Monday, November 14, 2011

An Author's Guide to Google+ Circles

[caption id="attachment_1833" align="alignleft" width="296" caption="A sampling of my Google+ Circles."]A sampling of my Google+ Circles.[/caption]

Yesterday on Google+, I teased that I had come to an epiphany that resulted in a radical change to my profile. After letting it soak for a day, I think I'm ready to share.

1st Warning: Some of you are going to disagree with this. Strongly.

2nd Warning: I'm aming specifically at authors who want to use their Google+ personal account1 in a professional way. If that's not you, then go away and figure out your own methods on Google+.

3rd Warning: This is very long. Yet terribly short. It's so complex, I'm building out curriculum and will offer it as training on ePublish Unum. Stay tuned.

To circle or not to circle?

As it turns out, not is the correct answer. Not unless very particular circumstances occur. Then, and only then, do you circle back. Take these steps right now. You may want to block off a couple of hours, depending on how far behind you are.

Step 1: De-clutter

Google+ makes it easy to do the wrong things. Assuming you've implemented a different strategy, you need to do some cleanup. Like:

  1. Un-circle everyone. Right now. Do it. Trust me. Save yourself the pain I went through before I decided to take this step. You'll thank me later.

  2. Delete all the default circles that Google+ created for you. None of them are helpful to authors.

Step 2: Make outbound channels

Let's craft this sucker to work for you as you build your professional author presence on Google+, yet still let you be a human  being. Or at least seem like one.

  1. Figure out what you are known for. What are you an expert in? What are you seen as an expert in? This is your primary voice, the thing you'll talk about. You know, the thing you write books about. Write it down. Remember it. But do not make a circle for it. I'll explain why in a moment. For now,  trust me.

  2. Make a circle for "that other thing" you want to talk about from time to time. You're on a social media site, for goodness sake! This is no time to be one-dimensional. Maybe it's photography. Maybe it's a sports team. I don't care. You should care, however.

  3. Circle people to this "other thing" (I hope you didn't call it that) who would mostly be interested in this aspect of your online persona. Look through the people who've previously circled you to see if they fit. But as you naturally discover others, add them to this circle as well.

3: Create your selective attention

To keep you out of the circle-back reflex, create and populate these custom circles:

  1. "Firehose". This is for people you ALWAYS want to hear from. That word is bold, italic and in all caps for a reason. This is not an analog for "Friends". Be very selective about who you circle here. I'm pretty good at handling inputs. And I only have 18 people in here.

  2. A circle for a topic you want to learn about or on which you wish to stay well-informed. When populating, make sure you only circle people who talk primarily on this topic. The occasional on-topic post won't do. To make this work, you need to keep your inputs clean. If you have more than one topic you want to stay informed about. Add it. But remember: this is about your career as an author. You have many other sources of news than Google+, right? Don't dupe.

 Step 4: Check your appearance

Get to your Profile and click the link that says "View profile as..." on the right side under your five-image strip. Click "anyone on the web" and focus on the "In [your name]'s circles (###)" section under your picture on the left side. How does it look? More importantly, what does it say about the implied endorsement you've given those other Google+ profiles and Pages?

If they are off-brand for you, hide them. Make a new circle called "Hidden" (or whatever) and add in the offending profiles/pages. Clicking the "Change who is visible here" from your profile page let's you do just that! Leave it set to "Anyone on the web", as you're wanting more people to learn about you, not less!

Step 5: Gauge and engagement

I'm a firm believer that the ultimate, over-arching goal of any author using Google+ professionally must be to increase engagement with fans. Sure, you want them to buy your books (all of them), but that's something that happens down the road after you've engaged with them and they decide like you. Then they buy. And tell a few dozen of their closest friends to do the same. That's how social marketing works.

Here's the beauty of Google+ where engagement comes into play: Google+ is the only high-volume social network that doesn't limit interactions by default. It matters not if you have circled a would-be fan or not: their ability to interact with you isn't inhibited one tiny bit!

Everything a circled fan can do, a fan outside of your circles can do. That's a huge change from Facebook, where the default level of interactivity among non-Friends is zero. Even Twitter allows extra permissions once you've followed someone.

But on Google+, un-circled fans can comment on your posts and you can comment back to them. They can +1 your posts and you can thank them for it. They can mention you and you'll be notified just like you would be with circled fans. The fan gains nothing when you circle them.

Step 6: Don't ignore the Ignore option

Now that you know that un-circled friends aren't inhibited in the least, it's time to discover that link you've probably been avoiding: Ignore.

Click on your Circles, then the text that reads "People who've added you (####)". Change your Sort option to "Not yet in circles". (This doesn't show you only those people. It just puts them first in the list.) Scroll to the bottom, and you should see rectangles for people with small rings in the lower right corner. That's not a ring, it's a circle. When you see it, that indicates the person is in your circle.

Now is when it gets fun. Or terrifying.

Go back to the top and start selecting some people who aren't in any of your (now much limited) circles. If you have no idea who they are, click the Ignore button on the upper right side. Poof! They're gone. Keep going. Liberating, isn't it? Who says Inbox Zero can't apply to Google+!

This is the only action the Ignore button has: to remove people from your list of to-be-circled. Those you've ignored can still comment, +1, mention you... all of that. The block feature is entirely different and stops all interaction. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're just cleaning house. And keeping it clean.

Step 7: Start publishing!

Remember how you didn't make a circle for your primary topic?  That's because it's 100% the same as your public posts! This is the thing you talk about. Always. Every day. Multiple times a day, if you can. You don't need a circle for it because you aren't limiting these posts. These posts work to define you on Google+. Even those people in your "other things" (really, you didn't name it that, did you?) circle shouldn't be immune to your public posts. If they un-circle you for your primary content; fine. They probably shouldn't have circled you in the first place.

But you can (and should) send out some public posts of interest to this "other things" circle on a regular basis. Remember -- don't be one dimensional. But some things of interest to this group may be super geeky, and you may not wish to share that with your regular audience. Great. That's why you made this special circle. Send it only to them and keep it away from your regular audience.

Step 8: Maintenance

People are joining Google+ at a crazy rate. Expect to be circled a lot. Especially as your career grows. Click the "Notifications" link from under your Stream list. From here you can see any new people who have circled you. And Google+ provides a quick Ignore link right from here. Use it. Liberally.

As I said earlier, this isn't going to sit well with some people. I fully expect a slew of "who the hell are you to be dictating how I use Google+" comments and posts. It comes with the territory. But if you have a dissenting opinion and want to engage in a spirited dialog, I'd love to hear from you. Even if I haven't circled you on Google+.

1 - Not to be confused with a Google+ Page. Yeah, they are different.

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  1. [...] If you are a newbie, like me, check out Evo’s blog about good practice for authors.  You can find it on [...]

  2. Oooh that's evil. Haha. Actually I have done a similar thing - not the ignoring people side of things, but setting up the circles as you have. I'm a business woman but I work in the addictions field. Now I don't want my networking contacts hearing me banging on about my addiction all the time, so I have separate circles for business and for my topic. I think it keeps everyone happier.


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