Open for Debate: Google Plus and Social Media – One Man’s Stand

Is social media worth it? I tackle what it means to me and what it can do for you.

Sorry for the long post, but there’s some background that I had to work into it.

Although I haven’t posted any new content while I finish illustrating a children’s book I’m working on, (in case you hadn’t heard) I’ve moved all of my comics to Google Plus.

That’s over 900 comics including all of the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve listed the top 10 reasons and given an explanation for the move – you can see them here and here and here.

At this point, I’m really excited to post new comics, but I’ve prioritized the children’s book and the holidays with my family – so my G+ experiment will have to wait a little bit.

Recently, fellow comicker Dave Barrack asked me what the big deal with G+ was anyway. He wasn’t buying. Dave admitted he was a “social site curmudgeon” and uses them solely for promoting his comic.*

I can see where Dave is coming from. If you’re developing a comic, have a full-time job and/or other responsibilities, sitting down and making social media a part of your life is not easy. I’m in that boat with Facebook and Twitter. They are perfectly good social platforms and I understand why people use them, but to me they are “work”**.

Overall which platform you use depends on what you’re using social media for and what you want out of it. If you just want to promote your comic and don’t intend to add much more, then it doesn’t matter which platform you use because to your audience you’re not adding value – you’re just link spamming and people will act accordingly – they’ll ignore you.

My goal with G+ is to interact, share and get feedback. The latter is like emotional crack to me – I’m needy, what can I say.

Therefore, I try my best to get into G+ and add value so when people see me post something, they might be more inclined to slow down while they’re skimming their stream. I’ve circled tons of people I don’t know with the hopes of interacting with people outside the comics crowd which I haven’t been able to do with either facebook or twitter. No offense to the comics community, but I don’t think you’re my audience – at least you haven’t been for the most part.

What happened for me was that I realized that it’s a LOT of work to develop my own site AND maintain the site, keep up with updates AND try and attract people to my site (which I’ll have to do again and again every day with the hopes of making it a part of their daily routine) AND go back and comment on comments to show my appreciation AND PUSH to social media AND provide valuable content outside of just my comic. That’s a lot of work based on something I’m not getting paid to do. That’s a lot of work outside of the thing I love to do – my comic. That’s a lot of work outside of my day job and outside of my family time and outside of other obligations (hopefully it’s obvious that I haven’t listed those in order of importance).

I had to stop the madness. I had to stop getting so crazy about it.

It dawned on me that I had the solution right in front of my eyes. I was making new friends and discovering incredible art through the more visually appealing benefits of G+, sharing and posting my own content meanwhile building my personal brand as an artist and marketing expert – during the whole process I was getting feedback. Immediate feedback. And I liked it – a lot. It fed my eagerness to share, discover and become part of the culture – something that facebook and twitter didn’t do – and that’s EXACTLY what I wanted from social media. Immediate and visual interaction without the extra work. At its best it’s an intuitive and seamless exploration of the Internet. At its worst it’s animated gifs and people sharing the same links over and over (but that’s not exclusive to G+)

I like the ability to view artwork in the G+ format rather than going to a new page like on my site. I like that it’s easier to share, comment and just give a nod of appreciation. It’s not perfect and I’m sure when Google adds functionality of their other applications it will only get better. It’s taken Google a few tries, but I think they finally got it right.

For the time being, I’m trading ad revenue and selling my wares for image hosting and site management.

Which brings up an interesting dilemma – specifically monetizing my comic through ad revenue or book sales. While I have ideas, I’ll be honest – I haven’t exactly figured it out yet. What I have figured out is that I’m relieved that I can work on monetizing my comic instead of a dozen other things that take me away from what’s currently important.

*If you’re über curious, you can see my original conversation with Dave Barrack here (it’s on a post about me having an allergic reaction – to detergent, not social media).

** A quick explanation on why I consider Facebook and Twitter “work”. Facebook is littered with information and a poor user interface in my opinion (and some others and others and others). It’s information overload and I prefer to use it for family and friends – so I have a limited audience there (most likely people that are not interested in my or many other comics). My problem with twitter is different. It’s a text based interface that reminds me of looking at HTML. There’s a reason I like WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors like Dreamweaver over straight coding. What I mean is that if you post a link, someone has to GO see what it’s about – and I may not be interested at all. Another step in the process. There are apps and plugins that will allow you to preview a link and other add-ons for twitter, but it takes away from the simplicity I’m looking for.

Now it’s your turn! What do you say? Is this just lazy? Is it a short term gain sacrificing long term benefits? Is the sky blue?

Ken Drab at the dentist's officeKen Drab (me) of RicktheStick.com has a small brain but a savant-like interest in branding, marketing and design. He better, that’s what he gets paid to do in real life. In make believe – he’s a self-proclaimed comic artist.

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9 Comments

  1. I think it is genius …but I am too chicken to go all in like you.

    Now the bigger question is create a comic specific business page or build you the brand. I prefer the second as I can cultivate and audience whereas the former you have to get them to find you which is no different than having my personal site IMO.

    • Personally, I’m going to do both for a while as it will take time for a lot of people to join in on the bandwagon like Ken. But, at least we can say we were here first.

      There’s value in your website at present, but in the future, it may not be. And for the novice, this may be a great way to get their feet wet without having to buy hosting and fiddle with WordPress/ComicPress design issues (like I have for 4+ years now… argh…)

  2. First, I applaud your trying something new. I think we’re all very quick to look for “the right way” to do things (I know I am), when in truth, there is no right or wrong way. So, if this is a solution that you’re interested in exploring, have at it! And we’ll all benefit from hearing about your experience.

    Now, the downside…

    – Other than the fine folks at the Webcomic Workshop Podcasts, virtually NO ONE I know is talking about Google Plus.

    – I just went to RickTheStick.com and was directed to the new homepage. And I was immediately lost. No big comic on the front page. No clear navigation buttons. No sense that this was, in fact, a webcomic. This may be okay for you. You may rather build your readers organically, and work your way into their streams and conversations (or however G+ works.)

    – Monetization. Yeah, the affiliate links ideas is a good idea. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from using affiliate links in conjunction with a traditional webcomic site…along with links to your store, ad support, etc.

    So, in short, I applaud the experiment, and will be interested to see if you’re still there a year from now. Keep up informed!

    • I think people are still in a ‘feeling out’ phase with G+. Now that the public has access and is trying things out, as well as the slow release of the API for developers to create their 3rd party tools, we’re going to see more and more content creep towards G+.

      YouTube is integrated into it, and Blogger is starting to make its way over there. I’m currently waiting for Analytics and Adsense to be fully integrated with G+ pages before I consider fully transferring over.

      For now – I use it as an additional vehicle to view my graphic novel – the reading aspect is nice, but right now, the page layout is far too similar to a user’s personal page for it to be suitable as a true landing page.

      I do agree with Ken’s sentiments about content management and reader interaction – much easier to handle in one spot. But until all of the bells and whistles have been integrated, the G+ page still feels incomplete with no store option or ad space.

  3. I have to admit that I’m curious to see whether this experiment works. I can see the benefits and downsides of using something like Google Plus in this way, but since it is still new territory it’s not entirely possible to say for sure which one outweighs the other.

    I can immediately see how it could benefit comic strips, but I’m curious as to whether it would work at all for long form comics other than as perhaps a “sample” to encourage people to visit the site?

  4. I’ll be very interested to see what your opinion is of it a year from now, after you’ve run through some conventions and tried to sell books off the G+ page. I suspect that while promoting the comic, anyone who sees that you’re on G+ instead of your own site will change the conversation from the pitch about the comic to the decision to host on G+, so I think having an “elevator pitch” for that would help as well. The interesting thing here isn’t putting your comic on G+, it’s doing to the exclusion of a dedicated comic page.

    Personally I like having a web page to tinker with. It’s a fair point that it does take some time and effort to maintain, but I like doing things like the randomized portraits in my header and my “Who’s who” panel that quickly brings new readers up to speed and reminds the old ones about characters that haven’t reared their heads up in a while. (Something that I think every comic needs as I have terrible memory) You can check it out at grrlpowercomic.com to see what I’m on about.

    Here are my concerns with hosting on G+. One, I don’t see that there’s a way to “permalink” something. That is, if you’re selling your book, how do you draw attention to that fact except by including a link in each new comic post? You don’t need a lot of the usual webcomic header links, the social media and contact me and archive stuff, that’s all built in to G+, but the only way I see to link a store would be to hide it in the about page, which is not ideal, you kind of want that front and center. Well, maybe just to the right of the comic. And unless you’re selling through cafepress or some other company’s store, you’ll still need a website to drop back to to host your store.

    Two, as far as I’m aware you lose analytics. You’ve got some idea of your reach because of the number of people that have you in circles, but how does having 1K people in your circles and 5K people who have you in their circles translate to “readers” – a nebulous term even when dealing with values like unique visits and % return traffic. Do they all see your posts? Probably not, it depends on how much traffic is in their stream and if they have you sequestered into a “comics” circle that they might check diligently, might not. What percentage track back to your site to read the comic, and how do you know how many books to print, etc? I suspect that sort of functionality is coming since Facebook has some level of page analytics. It’s fair to look at today’s Facebook to imagine tomorrow’s G+ – there’s no ads on G+ yet but there are on Facebook, you know that’s coming. Will G+ offer a revenue sharing option for advertising on popular pages like how youtube has their partner program?

    I’ll keep an eye on your experience with G+ once you start posting strips again and as I said I’ll be interested in your opinion in a year.

  5. Words Of A Noob
    For what it’s worth Ken. Your idea inspired me to give it a shot.
    I’m currently working on a long form comic, but wanted something with more urgency. So yesterday I started posting…and the whole thing has me kinda excited.
    I don’t have any real insight due to my inexperience in the craft.
    But I did want to at least acknowledge that it was your idea that got this guy going.
    Thanx.

  6. Unless Google pulls CMS features for G+ pages out of their sleeve, this is a risky experiment . . .

    1) The comic is king

    Before your switch I could go to rickthestick.com, BAM, comic.

    Now I get redirected to your Google+ page and I honestly can’t find the latest comic, “Oh, wait, here’s a Volume X photo album. But is that an archive, or are the latest comics being added to that? Wait, maybe it’s the first featured pic . . . hmm, no . . . ”

    Frankly, it’s confusing. No user should have to take more time to FIND the latest comic than it does to READ the latest comic.

    2) SMO/RSS

    Sharing your content within G+ is super easy, sharing to other social platforms is not. Just because you don’t use [insert social entity here] doesn’t mean you don’t have readers who do. This greatly limits your potential audience.

    And there being no RSS feed is a deal-breaker. RSS is how I personally manage to keep up with most of my comics and news, and I know I’m not alone ( http://bit.ly/vPa7j6 ).

    3) SEO/Brand Recognition

    The page name and About section translate to the meta title and description in searches, and that’s handy. But keywords and other important SEO configuration options are not user-editable and pretty much point back to Google as the “owner”. ‘Rick the Stick’ is already associated with ‘plus.gooogle.com’ in searches now, which just plain devalues ‘rickthestick.com’ if you ever want to leverage that in the future.

    Plus, Google ranking likes so-called “friendly” urls, as do real-live people: e.g, ‘rickthestick.com/really-funny-comic-with-puppies’. Despite that, G+ urls are anything but friendly: https://plus.google.com/105411193298138497041/posts

    4) Scheduled updates

    Not an option? Moving on . . .

    5) MyFaceTwit+

    If a social platform goes under, you have to manually move your content, effectively starting over as far as search engines are concerned.

    If you’re careful, the same wouldn’t be true when just moving webhosts (I only moved the old version of my comic to a *subdomain* without paying attention, and I have a mess of dead links all over the web; changing the parent url entirely would just be scary).

    6) Everything is the same

    I still run into comments that ComicPress sites “all look the same”, but that just comes down to each user’s ability to tweak it (and understanding that CP is merely a FOUNDATION, not a final construction). It’s not that hard to make your ComicPress site mostly NOT look like one (granted, my day job is web design, and I’ll admit to temporarily having an unfair advantage with CP: http://bit.ly/snIfXA ).

    But with Google+ you have no choice AT ALL, regardless of your abilities. Yeah, each page can have their own logo and featured images. But the layout and colors are exactly the same for everyone. This makes it impossible to create your own unique corner of the web to draw people to.

    7) The little stuff that adds up

    No custom favicon, iOS icon, social sharing icon, etc. No control over the auto-resizing of gallery images. No ability to add a prominent “Store” button . . . or ANY button for that matter. None of the traffic is truly yours; which, in the big picture, is kind of a huge problem. And the list goes on . . .

    Bottom-line, while you’ve made things convenient for yourself, you’ve made it more difficult for end-users and are presently at risk of doing severe damage to your web value.

  7. Hey Ken,

    I’m impressed that you jumped in feet-first with this. I’ve been running with the blogger crowd a lot and they love G+ tons.

    While I think it’s great for pushing your blogging stuff, I haven’t found it so useful for my comics. I uploaded a few, but the setup isn’t really conducive to getting those new readers in there and up to speed quickly.

    I agree that constantly tweaking and maintaining a website is a significant amount of work that could be spent on comics, but I think that work is worth it to build up and promote your own brand. right now you can only promote Google’s network.

    To me, these social media networks should be supplements to what we do, but we shouldn’t rely solely on them for distribution of our work. I’ve learned from other people’s hard lessons that Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the like can yank your account at any time and just choose not to respond to you when you try to find out why.

    The solution to this is to use social media to interact with fans, friends and followers to get people back to your site and make your site the central hub. Get people on your mailing list, then if anything goes wrong, you still have the 50, 100, 300 people on your list to reach out to and let them know “hey, my new G+ account is *here*”.

    Anyway, that’s my blather for tonight. Aside from that, this is the first time I’ve seen your work, and it’s pretty cool, so I will be adding you on G+, lol.

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