Part Two – How & When.
Since I have been on this G+ journey of discovery, the biggest query most people have is a lack of understanding. Numerous writers have admitted signing up to the service, only to stand on the sidelines peering in, unsure what to do next. I think this is something Google may need to address, and I’ll go into details later about the online help you can access to guide you through the initial process. It’s all there, and is more than adequate, I just don’t feel it’s particularly user-friendly.
So, here I shall try and simplify and condense the main rules you need to make a start on G+.
HOW TO NAVIGATE YOUR WAY AROUND G+
So, you’ve got your password, accessed the G+ logo on your Google dashboard, and you’re all set. If you have a Gmail account you may find many of your profile details, including your user name, will auto-populate. When you log in you will be taken to your Home Page. Once you have added friends (see below) you will be greeted here by a display of your friends' latest blogs (collated via Blogger of course), their latest posts and updates and a general news feed – plus a chance for you to post your own quick updates. It may look a bit empty for now, but it will fill up nicely as you use G+ and interact with other users, and it will usually offer you a steady stream of people you may know due to your existing contacts or shared interests.
Navigating your way around G+ is quite easy. Everything revolves around the drop down menu on the left- hand side of your screen. When you click (on Home) you should be presented with a number of options:PROFILE - This is the area where you complete as much information as you want available. It’s also rather like a blog page where you can post daily updates (think of your Facebook home page) So, if you want to tell everyone what you had for breakfast or boast about your daily word count, this is the place.
PEOPLE – This is one of the most important areas. Advice seems to be that increasing your G+ ‘readers’ is crucial to getting the best out of the medium. And before we proceed, here I must introduce you to Circles. Probably the biggest (and arguably most beneficial) of the differences G+ offers over other social media platforms.Circles or Circling is a way of organising your followers or friends. How you do it will very much depend on what you want from G+. So, in the People section, you are presented with a number of options. Find People (searching for those with similar likes or shared friends) Have You in Circles (people who have included you in their circles) Your Circles (People you have chosen) Discover (Popular sites, categorised into interests)
I’d suggest you look at Your Circles first. Here you can search (via your address book or Gmail account) for people to add. You then either add them to your Circles, or if not on G+, send invites to ask them to join your network and when they accept you can organise them into relevant Circles. For example, for writers these may include – friends, family, readers, bloggers, colleagues. The beauty of taking the time to separate your followers is that you can update and share posts with specific groups. So, for example, let’s say you’re a member of a Book Club, you could include other members in a Book Club 'Circle', and only update them on the date of your next event, rather than informing the rest of your followers who aren’t remotely interested. You can also choose to make only certain Circles visible in your stream on your Home Page. So, if you only want to see your friends' posts when you log on, this can be amended in settings.PHOTO – This is basically an online photograph album that if you have a Blogger site will already be populated with photos you’ve saved there. Otherwise you can organise uploaded photos to use.
The above are the main categories to navigate around the site. Below that there is a second list – What’s Hot (Display of the day’s hottest sites, blogs, links, videos) / Communities (Display of G+ groups you may be interested in based on your settings, likes and friends) / Events (Ability to make an Online Invitation to share among friends) / Hang Outs (Ability to run Video Chats, either private, or join public chats) / Pages (Ability to create a Page – eg like an Author Page on FB for your business or interests) / Local (More for business use, links you to local contacts and links your businesses to others in area) / Settings (Managing account).
HOW TO UNDERSTAND G+Also in this drop down under Home, you can access the online G+ Help. This is in very tiny print at the bottom of the menu. Despite difficulty in finding it, it actually offers a lot of information, although I imagine many users do not even know it is there. It shows you in simple steps how to send posts, create pages, interact with other users and a lot more. And there is even a tour that uses a kind of Wizard to guide you around G+, explaining benefits and features. I’d suggest any newbie spends an hour or so familiarising themselves with these interactive tools as they are really beneficial. There is also an option to join a G+ Circle where members explain changes or features and there's also a G+ Help hash tag so you can yell at any time if you're in a fix and someone will assist.
The other main point to get right are your Posts. In a similar fashion to Facebook's latest security updates, you have the ability to share your posts with Specific Circles, Extended Circles or Public (ie anyone who has included you in one of their Circles.) Unlike Twitter, here you have a 100,000 character limit, so although your scope is wider, it still pays to quickly learn to be brief and interesting. It very much depends what you want from G+ but as we are viewing this as a potential marketing tool for authors, the same rules apply as Facebook and Twitter. Repeat posts, but never make a nuisance, check timings so you hit readers at the right time, add hashtags if necessary, and provide a link to your source if you're re-posting others' posts.With G+ a symbol called +Mentioning works in much the same way as the @ symbol on Twitter. If you add + in front of a name at start of a post, it works as sending them a direct message. Or if you post in the body of a public text, it shares the post with them. A handy tip is that if you add a + or @ in front of a regular email address, G+ will send the post. This is a clever way of attracting new followers onto G+.
Two other points about Posts. There are services that offer auto posts, much as auto retweets in Twitter. 'Do Share' for example, enables you to draft and schedule posts for set times. Also, like RT on Twitter, G+ have 'Ripples' which show you how many people have shared your public posts. To access, click on the arrow at top right of your posts, and View Ripples. Through Ripples you can also access cross promotion, where your posts can be organised to post on your other social media sites consecutively which removes the burden of multi-posting.So, choose your readers, click on the box, write your text, add your links and photos and ... Get Posting!
HOW TO INCREASE YOUR G+ AUDIENCESo, once you’ve dedicated your time, created your profile, added your photographs, mastered sending Posts, connected with other users and organised your Circles … then what?
I asked the same question and have spent the past couple of weeks trying to ‘use’ the resource to its full potential and I’ll be honest I don’t think I’ve got anywhere near scratching the surface. I'm currently looking at how to increase my followers outside of my normal circle of friends and associates.
Many of the normal social media etiquette applies - Have a good profile; Share good content; Share your posts in public not private; Add your G+ badge to your website and blog; Help others; Invite others to join; Seek out Circles who like the same topics as you do and build new networks of like-minded people. With these ideas in mind, just make a start, write posts and begin circulating and seeking out people and topics that interest you. Before long, you see your Circled number and follower number increase, and your network begins to grow.I think G+ like most things in life only gives back as much as you put in. And there's no denying there are lots of slight differences you need to master before you are completely competent, but in general most things are similar to other social networking - and the site itself, once you can navigate yourself around successfully, is easy to use, not to mention bright and entertaining. So, play around, have a browse, click links and see where they take you. Some will appeal, others will not - I've not taken the plunge yet with Hang Outs for example. But I like seeing News and Weather updates when I log in. I like seeing new suggested contacts and a resume of my followers' posts. I feel comfortable with the whole set up, and while I'm sure G+ attracts its fair share of trolls and idiots, I also believe at the moment it's adding a new, refreshing and altogether more interesting face to online communication and marketing. And that with a little time investment, it will offer a new face for networking and marketing for authors.
In the last of my posts on G+ I shall report on my first full month on the site and compile a list of Top Tips that will add to your overall experience.For those who are going to give G+ a go and would like more detailed information, I can recommend What the Plus! by Guy Kawasaki which is packed full of advice on every aspect of G+.