Hangouts on Google+

For today’s Thursday Themes, I thought I would take a moment to briefly discuss Google+ Hangouts. I say briefly because I am just learning about them myself…

One of the daily challenges for the Author Platform Challenge by Robert Lee Brewer that I’m running from my blog this month is to create a Google+ account for yourself. You must complete it fully — add your picture, bio, website, etc. — in order to ensure that this place to find you on the web is complete. After I completed the task of creating my account and updating my profile, I began to peruse what Google+ had to offer and think about how I could incorporate this social network into my writing life.

Then I stumbled upon Hangouts and I started digging deeper. Hangouts are essentially a private video chat room that you can invite your Google+ friends to and discuss whatever. You are able to connect up to 9 people via video and I believe others can participate in the chat by typing (those who don’t want to be on video, and those folks who join after 9 video connections have already been made). Hangouts also gives you the ability to allow “Hangouts On Air” which streams your video broadcast live on both your Google+ profile page and your YouTube channel. It’s a really neat feature of the site and I believe it can help a writer tremendously with building her platform and marketing herself.

Some of the uses for Hangouts, especially Hangouts On Air, that I have come up with include:

  1. Holding a virtual book reading of sections of your book.
  2. Holding a virtual discussion about your book or some aspect of your book.
  3. Holding webinars on industry topics such as self publishing and memoir writing.

The list goes on and on. I intend to use Hangouts for the Inspired & Independent Book Club so that we can meet at least monthly to summarize the book we’ve been reading together. Book clubs are so much more fun when you can get together in person and discuss the work. This will be a really great experience to add to the Book Club.

If you’d like to connect with me on Google+ or any of the social networks out there, I can be found:

Time to share…
Do you have a Google+ account? If so, do you use Hangouts/Hangouts On Air? How do you/would you use the Hangouts feature in your writing life?

Monday Morning Review: Facebook Contests

I read a great article over the weekend on running Facebook contests. It’s not as easy as one would think…

Not that setting up the contest is difficult, it is all of the numerous rules and regulations that must be followed in order to legally run a contest on Facebook. Facebook has left no stone unturned when it comes to protecting their liability with other company’s and individual’s contests. Because of this, their policies on running a contest for your business on Facebook can get pretty confusing.

Ideally, you cannot use Facebook to run the contest. You must use a third party application which can be used on Facebook. Any submissions — pictures, e-mail addresses, whatever you are collecting for the contest — must be collected via the third party application rather than through Facebook directly. I assume this is to take Facebook out of the liability loop. If the submissions are not submitted to Facebook, they can’t be held liable. It was submitted to some other site (Wildfire, iFrame, whatever app), and therefore the liability lies with the third party app for any missed or miscalculated contest results.

In the scheme of business, it is a wise move for Facebook to protect itself from any liability at all costs. At the same time, however, they shouldn’t make following policy a treasure hunt. The article stated that most contests run on Facebook are illegal and at risk of having Facebook shutdown the contest, page, account, or the whole kit-and-kaboodle. As authors, we must self promote whether we self publish or publish our works traditionally. We really need to get these policies down to a science to ensure that our Facebook promotion efforts are not foiled because of Facebook’s convoluted policies.

For a more indepth discussion of Facebook contest policies, read Social Media Magazine‘s article in their April/May 2012 edition of Fb+Business Magazine. Author Marketing Experts put out four magazines targeted at assisting authors — Fb & Business, LI & Business, Tweeting & Business, and The Big G & Business. They each contain some great information and articles to help the author build their business using social media.

Time to share…
What are your thoughts on using Facebook contests as a way to build business? Are FB contests an effective method for authors? What do you think about FB’s policies on contest — too restrictive or easy enough to follow?

Using Excel to Create an Editorial Calendar

So you’ve noticed I’m really on a kick with this editorial calendar thingy, huh? Two posts about it two days in a row…

I see an EC as an immense tool for bloggers. Although I have just instituted this tool in my writing life yesterday, it has already done innumerable things to assist me:

  • Organized my weeks into cohesive “themes”
  • Ensured that I am not overloading my readers with the same drudgery day after day after day
  • Gives me a clear overview of my weeks and months
  • Has “forced” me to plan ahead — I had to fill out the calendar once created, right?
  • Removed the forced scrambling to 1) come up with something to post, and 2) writing it on the fly once I thought of something so that I can get it posted that same day ;-p
  • The list goes on and on…

I used Microsoft Excel to create my EC. It was the easiest piece of software I could easily use to layout the calendar. Others have used Microsoft Word and the table function in Word. I decided not to deal with adjusting rows and columns in Word when Excel was made to easily do just that. Here’s a screenshot of the beginnings of my calendar, with the layout of it being based on Michele Linn’s screenshot from her article entitled How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing, which I shared with you in yesterday’s post:

EC Screenshot

My Editorial Calendar Screenshot

My goal is to post an article 5 days a week — Monday through Friday. On the first Saturday of each month, I will share a short story writing sample. This sample writing project will be a “first draft”, so don’t look for perfect grammar and sentence structure and the other trappings of finalized prose. It’s a fun exercise for self to keep me writing and for my readers to keep them motivated and writing as well.

Each day of the week has a specific theme. For example, each Monday I will write about the articles and information which I’ve devoured over the weekend as it relates to writing. I read up on the writing industry constantly and I would like to share some of the information I garner through my reading. Fridays are my “break” day where I get to write about whatever is churning up in that brain of mine. It’s the day I let the Muse free to do as she pleases. I may post a poem, or you may get an article about my Shorkie, Ebonie (a Shorkie is a Shitzu/Yorkie “designer” breed dog — a mutt with a price tag LOL! but I love her so…she’s my writing buddy…). You never know…

I hope that yesterday’s article at least got you thinking about ECs and how they can be useful to you in your writer’s life. If not, then today’s should really get you going — especially if you’ve been struggling to be a faithful blogger who publishes great content and not just throwing something up to say that you post daily. This tool in one day has already had a major, positive impact on my schedule and my time management. You could enjoy the same benefits too by instituting your EC today!

If you are interested in instituting an EC but are not the techie type, shoot me an e-mail and I’ll send you a blank copy of my Excel spreadsheet for your use. You will need Microsoft Excel in order to open/edit it for your use. Google Docs may also be used as well.

Time to share…
Let’s see a screenshot of your EC! What software did you use to create it? Any tips on easy ways to create one? You are creating a daily calendar for a full year afterall… 

Social Media: A Major Distraction? A Useful Tool? Or A Bit of Both?

What’s your take on social media as it applies to being an author?

Is it a distraction for you? Is it a useful and much needed tool? Or, do you believe it is a bit of both? Me, it is a bit of both… Coming from working in the information technology field and being a self-proclaimed “geek”, social media can be an enormous distraction. And for the same reasons, it can be a great tool.

I am able to network with like-minded individuals through social media. Online writers’ groups, forums, resource pages and the like are all invaluable when writing. On the flip side of that coin, I can also go on the forums to research a topic, get feedback and opinions, or get the latest buzz about something and get totally sucked in tweeting, chatting, and surfing the forums to see what my colleagues are up to…

Social media is needed by authors in order to get their message out and to assist them in building their platform. You have taken the time to write and perfect the next blockbuster novel or other written work. What better way to spread the word then the world wide web? It is one proven method of getting your message out to the world. Of course, there are many other marketing methods, tools, and avenues you will take; however, there is no better electronic medium than the Internet, and no better vehicle than social media.

Your website is up and ready to receive visitors. You have been the most faithful blogger. You have worked hard while you were writing to build your following using Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/every-social-site and have a nice number of followers. Your website and blog statistics are up. You would be remiss not to mention on every social site you’ve used to create buzz for yourself that your much anticipated and talked about work has finally been released — both traditionally and in electronic format.

All-in-all social media is a necessary evil. An evil because writers need nothing else to use in a procrastination or writer’s block cycle — we are already doing whatever we can to avoid writing. Just a simple fact in a writer’s life… A necessity because used properly it can be a vehicle to assist in self and book promotion, as well as a resource for pertinent information during the writing process.

Time to share…
How do you feel about social media? A tool? A distraction? Both? Let’s discuss how we can ensure it’s used as a tool and not a
distraction.