Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with Lady Gaga, so don’t get your hopes up.
Just when you finally figured out how to correctly use a hashtag, Google+ made its debut on the social networking stage. Perhaps you cheered the opening, quickly adding anyone and everyone on your Google+ radar. Or maybe you’re disillusioned with social networking and simply can’t take another alert on your smartphone, consequently letting out a resounding “Boo.”
Regardless of your relationship with social media—and before you either delete your invite or start posting dozens of photos of your grandma’s birthday party—consider using Google+ primarily as a networking tool.
Whether you’re a writer, reader, or presenter, Google+ likely has something to offer you. Read on for suggestions on how you can utilize G+ to your advantage.
G+ for Writers
G+ Hangouts is a great way to keep in touch with fellow writers, especially if you’ve attended a writers’ conference and want to continue getting feedback from participants you particularly clicked with. Hangouts is essentially a videoconferencing tool. You can connect with up to ten people, and G+ recognizes when someone is talking, focusing the video stream on that person until someone else speaks up.
The feature also offers excellent networking opportunities if you participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November), or any other sort of marathon writing event.
Hundreds of writers are already organizing cowriting events on G+, rejecting the solitary nature of writing in exchange for interaction and peer motivation. Creeped out by the idea of watching others write but still want the feedback? You can minimize your screen and mute your microphone while writing, and then rejoin your group during chat breaks.
Mary Robinette Kowal suggests the following steps to create a writing meetup on Google+ Hangouts:
1. Put up a post saying that you are going to have a writing date at [x] time OR just spontaneously open a hangout.
2. As soon as the hangout is open, place a comment on it that states that it is a writing date and what the parameters are.
3. Suggested parameters: "We’ll chat for fifteen minutes. Then at quarter past we’ll start writing for forty-five minutes. On the hour, there’s another fifteen-minute break for chat . . . Rinse and repeat. If you want to join in mid-way, that’s fine, but we’ll just wave at you until the next break."
4. Continue until you need to log off. If the other participants are still going, they will be able to keep writing after you leave.
If you’re at all nostalgic about your college workshop days of wacky writing prompts and open sharing, you should definitely find a G+ writer’s group to join.
GalleyCat is collecting a list of writers interested in connecting on Google+. If you want an easy way to find dozens of new friends, check it out.
G+ for Authors
Authors, consider using Google+ to organize initial readers of your manuscripts. Use your blog or newsletter to choose a group of three to ten beta readers and send them your piece. Ask them to read it over the course of the week and decide on a time to chat about their reactions and suggestions.
Google+’s main claim to fame is its personalized sharing features; authors should use this to their advantage. Unlike Facebook, Google+ allows you to easily group people and decide what you share with particular groups. This feature, called Circles, enables you to share a link with a specific group—say “readers”—but not with another—say “family.” Target your fan base by posting news to them without spamming your family and friends.
You could also organize virtual book events to interact more directly with your readers. If you have a good blog or fan following, announce a G+ “book tour” date. Encourage fans to post questions and connect with them via Hangouts or Circle posts.
G+ for Readers
Virtual book clubbing is another great way to use G+. If you have a club on GoodReads or a virtual club over email, migrate the group to Google+. Instead of simply messaging or emailing about the book, get onto Hangouts to have a face-to-face conversation.
If you are involved in any genre reading groups, fan clubs, academic conferences, literary holidays (like Bloomsday), or reading events (like the thirty-hour reading of Moby Dick that happened earlier this year in Portland) you could also organize Circles to facilitate sharing of interesting research and articles related to your topic of choice.
G+ for Speakers
Professional speakers can also use Google+ to expand their reach. Use blogs and forums to identify influential people in the expertise circle you should be connecting with. Add them on G+ (unlike Facebook, it’s not taboo to add people on G+ you’ve never actually met) and position yourself as a pro by hosting workshops, webinars, or live tutorials to select circles through Google+ Hangouts. Offer cooking classes, marketing webinars, or personal finance workshops—whatever will build your online platform in the arena of your personal expertise.
Google+ may not be as insanely popular as Facebook yet, but it’s never a bad idea to get in on the ground floor of a social media movement. If you’re a little timid about getting started on Google+, check out this collection of fifty helpful get-started links.