UPDATE (7/30/15): After spending a few years trying to push all Google users into Google+, Google is apparently trying a new approach. They’re calling it a chance to “lead to a more focused, more useful, more engaging Google+.” Others are more direct, saying the social site is essentially dead.
Original Post: Some writers say social media’s bullshit. They look on it as some unholy abomination, all that’s wrong in the world. I’ve heard others say to just write, just do your job, marketing isn’t worth the time. They have a point. It’s easy to get sucked into half a day of music videos, top-10 articles and cat memes. But those writers are ignoring the future, and they will increasingly pay the price.
The days are coming where freelancers will get hired based not only on their portfolio, but their social media presence.
I read awhile back that if you feel overwhelmed by social media and marketing, to just pick two avenues, say Pinterest and Twitter, and put all your efforts into developing a following there. I never understood Google+. In fact I only signed up because I — like many bloggers– saw the writing on the wall. It was jump on the Authorship bandwagon or risk falling into no-man’s land when it came to Google searches. So I did an experiment. I said, I’m going to take the half-hour a day I’m putting into Twitter and hop on Google+ for at least that long every day.
A week later I’m sold. If you’re a new writer, it’s the place to be. Maybe you pick two sites to focus on, but one should definitely be Google+.
Ever wonder how some people get a photo to pop up in Google search? It really makes it stand out from the crowd, and it’s a proven way to increase clicks to your site. Maybe you decide to Google “non-douche vegan.” Lo and behold, look who’s sitting at the top of Google with a shit-eating grin?
Authorship is the answer (head over to CopyBlogger for everything you need to know), and it’s why so many writers are bursting at the seams with excitement. We’ve heard a lot of hoopla. The year of the writer! The end of poorly-written, keyword-stuffed articles! Power to the content creators! Writers getting paid! HUZZAH!!!
People are excited.
Here’s what it boils down to. Google knows about those crappy search results we used to all get, the ones where you’d find page after page stuffed full of useless content. Users want to find quality content written by authors with actual know-how, and Google naturally wants to give that to them. That’s where Authorship comes in. It’s a win for everyone. Become an authority and users will trust you and be happy, Google will know you wrote it and place it higher, and you, the expert, get the views instead of some idiot who stuffed “how to make money online” 37 times in a 300 word article.
And Google is finally admitting what we all thought, that this experiment in Authorship and the Author Rank you develop by consistently delivering high-quality articles will be reflected in their search results:
We are doing a doing a better job of detecting when someone is sort of an authority in a specific space. It could be medical, it could be travel, whatever. And trying to makes sure that those rank a little more highly, if you are some sort of authority or a site that according to the algorithms we think might be a little bit more appropriate for users. – Google’s Matt Cutts, from SEO by the Sea
So if you’re already on the bandwagon, this pops up:
Who do you think is going to have more authority, those in 10,000 Google+ circles or those in 100? Is 10,000 Twitter followers going to get you the same return as having 10,000 Google+ followers? You’re investing in social media anyways, so why not invest in the one that’s going to affect your authority, your search ranking, and traffic to your site? Plus, it’s an awesome place to hang out.
Oh, how confusing the circles were to me at first. They’re actually pretty useful though.
Here’s my problem with growing my Twitter audience: I have more than one interest. If I get in a vegan kind of mood, people who follow me for cybercrime news may get turned off and unfollow the jagoff who won’t stop tweeting cute puppy pictures. If I write a new cybercrime article and spend an hour engaged in a back-and-forth debate about #DDoS and #Infosec, my vegan followers may wonder what the hell is flooding their feeds unfollow. Enter circles:
If I want to share something with only those in my tech circle or only those in my writing circle, I can. People can even be in multiple circles. For example, vegan authors are in both my vegan circle and my writing circle. Even more useful, I can also sort my feed by circles. If I want to catch up on what my tech friends are posting, I can only look at the tech circle. If I want to brush up on the latest SEO strategies, just as easy. Find tasty vegan recipes, you get the idea.
After signing up for social sites, many users face what’s called “now what” problem. Awesome, I got a new Twitter account! But it’s empty and I have no followers and there’s nothing to look at: now what? Social media is pretty useless until you follow interesting people and join discussions. Google is great at this.
A week back I received an email from a fellow blogger. He wanted to start freelancing and didn’t know where to start. I gave him some advice best I could, but now my answer would be much simpler: get on Google+ and join some communities. The highlight of Google+ is that it encourages discussion. If you don’t know where to start, find an active community along your interests, join in the conversation, and circle all the cool people posting interesting things. Rinse and repeat a few times, and you’re off to a solid start.
Plus, these communities can be a great way to market yourself. Of course, don’t always talk about yourself. But when you have the occasional post that contributes to the community, drop it in and see if anyone wants to chat about it.
A quick peek into the hangouts section and there’s all sort of cool things: chefs, comedians, and Supercross champions chatting away with their fans.
Tomorrow there’s a chat about how to make money blogging and creating a marketing funnel featuring Demian Farnworth and Johnny B. Truant. I know some of my favorite authors host hangouts — Patrick Rothfuss among them. A lot of times they archive the chats and put them on YouTube as well. For example, here’s an hour long Google+ chat on creating characters with Patrick Rothfuss, Amber Benson, Bradley Beaulieu, & Mary Robinette-Kowall:
5) It’s the Future
There’s a huge author presence on Google+, and I’m guessing it’s because authors recognize the importance of Google Authorship. Sure, it’s kind of a scam on Google’s part. If you want the benefits, you have to have a profile, so of course everyone signs up for their site. But Google did just surpass Twitter this year to become the #2 social media site (behind Facebook) in number of active users. All those people must be finding some value there, right?
And if you’re a freelance writer, that’s a good thing. All that spread-out content written for various websites won’t be anonymous and tucked into some far corner of the web. It will all be tied to you, and as your authority rises and your expertise grows, your stock will go up.
It’s only been a week, but I’m convinced. As a freelance writer I’ll be investing a good portion of my social media time on Google+.
Want more tips on freelance writing? I’ll collect them all on my Freelance Writing Guide Page for future reference.