Podcast Episode 70: Google+ for Freelance Writers
Despite its reputation as the geeky cousin of Facebook and Twitter, Google+ actually has a lot to offer a freelance writer. It has powerful features, smart personalisation options and an ideal B2B marketplace. In this episode of our freelance writing podcast, Lorrie and I go through how to get started, how to set up Google Authorship for writers, Google+ dos and don’ts, best practice and handy hacks.
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PW: Hello, and welcome to episode 70 of ‘A Little Bird Told Me,’ the podcast where two freelance writers tell you all the tricks of the trade. We are here to save you from mighty embarrassment and mortifying mistakes, and to guide you to the very top of your chosen profession. Freelancing is a funny old world, and we want to help you along the way.
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I am Philippa Willitts…
LH: And I am Lorrie Hartshorn, and today what we’re going to be talking about is possible the most benign social media platform of them all, and it’s not LinkedIn, it’s not our personal preferences, it’s Google+.
PW: Google+ is kind of a big deal, but it’s a slightly off-the-wall one, so we thought it actually deserved its own episode, because it’s quite a lot to consider about whether or not you would want to get involved, the benefits and drawbacks, and what it can do for your business.
LH: Yeah, it’s a funny old one, isn’t it? Because despite the fact that it’s very effective as a tool for optimizing the content that you put out there on the web, it can still be a bit of a chore, can’t it?
PW: It’s got quite a specific user base, and anyway, this is all stuff that we will cover. We could just meander around it at this stage, but we do actually, listeners, have a plan.
LH: So long as you have a master plan… So what we’re going to talk about first is basically the Google+ basics – what it is, when it flopped onto the internet, and what you can do with it really.
PW: Google has long been desperate to get decent competitor to Facebook and Twitter up and running. They had a weird failed attempt with a product called Google Wave, which had a lot of promise but was just too complicated. People like me, who can’t help being techy, really tried to love Wave, but it just wasn’t happening. It was released too early, so it was buggy, and it just didn’t catch on. And so Google Wave was cancelled, and later in 2011, Google+ arrived.
LH: Now in terms of its functionalities, Google+ does mirror some of what Facebook does and some of what Twitter does. It’s like they’ve tried to take the best of both of these platforms and merge them into one. It might not have been 100% successful in my view, but there is plenty that you can do with Google+.
PW: I was just going to say when it was first launched, for people like me, who get excited about such things, we were predominantly excited that it did seem like the good bits of Facebook and the good bits of Twitter, while getting rid of the annoying bits of both of those.
LH: Definitely. It’s a lot less spammy than Facebook can be. I think people get really cross about the amount of advertising on Facebook, and this is certainly a lot more streamlined as a platform. Like with Facebook, you do have a profile and you have a home feed where you can view the updates of people that you follow, for want of a better word. So in that sense it’s really quite similar to Facebook.
What makes it different to both Twitter and Facebook is that you can actually tailor your output to suit the audience you want to attract or indeed address.
PW: Yeah, you can be a lot more focused and Facebook now does this to some degree with lists. And I use Facebook lists, but they’re not intuitive at all, they’re a nightmare in many ways, whereas Google+ makes it really easy because when you add somebody on Google+ you add them to what they call a Circle. And so you can have different circles for different parts of your life. So you might have a circle called Friends, and you might have a circle called Fellow Freelancers, a circle called Clients, a circle called People Who Love CSI. You can have any number of circles and add whoever you want to them.
LH: Take pictures.
PW: Yes. And you can have people to different circles, like I have Lorrie in my Friends circle, and I also have her in my Writing circle. So you can add people to whatever suits, and then when you post an update you decide which circles it’s displayed to. So if you know that you’re a complete CSI geek and it will bore everybody or most people, then you post your CSI updates so that they’re only visible to your CSI circle.
LH: Absolutely. You don’t want to be live following CSI episode and have all your clients watching.
PW: Exactly. And so in that way it’s really nice for targeting, in the same way that I know Lorrie and I both have two Twitter accounts – one for personal stuff and one for professional stuff. You don’t need to do that on Google+ because you can post one update immediately after another and half of your followers will only see one of them.
LH: It’s quite nerve-wracking actually, isn’t it? At first, before you get used to it.
PW: Yeah. You don’t quite trust it’s going to happen.
LH: Absolutely. Because you can see everything on your home feed, and you can see everything that you’ve posted on your profile, so to you your profile might look like a mess of CSI comments, if you watch CSI, kitten pictures. I’ve never seen CSI actually. I’m thinking, I was like, ‘CIS? CIO? CSI?’
PW: Very good.
LH: I might give it a go. Kitten pictures, worky updates everyone else will find boring, pictures of your kids with the family, if you’ve got a family circle. But, as Pip said, these specific audiences will only see what’s attributed to their circles.
PW: Another thing that people liked initially was that it was like Twitter, and that you could follow somebody without them needing to follow you back. So on Facebook if you want to be friends with somebody, that’s a mutual agreement – you request it, and then they accept it. And that isn’t the case on Google+, as well. You can follow people that you really want to keep in touch with but if they’re not interested, you don’t require them to be interested in order to be able to see what they’re up to.
LH: Yeah. It’s a very good way of following people who are more high-profile, because I’ll face it, it can be quite embarrassing, at least initially – obviously now you can follow people on Facebook – but initially it would have been quite embarrassing to send a friend request to, for example, a famous copy writer or, I don’t know, a famous actor from CSI, maybe.
PW: Yeah. [laughter]
LH: I’m just guessing here, but I think I might have hit close to the mark, at least.
PW: This is the Google+ and CSI episode.
LH: It is. But on Google+ you can just follow who you like, and as Pip says, because you know, there’s no obligation to reciprocate. And if that person has public posts, then they will appear in your feed. And if that person doesn’t have public posts, then you’re not privy to any information they don’t want you to be privy to.
PW: Yeah. So you can look after your own privacy, as well.
LH: Yes, absolutely. Because you can’t control who follows you, but you can certainly control what’s public.
PW: Yeah. Now, as with any site like this, there are obviously pros and cons. We’ve listed there a few positives, really, a few things that people like, features that we use. But one problem with Google+ is just that it has a massive user base, but there are lots of people who aren’t there. Google+ has more than 540 million users a month, and that’s people who are active, people who are posting, responding, that kind of thing. It has more than 1 billion registered users, and so with that in mind you’d think everybody’s there, but in reality it’s a lot of techy people there and a lot of business people there. A lot of people’s friends aren’t.
LH: Absolutely. At the moment it feels sometimes more like a networking tool. A lot of the updates that I see from people in the industries that I’m interested in are using it as a broadcasting tool. And then it’s discussion going on. But it’s very business, very sales-centric discussion.
PW: Yeah. So the thing that makes it really social is just that people aren’t… I am one of many people who happily says, “If my Facebook friends were on Google+ I would not use Facebook.” I’d much prefer Google+. But when I want to chat with my mates about silly things or anything, I have to go to Facebook because they’re not on Google+.
LH: Absolutely. It’s exactly the same thing. It’s an impressive number of active users, but I think ‘active’ can cover a wide variety of things. And people try and show willing with Google+, don’t they? They’ll go on there and they’ll post an update occasionally or they’ll post a photo occasionally, but as you say, there’s only so much that you want to do. It doesn’t seem to be people’s primary social media platform simply because, as you pointed out, most people aren’t on there as much as on the other platforms.
PW: So is Google+ a worthwhile place for freelancers to be? Personally I would say absolutely. A figure to bear in mind that quite took me by surprise, actually, is that 70% of business grants have a Google+ presence. So as a social media resource it can be really, really useful.
LH: Yeah, that really does surprise, actually.
PW: And another really good positive about Google+ is that it can be really helpful for SEO. Now how much its SEO benefits exist is one of those constant debates on SEO blogs. So there’s no quantified, definitive answer to this. However, there’s a lot of evidence to show that posting things on Google+ helps them get indexed by Google quite quickly. It certainly spreads the word about your site, which is the main thing about social media, your main reason for posting about your site on social media. It spreads the word, but also just anything that might give Google a little nudge about your site can only be a good thing, really.
LH: Absolutely. Google is going to prioritize its own social media platform. Of course it is, there’s no doubt about it. And, as Pip said, you’ve got one billion registered users, which is a quarter of the planet. So promoting your website and your business and your freelance writing via this site – which got on board with hashtags much, much quicker than Facebook did – it can really be a good thing in terms of brand exposure.
LH: So what we’re going to look at now is how to get started on Google+. If you’ve been listening so far, and you think, “Right, well, I’m not Google+, but it does sound like it could be quite useful,” we’re just going to run through really how you get started.
PW: Yeah. Now setting up an account… Google now – and this is annoying many people, but it’s just a fact – if you set up any kind of Google account now, say a Gmail account or a Google Docs account, it will automatically set you up on Google+ as well. You have to kind of activate it, but your account is basically automatically there.
LH: Sure. It always makes me laugh, because there are a lot of pictures going around the internet once this measure had been put in place with Google as the protective parent of Google+ saying, “You will invite my child to your birthday party.”
PW: Yes, it is very much like that. They are desperate to get new users. And it’s clearly effective. But yes, it’s also a bit like, “Oh, give me a choice!”
LH: As you say, at the end of the day, it’s your choice when it’s activated, it’s your choice whether to post anything, and it’s your choice whether to make anything public. So don’t be alarmed by the fact that, you know, Google will automatically set you up a Google+ account. It doesn’t suddenly mean that all your details are sitting there, bare on the internet, for everyone to have a look at.
PW: Speaking of which, I have an Android phone, and Android is Google-powered. If you have Google+ on your Android phone, be aware that – something that terrifies me – if you don’t tell it not to, then it will automatically upload all the photos in your phone’s Google+. Now it keeps them private.
LH: That is horrendous.
PW: I know, which I didn’t realise at first. So my initial reaction was aaagh! You know, all the daft photos you take on your phone, the stupid things…
LH: The arm-length selfie for when you check your makeup.
PW: Yeah, and it was invisible, and I changed the settings so it doesn’t do that automatically anymore.
LH: Oh, Google.
PW: Yes, speaking of Google and its automation, stay aware.
LH: Sometimes it’s like, “Go home, Google, you’re drunk. Bad choice.”
LH: I actually had to mute my microphone just back, because I was laughing. I was having a glass of water and I was laughing really hard when you mentioned that your photos have been uploaded automatically. Not, listeners, that I know anything bad about Pip’s photos. I know nothing about what she chooses to photograph.
PW: In the privacy of my own home. [laughter]
LH: Quite a horrifying prospect. Not your photos, I mean Google+.
LH: Oh, dear. Moving on.
PW: Moving on. Yes. The other thing that’s taken them years – your profile address, like your URL of your Google+ profile had a long, long list of capital letters, small letters and numbers, and it wasn’t at all easy to share it, really, in a memorable way.
LH: It was a very silly thing to do, wasn’t it? It wasn’t intuitive at all.
PW: It took them ages… It was one of the biggest complaints from the beginning, and it took them years to fix. But now you can personalize your URL so it can be something more than this. It will be plus.google.com/ and then something other than a massive stream of letters and numbers. So you do that, it makes it more memorable, more pretty, let’s face it. And yeah, it takes a minute.
LH: Yeah. Now, as we mentioned before, sharing your website and sharing content from your website on Google+ has been shown to be quite beneficial in terms of search engine optimization. Now, as Pip said, there’s no way of saying categorically yes or no, it’s brilliant for SEO. But one thing that Google+ does encourage users to do is to verify their website and to prove, therefore, that they are the owner of the content that’s coming from that site. And it’s very, very easy to do. You click into the backend of Google+. It will give you some code to pop on your website. And I am not a techy person, listeners, and I can do it absolutely fine. Not an issue at all. And there are loads of YouTube tutorials on how to do these kinds of things. So don’t panic. And it’s very worth verifying your website on Google because it helps you to verify your authorship.
PW: Yeah. Now authorship is something that, again, is the subject of a lot of SEO debate, but what we can give you is the gist of how it works. And it’s thought that because Google as a search engine is constantly on the lookout for ways to get rid of spammy websites from its listings, and it’s tried many things over the years that then invariably end up being abused by disreputable SEO people, and then Google outlaws them, and then it introduces something. Everything goes like that. And something that it’s doing – it’s called Google Authorship – it’s thought that what Google is trying to do is find a way to connect content on the website with the people who create it, and that ultimately that might be a good way of identifying what’s spam and what’s good quality. Because if it can see that you write for Mashable, then it probably knows that you’re a decent content producer, and therefore if you then write a blog post somewhere else, a guest post for another blog, it might be that if you can connect your authorship to that, as well, Google will know easily that is also a quality piece of content.
LH: Absolutely. And by prioritizing this kind of verified content what Google can do is deprioritize content that is churned out by content mills and synonym tools that people use, rewriting tools – you pop an article in one end and it comes out a jumble of synonyms from the other.
PW: Google Authorship is very linked to what Lorrie was just saying about verifying your website. It’s a very similar process. You manage your Google Authorship through your Google+ profile, and again you’ve got a bit of code that you put onto your website, and then another bit of code that you verify on the Google+ website. If you just search for how to set up Google Authorship, it’s easier to look at pictures of somebody doing it than for us to try and explain. But, like Lorrie says, it’s really easy. You just copy and paste a line of stuff into the place it tells you to copy and paste it into, and then Google can credit you wherever you post around the web.
The other point about Google Authorship is something you will have noticed in search results, which is that certain search results will show the picture of the author of a piece of writing.
LH: Oh, you beat me to this point.
PW: Yeah. And to credit in the search result itself, and so that is Google Authorship. It’s your Google+ profile picture and it credits you in search results. And that again can provide some kind of authority. And I think there’s quite a lot of evidence that those links get a lot more clicks than those without that authorship little tag. And so it’s worth doing.
LH: Absolutely. It just distinguishes your content from the rest of the content in those search results. Human faces attract interaction…
PW: Yeah, and it distinguishes it for humans and for Google, as well.
LH: Absolutely. So go ahead and do it. All these things seem very complicated simply because Google has such a big reach that sometimes you need to start adding code to your website and stuff. And you might think, well, it sounds a lot more complicated than Facebook, but Facebook is self-contained, whereas Google is obviously a lot broader. It owns a lot more in terms of internet shares, shall we say, and these things really aren’t hard, so they’re very worthwhile.
PW: Now Google+ is a social network, and the key point about any social network is that it’s about building and maintaining good relationships. Whether that’s with individuals, businesses, friends, colleagues, it’s all about the relationships. And so we’re going to look now at a few ways to focus on relationship building and what you can do on Google+ to help with that.
LH: Absolutely. I think because Google+ can seem like a deserted town sometimes, it’s easy to forget that it actually is a very valuable relationship marketing tool, and as such, you cannot simply broadcast into the ether, tempting though it may be, because sometimes it seems like there’s nobody there, you really do have to go about a few ways to interact with people, just as you would with any other social media platform. And one of the ways to do that is Google+’s version of liking something or favoriting something, whether you’re on Facebook or Twitter, and that’s +1-ing something. I don’t know how to say it. It’s not the most catchy term, but what you can do is basically just click to give a post a +1, and obviously, if somebody else clicks, then the post will be a +2, +3. It’s a way of showing your appreciation for a post, and also a way for a post to be measured on how popular it is, and how much interaction it’s gained.
PW: And as with the other things you mentioned before, this has an impact beyond Google+ itself. On the one hand, +1-ing somebody’s post gives them a little boost. They might think, “Oh, that’s nice. I’ll look that person up.” Or, “Oh, that’s very cool.”
LH: Yeah, it could be anything from a report you’ve written on SEO content to a picture of your friend’s baby.
PW: Exactly. Now the +1 button is clicked – have a guess Lorrie – how many times a day?
LH: Uh, don’t make me guess. I couldn’t even guess CSI right, or CIS.
PW: More than 5 billion times a day.
LH: You’re kidding me.
PW: I am not. And that’s partly because the +1 button appears on websites and in search results, as well as on Google+. It’s been shown that a higher number of +1 correlates really well with better search rankings, and so it’s good in those respects. But what we’re talking about in particular now is relationship building, and just like getting a like or a favour on Facebook, it’s nice if somebody clicks +1 on something you post on Google+. And also, it might — so if someone does that and it’s someone I haven’t come across before I’ll head over to their profile, see who they are, what they’re interested in, add them to a circle if they seem relevant. And if you do that on other people as well, cynically, it’s a way of maybe getting noticed, but in a broader sense, it’s one way, it’s that kind of community building, relationship building thing that social media is best at.
LH: Uh-huh. And likewise, commenting just as you would on somebody’s Facebook updates or you would on somebody’s blog – it’s important to leave insightful, thoughtful comments on people’s updates, particularly when we’re talking about business, which of course we are here. So if somebody’s posted an infographic or if they’ve posted a post – because you can post quite long pieces of text on Google+, it’s not limited in the same way that perhaps Facebook has been – it’s very good to get involved in a discussion, because like you say, this is a social network, and just as with your +1-ing, commenting on other people’s updates can help to build your brand exposure, it can help to build your authority.
PW: And because Google+ is used in business quite a lot, there’s a wide range of people you can interact with, so you can +1, comment, reshare people’s posts. And that can be everybody from your friend’s baby photos to thought leaders prospects, colleagues. Don’t just kind of – show a bit of balance in what you do, don’t storm in head first, so think it through. But make sure you interact with a really wide range of people on a wide range of topics.
LH: Absolutely. You’ve got to maximize the fact that Google+ allows you to have different circles, and allows you to tailor the content that’s visible to people. If you want to interact with friends of friends – that’s fine, and they come towards your profile, you can add them into the friends or the acquaintances circles. If you interact with thought leaders or perspective clients, you can comment insightfully, and then if they come towards you and they add you or they follow you, you can tailor what kind of content they see. So it’s important, really, to have a good look around and just see who you could attract to your profile, and from there to your website, to your other social media feeds.
PW: Now if you follow somebody on there who’s quite high profile, whether that’s because they’re an actor on CSI or whether it’s because they’re high-profiling your industry, it’s tempting to leave a daft comment onto everything they say to get their attention.
LH: You see this on Twitter a lot, don’t you?
PW: Yeah, and you just don’t. It’s embarrassing, everybody can see it because comments are like threaded underneath updates, so it’s worse than Twitter in that respect, if you post something embarrassing, it stays.
LH: Yeah, true, it doesn’t disappear.
PW: It’s good if you’re going to build genuine conversation, but if you see somebody you really like or somebody that impresses you, and you want to make an impression, don’t make a show of yourself, basically.
LH: Don’t run in like a puppy.
PW: Yeah. “Oh, my God!!!”
LH: “It’s you, from CSI!!” I can’t even name one of the actors. I just have to go with “you” – It’s you!!!
PW: That’ll do.
LH: I know. And that goes for any social media platform, doesn’t it? It’s just the thing with Google, isn’t it? Everything’s so neatly catalogued and stored away, but it will never go. So just as with Twitter things might disappear off down the bottom of the thread. It doesn’t on Google+, though. So yeah, take Pip’s advice.
PW: The next point we want to make is something we say all the time about social media, whether you’re talking LinkedIn, Twitter, whatever. Don’t just post your own stuff.
LH: Uh-hmm. It can be tempting to do it, can’t it, because a lot of the time, from my experience, even if you get a little bit of interaction going, people on Google+ as regularly as they are on other social media platforms.
LH: So conversations, discussions can stall, and you think, “Oh, but I need to update it, but there’s nobody on there, and it’s hard to find people, and I can’t find anybody to talk to on there.” But you really do have to put the work in. It’s better, I would say, to post things relatively regularly, even if you don’t find that you’re having many discussions rather than having an empty profile, say. But it really, really is worth your time going seeking out discussions as often as you are posting.
PW: Because actually one of the potential drawbacks of Google+ can become a benefit. If you think of your Twitter timeline, I know mine – I can sit and watch TweetDeck, and it flies by, whereas the issue with not as many people seeming to post on Google+ actually can be a benefit in that there’s fewer distractions, so if somebody follows you and you post an update, it might be at the top of their timeline for hours rather than seconds.
LH: And if they have a Gmail account, it does notify them in there, as well.
PW: Yeah. And also, if there are fewer people there, then the conversations you can have can actually be more personal and more in depth, and have more of an impact rather than for thousands and thousands of tweets that go by every minute.
LH: Absolutely. It’s quite like LinkedIn groups in that sense, isn’t it? Where a lot of people are in there and a lot of people are spamming, but that really does just become white noise on the groups on LinkedIn. And I think it’s quite similar for Google+. I think if you’ve got something genuinely thoughtful and insightful to say, then it will stand out from the crowd.
PW: Yeah. So Google+ good practice. Part of it is as we’ve just said, don’t just post your own stuff, don’t just post and leave, post and leave, post and leave. You’ve got to put a bit of effort in. And a few of the pointers.
Firstly, as Lorrie mentioned earlier, longer posts can be really effective on Google+. Lately I’ve seen some people in the kind of internet marketing starting to use Google+ as a blog. So their profile – you check out their profile and it’s the equivalent of having a blog elsewhere, and I’m not 100% sure how I feel about it, but I can see the appeal. The people who are doing it can’t praise it enough, frankly.
LH: Certainly. And long form is something that people have taken to this year, isn’t it?
LH: Weirdly. It’s not the sort of thing that you could have predicted because everything you’ve been told is keep your blog posts to 500 words. But actually there’s been quite a bit of evidence recently to suggest that around 1,600 words in terms of long-form posts and slightly more in-depth discussion posts can really be an optimum length.
PW: My opinion is that this is a kind of reaction against Twitter and the very short fast thing. People love that, as do we, but it also leaves people really wanting analyses, and really wanting a kind of counterpoint that does the opposite.
LH: Yeah, Twitter can be quite reductionist in terms of this argument, and it’s quite inevitable, given the nature of the platform.
PW: Of course, and that’s what makes it brilliant.
LH: Yeah, it’s wonderful. But the loudest shouts can often be quite jargony. People have to make a point in 150 characters, and often that can be the point being quite superficial, at least at first appearances.
PW: Yeah, you lose all nuance, and so people I think that, like Lorrie says, the fact that we’ve been trained to do snappy in blog posts and all bullet points, and that’s great. It’s still great, it’s still very valid for a lot of places, but I think that this new trend towards long form, which I love, I have to say – I love writing it, I love reading it – I think it is a reaction against that. So people saying, “No, give us painful detail, give us really in-depth analysis.”
LH: Yeah. And it’s everything from memoirs to reports, isn’t it?
PW: Oh, absolutely. I’ve read like 4,000-word blog posts on one tiny aspect of social media theory, whether adding ‘please re-tweet’ to a tweet – what difference that makes is that people… Oh, I love that sort of stuff
LH: Yeah, it’s really sort of – antithesis is the right word?
PW: Yeah, I think so.
LH: So, the antithesis to BuzzFeed, which like Twitter, has got its own place. And even BuzzFeed’s starting to hop on board with the long form stuff, although it’s not as popular as quizzes at the moment – getting really annoying to me, but it’s obviously working for BuzzFeed. But yeah, these long form posts can be a really good way of ensuring that you get SEO, good quality optimized content onto your Google profile. You can include links, you can include hashtags. It’s really a very, very good way of increasing your exposure, not just on the site, but in the search results as well.
PW: Yeah. Now another good practice thing you can do with Google+ is look at the types of media you can embed into a post, and make it nice and interactive, get people engaging with their YouTube videos. YouTube, of course, by Google, so they work very well together. YouTube videos embed very nice in Google+ posts. You can also now embed Google Docs into Google+ posts, so as long as the doc is public, if you put a link to the public URL, then it will embed in a post, which again can be a great way to share something.
LH: Absolutely. And it’s a fabulous way of encouraging people to engage with you. Because you can put anything that you want in that Google Doc, you can give people really good resources, whether it’s a database with some information, or it’s a white paper on something quite current and quite useful. It’s just another opportunity to snare those prospects, to snare people from industries that you are interested in building your authority in, and really hooking them with something. You can put calls to action in there – it’s just one more way of keeping people interested in what you’ve got to say.
PW: Yeah. An update that Google+ did maybe a year ago made images a lot more prominent. It changed its whole layout and kind of user interface, and it quickly became clear that… Images were suddenly huge as you’re scrolling down your timeline, and they’ve been made really prominent. And so sharing images, whether it’s a photo you took on holiday or an infographic, can be a really good way of being noticed and really of just making the most of what Google+ is offering.
LH: And what I would say or actually add to that is that when you share content from say your website and your blog on Google+, do make sure that you’ve got a featured image somewhere in that blog post, because one thing that Google+ does, as Pip said, is prioritize images. So if you have a featured image on your blog post or somewhere in your blog post, it’s not only good to break up the text on your blog, Google+ will actually preview that, whereas I found – I don’t know about you, Pip – but I found that Facebook can be a little bit glitchy when it chooses its preview images. Usually, for some reason, it pulls the image from my homepage on my website, and it’s a giant picture of my head. I’d like to add that it’s not giant in the picture on my website. My website doesn’t feature a giant picture of my head, but Facebook takes that image and zooms in on it, and it has the only image available, whereas on Google+ I do find that it’s quite reliable in choosing, giving you options for the images that you’ve embedded in the blog or that you’ve attributed to your blog post.
PW: Now the final bit of good practice we want to mention for the time being is something that we covered earlier, but it’s always worth reiterating.
LH: Always, always.
PW: And that is it offers so many options for privacy and categorizing people into circles. Use them. Use privacy options and use circles to keep things appropriate and relevant. And that’s not to say you can’t ever show a human side to your business circles. That’s not true at all, and that will actually do you no favours, if you’re just a robot. Occasionally, if I see my first daffodil of spring I will add a photo to Google+ to everybody, because everybody likes to see the first daffodil of spring.
LH: I don’t. I stomp on them.
PW: Or something like that. So it’s not to say you need to be robotic and entirely depersonalized in your business side of things, and that kind of thing, but think it through. Whenever you do a post think, “Do I want this to go to everybody? Do I want my prospects to see how drunk I was on Friday?” Think it through. And, similarly, do my friends want another content marketing post? They don’t.
LH: You tailor your content. Do tailor your content and follow Pip’s advice. Don’t turn into a robot, because businesses are people. There isn’t a business without a person behind it, at least one person per business.
PW: Yeah. It gives you the option to be really, really strategic.
LH: Absolutely. No baby albums on your work profile.
PW: No. One baby per photo a year, perhaps.
LH: Possibly. Look, I’ve had a baby. The end.
PW: That’s it.
LH: We like babies, just not on work profiles. So what we’re going to take a look at now are some of the extended features on Google+. We’ve had a look at some of the functionalities, but there are a few things that are very specific to Google. There really are quite positive additions to the platform.
PW: Yeah. The first thing we’re looking at is Communities – Google+ Communities. And these kind of equivalent to things like LinkedIn groups or Facebook groups. They are a way, as you’d expect, to start to interact with other people with a shared interest. So you might join this CSI fans group.
LH: For goodness sakes.
PW: For running with this, Lorrie. I am a member of a whole load of groups – communities, sorry – such as, Freelance Lifestyle, Writers Discussion Group, Content Strategy Group, Social Media Strategy Group, Podcast Technology Group.
LH: Oh, my God.
PW: I know. My communities are pretty much all professional ones rather than anything more personal. But there are communities available for everything.
LH: Yeah, I mean local ones, I mean feminist ones, as well as the work ones, you know, because they’re so accessible, and as with posts, they’ll drop into your Gmail.
PW: Yes, although, to be honest, whenever I join a community now the first thing I do is turn that off.
LH: I do.
PW: I can’t – just like everything is just a bit relentless. People can invite you to communities and Google will also suggest communities that it thinks you might be interested in.
LH: It’s not a hit-and-miss. It’s very much a case as finding somewhere where you feel comfortable, and where there’s really good discussion, because that tends to be whether discussion hides on Google+.
PW: Yeah, and you might have to kiss a few frogs, but you will find your prince of communities.
PW: If you engage and if you contribute you can find it again or follow back.
LH: And they’re certainly not maxed out either, communities on Google+. It’s perfectly possible to create your own. There are plenty, plenty of niches that haven’t been taped out yet. Obviously, there are large communities for most subjects, but I suppose if Pip wanted to start a UK CSI fans group, I imagine that she wouldn’t have much of a problem attracting a large number of people to that.
PW: Yeah. One complaint that’s often levelled towards Google+ is that it’s all techies, and that is reflective of a fact that their biggest community is the Mashable community – although Mashable was an exquisitely techy site, it’s quite techy – but their second largest community is Epicurious, which is a foodie website. So there is something for everybody there, really. And if there isn’t, start your own. That’s a really good way of showing yourself as authoritative if you’re presenting yourself as an expert. If you start a community that then becomes popular, everybody knows your name.
LH: Absolutely. You have to keep it populated and you have to keep it going, but it’s a very worthwhile endeavour. I’ve started Facebook groups in the past that have become very high profile for the niche that they’re in.
PW: And also you need them to be high profile.
LH: Exactly. You know, we’re not talking hundreds of thousands of followers, but we’re not talking niches where you need to have hundreds of thousands of followers. If you are known in relevant communities somebody knows what they’re talking about, that can only ever be a good thing.
PW: Yeah. So, as well as joining say communities for freelancers, as well as joining communities for hobbies and interests, also think about your own niche. Where do you specialize in your writing? If you write about fashion, make sure you’re in some fashion communities. You don’t have to limit yourself. You can join as many as you like, and then leave the ones you don’t like, and then really put some effort into the ones you do.
LH: Definitely. So the next move we’re going to look up in terms of Google+ features is hashtags. Now we’ve talked about this a little bit already. Hashtags are a brilliant way of further targeting the audiences that you want to interest with what you’re saying.
PW: Yeah. Whenever you do an update you can add your own hashtags to it just as you would on Twitter, and just as you can on Facebook, although the functionality there isn’t that good. Now what they do is signal to people who see your update what you’re talking about. But what they also do is make you eminently searchable. So when someone else clicks on the same hashtag on another update, they will see all the posts that are public that use it. And so if you’re getting yourself out there, and there’s something interesting is that if you don’t add your own hashtags, Google+ will auto-generate hashtags based on what it thinks you’re talking about.
LH: It sounds risky.
PW: It does, but it does surprisingly well at getting it right in my experience.
LH: That’s reassuring.
PW: Yeah, and you know, if it adds a hashtag that you don’t like or that doesn’t fit you can just edit it away, that’s no problem.
LH: So it doesn’t do it secretly then, that you lose a hashtag once you post it.
LH: ‘This person doesn’t know there’s a hashtag here’ hashtag.
PW: No. You can see it. As soon as you post your update it’s there and then you will mostly go, “Oh, well spotted!”
LH: That’s one good point, actually, that you reminded me to make. Before Facebook got on board with allowing you to edit posts, Google+ was there much, much sooner.
PW: So true.
LH: Posts are editable, which they’re not on things like Twitter. And I don’t believe they’re easily editable on LinkedIn, either, when you’re in groups there.
PW: Yeah. You know, I’ve never tried, and so I’m not sure.
LH: Post and forget on LinkedIn. You just post and run. How’s my update? Go.
PW: And so hashtags are a great way of also you finding other people. If you are writing about something and you can’t find anyone else who’s interested in Sara Sidle on CSI, then you hashtag Sara Sidle and click your own hashtag, and it will show anyone else who’s hashtagged her. That may be a little obscure, but you never know.
LH: It will show you the one other person out of 1 billion who’s used that hashtag.
PW: Yes. Now the other big feature that makes Google+ unique really, and really useful is Google+ Hangout, where you can have live a video chat on air with anybody.
LH: Yes. I know it’s really odd. They’re an excellent way of connecting with people quickly and intuitively, because just as blog posts have evolved to incorporate things like rich media, and I think that it’s really important to connect with people in a way that’s not just text discussion all the time. Hangouts allow you to have effectively conference calls on video with people, and they’re a brilliant way to have conference calls to have conversations with one person, and to host webinars and discussion groups, if you’re interested in branching out into things like that.
PW: Hangouts are automatically then uploaded to your YouTube account and so you can then have a pair and a record of it that you can refer people to if they couldn’t attend. Now the thing with webinars is most webinar hosting services are quite expensive. They’re a few options. I have a real habit of attending loads of webinars, so I know a few of them. And some are great, but if you’re hosting, they can be quite expensive. Google Hangouts are free. You can make them private, you can make them public. Lorrie and I could have a chat that nobody else could hear or we could have a massive webinar with thousands of people watching.
LH: Yeah, we can have a webcast.
PW: Yeah, it’s all available. And the other thing that’s nice about them actually – if you’re trying to explain something it can show your face or alternatively you can just click a button and instead shows your screen. So if you’re trying to demonstrate how to do something online, you can just switch the camera so that instead of seeing your face everybody can see your computer screen. So make sure anything embarrassing is out of the way. And then they can just watch you do something as you do it. And so that’s also a nice feature, just switching between either kind of face time and chatting and your screen if you want to demonstrate how to do something.
LH: Absolutely. And, and we’ve said before, YouTube is the second biggest search engine on the web. It is owned by Google, and the fact that this material is indexed by Google – everything on YouTube is now indexed – it means it’s just there, and it’s searchable and it’s easy to find. And, as I also said earlier, one of the quickest and easiest ways, and one of the most common ways for me now to learn how to do anything is not to find a text-based post, it’s to get on YouTube.
PW: Same, when I’m having a nightmare invariably with a spreadsheet trying to work out how to–, just going “Come on, you can add those things off and then minus that. How hard can it be?” I spent many hours trying to read through tutorials, and I quickly learned that somebody on YouTube can show me in 30 seconds…
LH: I remember one specific incident where you spent hours and hours and hours searching and reading and searching to find the right thing. And I think in about two minutes you found it on YouTube.
PW: Yes. It’s incredible, and I thank the people who are patient enough with spreadsheets to not only learn how to do it properly, but then show me. I’m like you, there are certain things that now if I want to know how to do it YouTube’s where I search, not Google.
LH: Uh-hmm. And it’s invaluable because if you think about it, as Pip’s just mentioned about the people who help her get out of her spreadsheet, and back into a more healthy frame of mind. If you know how to do something with SEO, or if you know how to do something with writing, or if you know how to solve somebody’s grandma conundrum, you can do a little tiny Hangout on there, you can upload that to YouTube, and if you use search terms in your description of that Hangout video, that’s easily findable. And again, it helps to build your brand authority.
PW: Yeah. When Facebook started hiding messages under a separate category, and it didn’t tell anybody that it was doing this, lots of people suddenly had a load of missing messages and didn’t know why. But actually they were hiding them in this weird section called ‘Other’.
LH: I hate Other.
PW: Yeah, under messages. It told nobody – nobody looks there, because you get no notification.
LH: It’s greyed out, isn’t it? The word ‘other’, as well. It’s really not very easy to spot.
PW: And so once I spotted that I made a quick screen cast video just going, you know, click here, click here, and it’s there. And I called it something like “How to find your hidden hack Facebook messages”. And until I don’t know how many thousand views from people doing what I do with spreadsheets, just going, “Where is this thing?” And then they watched my few seconds doing it, and there they are.
LH: Yeah, no, it’s perfect, and anything that drives traffic to your website is a good thing. And I think, as Pip said previously, they are certain things that drive traffic to her website that you wouldn’t necessarily think they’d be the big drivers, but you never do know what people are going to be searching for. So if you’ve got anything useful to say… I know one person I follow on social media, she posts like a three or four-minute hangout every week, and that’s her version of blogging. And it’s just her on her phone or on her webcam; she’s an accountant, and she’s talking about how to solve your financial problems and how to do certain things with your money, and how to manage it, so things like that. And it’s really very informative. It’s not expensive, it’s not hard to do, and it’s really a big change from just blog post, blog, blog post. It’s a little bit different and it captures your attention.
PW: I’m doing that through a Google+ Hangout. It saves you having to learn how to edit a video, record audios, stick them together, upload to YouTube. If you do through a Hangout that’s all just done. You don’t need to worry.
LH: It’s very flexible.
PW: Yeah. So if it takes you four minutes, it takes you four minutes, rather than three hours, which you might have done if you needed all those separate bits and bobs.
LH: Yeah, it’s well worth a go, and it really is quite unique.
PW: And so if you’re going to use Google+ and put a bit of time and effort into using it well, you want to make sure that you’re maximizing the reach of your Google+ activities.
LH: Yeah. One of the very, very easy ways to maximize the reach of your Google+ activities is to make content on your website and blog, Google+ sharable using buttons that you can embed on your website. And again, I’ll reiterate, I am not Pip. I am not a techy person. What Pip finds exciting and thrilling I find terrifying. I do not like tech stuff. I do it because it’s a necessary evil, but it is in fact evil. So adding a Google+ shareable button to your website, just as you would add something like a Twitter button or a Like this on Facebook button, it’s just a really good way of driving people to your content and to your Google+ profile, and just livening things up a little bit. And it enables people to give you a +1 if they like the blog post that they’re reading. It’s very, very quick and simple. They don’t actually need to go to Google+ to do it; they can just do it right there.
PW: Yeah. And if you use WordPress, there are I don’t know how many plug-ins that just make this easy, very easy.
LH: One more reason to use WordPress’s net. We love WordPress.
PW: If you want to, you can mess about with code and manually add your own button. However, there is no need to do that. If you do a search under plug-ins for social sharing–. Because I would recommend using, if you can, one plug-in for all your social sharing.
LH: Just so your buttons are all aligned and they’re all streamlined, and the branding is all the same.
PW: Exactly. So I would search for social sharing or something like that, and then choose a plug-in that you like the look of, the shares to the networks you want to share to. For me I think that’s like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest – because I’m quite a big Pinterester – Google+, but you know, whatever you want. But go for a plug-in. It makes it so easy. All you have to do is click which ones you want and there it is.
LH: And likewise you can add a follow button to your website, as well, so that people don’t just +1 the post that they have liked. They can come follow you. They can add you to their circles or they can just follow you.
PW: Yeah. And again, there are plug-ins that make that easy. If you’re using other platforms I’m sure there are equivalent ways of doing it, or if not, then you may have to head into your code, in which case we’d probably recommend finding a YouTube video to tell you how to do it.
LH: And don’t come near us. You can ask Pip, but don’t ask me.
PW: Shares and +1s, again, make it easy for people to share your content. The number of times, for instance – this is my pet hate – if I find a blog that I really like and I want to subscribe to it, and there is no RSS feed, there is no anything. And I want to say to them, “I am trying to follow your site in the long term.”
LH: Yeah. I’ve had the same thing. I’ve emailed people and got like, “I cannot follow your blog post like literary journals.” I’m like, “You come out monthly. I want to read you monthly.”
PW: Yeah. And it’s one of the reasons, because I listened to at least a thousand different podcasts, it’s one of the reasons I’ve always ensured with this one right from the start that we make it so easy to subscribe, because there are podcasts that I want to subscribe to that because I don’t use iTunes there’s often to other option, and I’m thinking, “I want to become a listener. Don’t make it so difficult.”
LH: I can hear rending your clothes.
PW: Oh, I can’t stand it. And this is the same. If somebody wants to share your stuff on Google+, make it easy, don’t make it difficult.
LH: 100% absolutely. And likewise, if you’re on Twitter, if you’re on Facebook, if you’re on Pinterest, make sure you cross-promote. Don’t forget to link to your Google+ updates, because if there’s any complaint about Google+ it’s what we mentioned earlier, that people don’t seem to be on there, so anything you can do to actually use, for our sake, as much as anything else – anything we can do to drive people over there and get people interested, and demonstrate to people that this is an active social media platform, and that you are posting useful things on it. It’s all the better. So link away from whenever you can.
PW: Definitely. I’m a big believer in that train of interlinking, you know, link to a specific update on Google+ on Twitter, and then chances are – I know when I see someone do that – chances are I might click. And I think, “Oh, I already followed them on Twitter. I may as well follow them on here, as well.” We’ve clearly got things in common, and it’s a great way to, like Lorrie says, attract more people to the platform, and also make more connections there.
LH: And also reminds me to post when I see someone else’s post and I go along and I give it a +1, I think I’m actually–. I have a postage for a few days I’ll post now.
PW: That’s it. Because as Lorrie said earlier it’s not really necessarily a place that you might go to hang out without thinking too much like Twitter might be or Facebook might be. And so, yeah, I am the same. I will periodically go, “Oh, I haven’t been on Google+ for a week. I’ll make an effort to go there.” So any kind of reminder is good.
Now another way to maximize the reach of your Google+ activities is a nice little feature they’ve added called Ripples. It’s a nice way of visualizing the reach that any post has. How it works is you look at any post, your own or other people’s, and in the top right corner there’s a little download arrow and when you click on that if this is something that has been shared or +1-ed or linked to elsewhere you will see an option in the drop-down box called View Ripples. And when you click on that you get this nice visualisation of big circles for people with a lot of influence, small circles for people with less influence and exactly how far that post is spread.
LH: Yeah, it’s really nice, and I think it is basically more an intuitive version of what Facebook has on their Pages, which is View Insights, which it’s handy, don’t get me wrong, but because things are so tied up on Facebook with paid advertising now, View Insights – I find it limited in its usefulness. You can’t view – as far as I know you can’t view public posts that your friends have posted or that you have posted. You can view the insights on those. It’s something that’s specifically for Pages and on page activity. Whereas Ripples, much like the name suggests, goes a lot further. Yeah, it can help you to identify people who are interested in the same things that you are. If you see there’s somebody with a big circle for influence has posted a shared version of a post that you like, then you might well go and have a nosy at that person, and you might follow that person. And it’s just good for tracking the effectiveness of post. If you see that something’s had loads and loads and loads of shares you can use that to inform your own posting in the future.
PW: Definitely. Now something to bear in mind that I discovered is that if you’ve posted something or someone’s posted something that has no interaction at all, then when you click the drop-down box View Ripples doesn’t appear. So don’t just think it’s not working. If the first thing you look at doesn’t have View Ripples. Try a few until you reach the one that’s got good exposure.
LH: I had a bit of confusion the first time I had to look, as well, because I had to look on my own profile at first, and I clicked on something and they had no option for viewing ripples. I thought, “What’s going on?” But then when I went down my timeline and had a look at some of the major influences, there’s a lot more activity, as well as the View Ripples option in the first place.
PW: That’s it. And the visualisation is also quite interactive, in that you can click on different circles and find out a little bit more about what’s going on. So it’s certainly interesting to have a play with and, as Lorrie says, if you can then use it to inform your future posting activity, then that’s extra good.
LH: Absolutely. Because, as we’ve said, Google+ for all its usefulness isn’t necessarily effortless in the same way that Facebook and Twitter can sometimes feel quite easy to use, and as Pip said, just quite easy to hang out on and chirp a little interaction here and there. So what you don’t want to be doing is going onto Google+ and posting stuff that is just not getting any interest. And it will take you a while to get used to it as a platform and to associate with people who are interested in the same things as you, and familiarize yourself with what tickles people’s fantasies and what doesn’t. And Google Ripple is just a really good way of speeding up that process, I think.
PW: Yeah, definitely. And it’s just another way of presenting the information, as well. It’s just that little bit. It’s nicer than looking at a list of percentages and…
LH: Absolutely. Things like Google Analytics get, I think quite deservedly, a bad rep. It’s a brilliant tool, but it’s not the easiest, and it’s maintained its reputation for being a bit of a pain in the bum. So Google Ripple is a nice departure from there. It’s lovely, and it taps into the usefulness of things like infographics.
PW: And so I hope that what we’ve said today will at least keep your interest in Google+. Some people will hate it as a tool, undoubtedly, but it’s definitely worth spending some time, and messing about and trying different things. Join up, join some communities, put some people in circles and look at what different people are talking about. Both of our Google+ profiles are listed on alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com, so you can add us to your favourite podcasters circle or best freelance writers in the world circle. We’re both quite open to that, I think.
LH: Yeah, but don’t add anyone else, because that’s just offensive.
PW: Well, yes. And then come to our Facebook page at facebook.com/freelancewritingpodcast and tell us how you get on. Post a link there to your Google+ profile and we will take a look, and let us know what you think.
LH: So that brings us very neatly to the end of that part of episode 70, which can only mean only one thing. It’s the A Little Bird Told Me recommendation of the week.
PW: And so my recommendation this week is a phone app. Now Lorrie and I are both big fans of a little service called Boomerang for Gmail.
LH: It’s great!
PW: Now what Boomerang does is – there are two main features. One is it allows you to schedule emails for the future. The other great thing that Boomerang does is if you send an email, you can ask Boomerang to Boomerang it back into your inbox if you haven’t had a reply within a particular amount of time. And so say you’re sending a picture off to a company. And you send them a great email about why they need to hire you. What you want to do is then boomerang it so that if you haven’t heard back within say two weeks, that email will appear at the top of your inbox again, which can be a nice little reminder to do a follow-up.
LH: Uh-hmm. Like with the email scheduling it just takes it off your play and off your mind so you can focus on other things.
PW: Exactly. And so we both used Boomerang, and Boomerang has free service, and then if you use it more than a certain amount, a paid service. And I think we both use the paid service now.
LH: Oh, have you switched?
PW: I have switched.
LH: It’s great.
LH: It’s such good value, isn’t it? I think it’s what…
PW: Oh, it’s incredible. It’s definitely worth it.
LH: But yeah, no, for the amount that I use it and the amount of the usefulness that it has it’s super, super good value.
PW: Anyway, my recommendation isn’t Boomerang itself. My recommendation is the Boomerang phone app. Now I downloaded it some time ago, and it was buggy and slow and not pretty, and so I never used it again. And then I read a blog post recently about how they’ve updated it and how it’s now amazing. And so I went back into my phone, I updated the app, and this blog post was right, basically. What Boomerang does on your phone is it offers you your Gmail inbox and an easy way to use it for scheduling your emails and for boomeranging your emails exactly as you can on your desktop. But you can also use it just for your general Gmail activity. So you can use it to send immediate emails or, you know, whatever you might normally do. And actually it’s so streamlined, and the user experience is so good that I’m actually now preferring it to Android’s own Gmail app, even when I’m not scheduling messages. If I’m just checking my email I’m doing it with the Boomerang app rather than the Gmail app at the moment.
LH: That’s fine. I think we need to make one particular point now, don’t we? About the signatures and the usernames.
PW: Oh, yes. This is true. Thanks to Lorrie I found out that it was–. It used the beginning of my email address as my username, rather than what I normally have set up. So that was embarrassing. I mean, if I was using it to contact clients it would use the beginning of my professional email address, at least, which is more suitable, but it would still be lower case with a full stop in the middle rather than normal. So yes. And also it has a kind of cheeky cutie little signature that says, “Typed with my phone and sent with love with Boomerang,” or something. And you can alter that in the settings and so, yes, so do.
LH: So yes, just keep an eye on these settings. Maybe send yourself a test email. But it sounds like a fab app, doesn’t it? I might well add that, as well, because I’m not super happy with Android’s own Gmail.
PW: It’s not great. It’s functional, but it’s not…
LH: It’s slow and blobby and clunky. No, it’s certainly worth having a nosy, because I’m spending a lot more time on my phone now.
PW: Same, yeah.
LH: Than I thought I would. So fab recommendation.
PW: And it’s a free app, so have a play with it and see what you like. Lorrie what is yours?
LH: My recommendation is an article from Mashable, actually. Funny that we mentioned Mashable earlier, because I am not a tacky person, but I do like Mashable. So if you haven’t subscribed, listeners, it’s well worth it, and now you see it’s very accessible.
PW: Mashable is great.
LH: Yeah, it took me a weirdly long time to get to subscribe to Mashable. I think because I’ve got the impression that it was just for techies, but no, it is very, very accessible, and the website’s very easy to kind of… You can go around and have a look at stuff that interests you, especially now that it’s got the magazine layout going on.
So this article by Mashable is the 5-step editing process for a perfect resume. Now, obviously, here, in the UK, we call resumes CVs. They’re different conventions, but what got me thinking that this might be a good article is that I know that both Pip and I, particularly recently, have worked on quite a number of CVs and covering letters. And I can’t speak for Pip, but the ones that I’ve seen have missed the mark by quite a way, while still not being actually badly written. That’s been the weird thing about them.
The grammar’s been fine, the language’s been fine, the person’s clearly got a lot of skills. I’ve dealt with quite a few people that are going for quite higher-level roles, but for whatever reason, CV and the covering letter turned into this big schmush of – I don’t know what you call it – rhetoric, I suppose. It’s like the CV-resume rhetoric. And there have been some silly mistakes. I’ve had somebody post that they work for a certain company, but actually that company’s gone bust and been bought up by another company.
So it would have been better to say what the company’s current name was. And this article goes over a lot of different tips. It’s five steps, so it’s really easy to go through and follow as a process, if you are doing your own resume or CV or covering letter. And it talks about all the kinds of things that you need to do. And it kind of zooms in, and I really liked that. That’s an approach to tech that I really like, that you look at the big picture, which is step one – considered the big picture here – but then you zoom in and you have a closer look and a closer look, so you have to look at your document. Then you have a look at the structure and your paragraphs, and then your lines, and then your words. I found that a very helpful approach when it comes to tech analysis, and self editing.
So if you’ve written up your CV, this is a really good article. It covers things like, “Does this sell you as the perfect candidate for the types of roles you’re seeking? Are there any gaps in the experience? So really resume/CV specific stuff.
But then it moves on to things like, “Can anything be quantified? Could anything benefit from examples?” And it’s things that people don’t think about. You tend to find that CVs and more usually covering letters are populated by things like, “I’m a passionate communicator.” Or “I work well in a team or independently.”
PW: And this is particularly interesting to me at the moment, because as Lorrie mentioned, I proofread an awful lot of CVs. But what’s particularly interesting to me at the moment is that I’m currently recruiting somebody. I’m in the process of hiring a member of staff, so I’m seeing them from that point of view, as well, where people are sending me their CV because they want the job. And the difference in quality and the difference in approach are just astounding. I had one exceptional application form that I couldn’t have written it better myself. Then I had someone who rather than bother with the application form sent me their civil engineering CV.
LH: Of course, because you’re advertising for a civil engineer, I’m sure.
PW: Quite. And there is everything in between those kind of extremes. And so I have hired, I have recruited before, but never for myself, always for whoever I was working for. And it’s really quite an interesting thing. And I think it will inform my future CV editing actually, as well as being an interesting process for this corrupt recruitment. But yeah, so many people need this kind of advice.
LH: They really do. As Pip says, the quality varies enormously. It’s absolutely enormous. And step four in this article is actually proofreading. So it really zooms in all the way from looking at context, looking at your facts, all the way to proofreading those words, making sure that you–. This is something that people really don’t do much anymore – making sure that your punctuation is consistent. If you’ve got bullet points, making sure that you don’t put full stops at the end of some of the points, and not at the ends of others.
PW: I had to do them on and on. It’s consistency… The CVs – so much of it is consistency. If you’re going to capitalize your job title in one job, do it for them all. If you’re going to bold it, bold them all.
LH: Yes. Absolutely. I had somebody a little while ago, and for some reason they capitalized half of their job title and then left the final word in the job title in lower case. And it was just really strange.
Step five in this post is to make sure it looks nice, so ti takes you all the way back to zooming out and having a look. Does the page look officially appealing? Is the page overly cluttered? Is the font too small? Is it difficult to read? Again, I had somebody send me a CV in Cursive – you know, like a scrolly font.
PW: Right, yeah, yeah.
LH: I don’t know, as though it was hand-written calligraphy? Obviously, needless to say, it did not get read. It went straight in the trash. But this is something that is crucial to you, if you want to apply for a job. And this is absolutely crucial, as well. A lot of this information is transferrable. When you’re sending pitch emails often, if you’ve been invited to pitch for something, or if you’ve been invited to apply for something, including a project. People might ask you for your CV or from a covering letter. I do very regularly, I recruit and I ask people to send me a covering letter telling me why they think they’d be a suitable person for you to outsource you. And the number of times I’ve had a covering letter that is just atrocious, it’s ridiculous. And these are from freelance writers. It’s outrageous.
PW: The first time I was asked for a writing CV I had been in the business fulltime for 18 months by then. And I think I’ve only been asked one of the time in my entire career, whereas the kind of outsourcing you do, you’ll see them a lot more often. The fact that I had to create then a writing CV was because sending my general job CV would have been entirely wrong. This person specifically wanted a writing CV, and that’s a very different deal to a general resume, a general CV.
LH: Absolutely. It completely needs to be tailored because otherwise, if you’re not addressing the points that were made you’re saying something about your own comprehension of the text, even if it’s just a job advert.
PW: Yeah, exactly. So for hiring a PI my applicants, some of them, had clearly filled in a job application form for a PA position, and others had gone through the motions and said nothing relevant whatsoever.
LH: And it’s quite insulting because you’re taking the time to read those applications. You’ve taken the time to write a job description or a brief, whether it’s for a job or a project. And then I think to people, “Why are you sending me this? Why do you actually think I’m going to hire you above somebody who’s made the effort?” And I think in some cases it’s a lack of effort, but I think in some cases it’s just silly mistakes.
And there’s a lot of information in this post. It’s really very detailed, and has very transferable skills. You’ll know it’s a bugbear of mine, Pip, and listeners, if you’ve been regularly listeners. Even up to the last podcast episode I’ve been talking about how angry, so angry it makes me when I get pieces of writing, no matter what they are, where silly little mistakes rule the roost, where punctuation and grammar and sentence structure and capitalization are all inconsistent. That’s all stuff that you will notice.
PW: If you get a piece of work that’s like the top half is in one font and the bottom half is in a different font, and they’re only slightly different, but one’s dark grey and one’s black and…
LH: That’s very common, isn’t it?
PW: Yeah. Part of it is justified and part of it is left aligned. You’re just thinking, “Oh, come on!”
LH: Yeah. Because freelance writing – it can look really easy. You’ve got to be careful not to get on a big ram here, so you just have to stop me. But it can look really easy, but it’s the devil really is in the details.
PW: So much. You know, I proofread a CV recently where the woman had spelled her own name wrong,
LH: Oh, no.
PW: And it’s easy, actually, when you’re proofreading a CV to almost skip the titles and the headings and things. I have to really rely on myself to double check those, because it’s easy for your eye to skip by them.
LH: On my own CV my name is in the header section, so it greys out, and it’s even easier to miss.
PW: That’s it. And so this woman had one of those names that has various spellings, and so there were already three or four options. And I was looking at the CV and I thought – because I have a name that nobody can spell, I’m really aware of how people spell their names. My brain just clocks that information. And I was looking at her name on the CV and thinking, “That’s not what her email said.” So I opened her email again, and the sender name and the name at the bottom had spelt in one way, and so I doubled check the CV again, and…
LH: Ahh, how embarrassing.
PW: So I send her an email and I said, “Do you spell that with an E or without?” And she was just like, “Oh, my God! I can’t believe I spelled my own name wrong.” It was actually a typo, but it was a legitimate spelling of the name at the same time. So yeah, that’s a great recommendation. You never know what stage in your career you might need a resume or a CV, even if you’re self-employed.
LH: Absolutely. It’s a very good, easy-to-follow process that, in my opinion, covers most if not all of the basics.
LH: So that, I think, brings us firmly to the end of A Little Bird Told Me, episode 70.
PW: Wow! 7-0! We’re doing good!
LH: I know. It’s quite frightening. I think we should have a little party when we get to 100, although if our Facebook page – this is my rant – is anything to go by, nobody will come to my party.
PW: That’s true. People, we know you listen. We see the figures. We get emails from you. You say hi on Twitter and LinkedIn. Why do you not talk to us on Facebook? With the exception of a few people…
LH: Yeah, we get likes on Facebook.
PW: We get likes and then…
LH: The brave Annie Kontor is soldiering on.
PW: And my friend Claire comments, she’s a loyal listener. Hello, Claire!
LH: Hello, Claire!
PW: But the rest of you, why are you so shy?
LH: Yeah. What we’ve decided actually – I think should end on this. What Pip and I have decided – and, of course, what it means is what I’ve decided, and dragged Pip into – is that…
LH: Well, it’s true, come on. I’ll take the hit on that one. …is that Pip and I are not going to respond to any more private emails. What we’re going to do instead – of course, with your permission – is share your queries on the Facebook page and respond to them publicly so that other people can benefit. Because we get a lot of the same questions.
PW: Yeah. And we take out any identifying information or anything like that.
LH: Of course.
PW: But as Lorrie says, we often answer the same questions again and again, and that’s not only kind of – it takes up a lot of time sometimes, but also…
LH: Because we do both respond.
PW: We do. But also, if we’re getting asked a question, you’re probably not the only person who’s wondering it. So yeah, we thought if we posted responses on Facebook, or as Lorrie did last time – made her solo episode based on a question we’ve been asked – then it just benefits more people, really.
LH: It’s lovely. We do record this podcast for fun, and we do record it for the benefits that we get from doing all the research and having chats about topics that affect freelance writers. But we also do it to be useful, so if there’s any topic that you think you’d like to hear us cover, we’re all the happier to hear them.
LH: And so that’s about everything, I think.
PW: I think so. It brings us to the end of episode 70. Go to alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com, subscribe, come to Facebook and say hi.
LH: Do it.
PW: Do it. You know you want to.
LH: You do. Until a fortnight’s time when the lovely Pip will be back with her next solo episode, I have been Lorrie Hartshorn.
PW: … and I have been Philippa Willitts, and we will see you then.