Showing posts with label platform building. Show all posts
Showing posts with label platform building. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 18

The Value of Google+ As A Writer's Platform

The Value of Google+ As A Writer's Platform

I've blogged before about the importance of a writer having a platform, what a platform is, and how to build one but I've never talked specifically about the value of Google+ for writers.

Many feel that Google+ was a good attempt to build a social networking platform but that it falls short. For instance, Chuck Wendig has written that he's underwhelmed and more than a little confused by it (Of Google-Plus And Circle Jerks).

It seems to me many people, perhaps most, share Chuck's assessment of Google+.

The question: is Google+ a graveyard?

How To Quantify The Popularity of your Google+ Feed

What I've wanted is a way to quantify how many views my Google+ account received. I've been more active in Google+ over the past month and I wanted to see if that increased activity resulted in increased views.

The problem: I didn't know how to get a listing of views for my Google+ account.

How To Measure Google+ Traffic Using Google Analytics

If you already have a Google Analytics account this is easy to do. If you don't, Google Analytics is free and easy to set up. A friend of mine who gleefully describes herself as a Luddite did it, by herself, in 5 minutes. (By the way, you have to wait a month or so after activating your account to get meaningful data.)

What we're going to do is measure Google+ traffic by measuring referral traffic to your main blogging site, or website.

For instance, say you have your blog on Wordpress or, like me, on Blogger. Go into Google Analytics and open up your blog's profile. Now go into:

Traffic sources > Sources > Referrals 

Here you'll find a listing of which URL's send your blog the most traffic as well as the number of visits you receive from that URL each month.

The URL you're looking for is:

Click on that URL and you'll see a graph that depicts the number of visits from your Google+ account. (You can change it to measure pages per visit, average visit duration, percentage of new visits or the bounce rate, among other things.)

You can also compare how your current traffic compares to the traffic from a month ago (you can customize this feature).

For instance, I discovered that since I've been more active on Google+ that visits to my blog from my Google+ account have increased by 40%! That said, I still get 5 times more referrals from Twitter, although I do have about 12,000 Twitter followers while I have only about 550 people in my Google+ circles.

Is Google+ Worth The Time?

I find it's always a question of time, where one's time is best spent. Every person is different, but it's difficult to decide where to invest your precious time without some sort of objective guide.

My intention in writing this article was to show you a way to find objective measures that could help you decide what is right for you, where your time is best spent.

If you'd like to read more about how to get the most out of Google Analytics for Google+, click here: How to measure Google Plus with Analytics.

Do you use Google+? What social network (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and so on) do you use most?

Other articles you might like:

- The Benefits of Handwriting
- Getting Ready for 2013: A Writer's Guide
- Writing Goals Versus Writing Dreams: How To Get From One To The Other

Photo credit: "U2:all because of you" by visualpanic under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, October 12

Building A Platform That Meets Your Needs

Building A Writer's Platform That Meets Your Needs

A while ago I wrote an article entitled: How To Build A Platform: Why Every Writer Needs A Website, in which I argued that just having a blog wasn't good enough, you need a website too.

These days, I'm not so sure. I think having a blog, even a blog on, might be good enough. Here's the thing: What you need depends on what your goals are.

What is the main thing folks are going to come to your website/blog for? And who are these folks going to be? You might be staring at these words shaking your head, thinking, "And how the heck would I know who's going to come and visit my site?"

That's a fair question. Often in the beginning we don't know who these folks, our visitors and, ultimately, our readers, are going to be.

Come one, come all

Whether you decide to go with a static site, a blog or a full-blown website (I talk more about this later) you'll need to keep at it. The key phrase here is: be consistent.

Naturally if all you're going to be putting up is a static site--a webpage with information about who you are, where you can be reached (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)--then being consistent is fairly easy. You just need to update the page every six months or so, or when something changes (you put out a new book, become active in new forms of social media, and so on). Otherwise, there isn't much to do!

If you don't know who your visitors are going to be you can still design a website. I'll go into more detail later, but there are roughly three broad kinds of sites you can put up. I call them the starter package, the starter package plus blog and the full-featured site.

As the name implies, the most basic of these is "the starter package". This is a static website that simply tells visitors how to reach you, where you are on the web (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), what you've written and how to contact you. If this is all you want, or would likely meet your needs. Make sure, though, that the service you choose allows you to use your own domain name ( does and does but you need to pay a fee). That's a must. Why? If you ever decide to move your site from, say,, to another hosting site, your readers will be able to find you at you new home through your domain name.

By the way, I know it might seem like a contradiction in terms to recommend blogging sites for a static site! As it happens, you can set up as a static site (I should probably write a blog post about how to do that) and I imagine the same is true for as well. The great thing about starting off with a site like is that it does all the search engine optimization (SEO) for you and can list your site with all the major search engines.

If you want to be slightly more ambitious, you could go with a "starter package plus blog" and blog regularly (keep in mind that if you blog once a month you're blogging regularly!). You can blog even if you don't know what sort of audience you're reaching out to, just talk about whatever interests you. Over time you'll see themes emerge. Also, after looking at your viewer statistics, you'll notice your readers are more interested in certain articles, certain themes, than others. After a few months you'll get a feel for what you like to blog about and also what your readers are interested in.

If, in the beginning, you don't have an idea who your audience will be then I wouldn't advise you starting off with what I'm calling a full-featured site. The way I think of it, a full-featured website one that is dynamic and easily customizable, you likely would have a blog and could even have forums or open an online store! (For example,

But with a full-featured site you'll also have additional concerns. This kind of site can do a lot but, as with everything, there are tradeoffs. For instance, the more cool features you add (e.g., link tracking), the slower the site will run. A few bells and whistles may not make a difference but at some point you'll wonder why your pages are loading slowly. Also, this sort of site is complex and complex things tend to break. If you can fix it yourself, great! Otherwise maintenance can be expensive. Either way, maintaining this kind of a site is time consuming.

You have an idea who your visitors will be

We've just discussed how to go about building a site if you don't know who your target audience is. Now let's talk about how to build a site when you have some idea what kind of a community you want to build.

Shared interest
How do you build community? You reach out to those who share an interest of yours. It could be anything. What are you interested in? Steampunk? Scifi movies of the 80s? Doctor Who? Skiboarding? Cooking? Hiking? Whatever it is, there are people, lots of people, just as passionate about it as you are. The trick is letting them know your site exists.

By the way, when I said you could build your site around any theme/idea that was a bit of an exaggeration. What you write about has to have some connection to the shared interest you've built your community around. For instance, if you write science fiction, by all means, talk about scifi movies, conventions, trivia. Talk about collectibles. Even talk about other scifi writers! Eventually, if you keep at it, a community will form.

Cookbooks are popular. They sell well. Why? The tie-in between a writer's community and how to reach that community is obvious. You write books about food and it is very easy to blog about food, post pictures of food, conventions, good places to eat in your local community and across the country, and so on.

I mean, who doesn't like beautiful close-up pictures of desserts? Especially chocolate ones. (Oh my gosh, if I wrote cookbooks I would gain SO much weight. Anyway, moving on.)

Making the connection between your area of interest and your community
How do you make the connection between what you are interested in--for instance, mystery stories with sleuths who cook--and building a community? 

If I could I would have that word, "interaction", blink red and blue and have big yellow dancing arrows pointing to it. But that's not a surprise, is it? That's how me make friends. Interaction forms the basis for any social endeavor. And that really is the other key word: social. I'm talking about building a community, not a list. For that to happen, for a community to form, there has to be interaction.

And that means you need to find a way to interact with the people who you would like in your community.

I think I'm going to leave it there for today. I covered more material than I thought I would. In the next segment I'll talk about interaction and social media but I want to say here that I don't think social media is necessary for you to form and interact with a community.

Good writing!

Other articles in this series:
- What Is A Writer's Platform?
- Does Every Writer Need A Platform?

Other articles you might like:
- Jim Butcher On Writing
- NaNoWriMo: 5 Tips On How To Get Ready
- On The Art Of Creating Believable Characters: No Mr. Nice Guy
- Perfection Is The Death Of Creativity

Photo credit: "KIUKO"

Tuesday, September 20

Why Should A Writer Blog?

Do you want to write a book or even an article or essay, but feel stressed out and self-conscious when you think about the fact that your writing will be read by others? Does this reduce your creativity and leave you feeling blocked and unable to write? Try blogging.
. . . .
Blogging provides a format that actually can reduce the amount of writer’s block produced by fear of exposing your work to the world. In the process, your productivity will increase.
- Improve Writing Creativity and Productivity by Blogging
This is exactly what I was trying to express yesterday, in an email to a fellow writer. I find that I'm less nervous about sharing my writing since I've been blogging and I hope that will help me write more since I'll spend less time wringing my hands, wondering what other folks will think of my prose.
Yes, when you blog you do show your work to the whole Internet community, but, in truth, for most newbie bloggers this really is not something to fear.
When you begin blogging—or even blogging a book, you typically don’t have any readers. If you don’t tell anyone about your blog, surely no one will find it right away. This allows you to get your cyberspace legs. You can test out your blog voice and your idea before anyone even shows up to read your first post in most cases. You can even delete the first posts if you don’t like them and start over and in many cases no one will have read them yet.
When I read this I got excited, because this is exactly what I did! (Yes, a few of my early blog posts have gone to the great blog in the sky.) But, more, it's how I thought of it. I wasn't using Google Analytics in the beginning so I had no idea whether anyone was reading what I wrote -- and I suspect no one was. But it gave me a platform for my writing, it got me writing to a schedule and it helped me build up a few articles so that when folks did eventually come by and take a peek, there was something for them to look at.
Blogging ... helps you move through fear (writer’s block), thus freeing up your creative flow so you  can write more easily, produce a manuscript more quickly and get your work read at the same time.
The quotations I've used are all from this post: Improve Writing Creativity and Productivity by Blogging

Edit: Almost forgot! I came across this link when I read The Passive Voice blog. I read PG's blog every day and I highly recommend it! :-)

Friday, August 12

A Blogging Start-Up Kit

You've never Blogged, Tweeted or Facebooked but now you're ready. What to do?

First, congratulations! This is a big step, it's a lot of work, but if you're a writer, or thinking about becoming a writer, building a platform is expected and essential.


It seems that the most popular blogging platforms are and I chose to use rather than because, while both are free to use, Blogger doesn't make one pay to take down advertisements. I know of people, though, who have a flourishing blog on Wordpress and couldn't be happier with the service.

Google Analytics. This is essential. It shows you, on a month to month basis, how the traffic on your site changes as well as what sort of traffic your site attracts.

You have your blog set up so it's time to get a Twitter account. In my opinion, if a writer had to choose between blogging and tweeting, I'd say tweet. After I tweet a link to one of my blog posts I get a spike of traffic that represents folks visiting my site to read the article.

Twitter drives traffic to my blog and my blog gives me a way to share longer pieces of content with my readers, but if I only had a blog ... well, who would read it? My friends and family, sure, but Twitter gives me a way to reach out to people I don't know. It gives me a way to connect with people looking for the kind of content I provide. Okay, that's my plug for Twitter. :)

Before I move on, here are some links to sites that help you gauge what sort of impact your tweets are having:

- Twitter Counter: While you're there, check out Twittercounter's Twitter Profile Checker and get recommendations on what to do to attract more followers.

- Tells you how many people your tweets have reached.

- Topsy Social Analytics: Tells you how many times your tweets were mentioned.

- Klout Score: Klout will give you a score that is based on your Score Analysis, your Network Influence, your Amplification Probability and your True Reach.

- TweetGrader: Gives you a grade out of 100

- Lots of interesting stats. For instance, looks at your tweets according to number of tweets and time of day

You've got a blog and you're tweeting up a storm, the next step is to take out an account on Facebook. I'm going to admit that I should do more with Facebook so this section is as much for me as it is for anyone.

A little while ago I wrote an article on how to set up a Facebook page. I like fan pages because it removes the uncertainty of whether a writer intends their page for real-life friends only or whether they are inviting anyone who is interested in their work to connect with them.

After you're blogged and tweeted for a bit you'll find yourself looking for new content. I've found the best source of content is other bloggers and news feeds. Below are the sources I've found most useful.

Joe Konrath: A Newbie's Guide to Publishing
Dean Wesley Smith
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Passive Voice Blog @PassiveVoiceBlg

News Sites:
The New Yorker


Google Alerts. Interested in who is talking about you? Your book(s)? To start out with, create an altert containing your name and one for each title you have available.

This post is by no means in-depth. My goal was to give a person new to blogging and tweeting a few useful links, links that I wish I had known about when I started.

Cheers, and good blogging!