynnkelleyauthor says:

    Great info. Thank you, Gene, for hosting Marcy.

    Thanks, Marcy. The class sounds wonderful. I’m completely lost on Google+. I might have to catch the recording, depending on the time.

    Gene, how have you been?

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