What is Google+?
Brace yourselves. There’s a new social network in the Web world. Yes, another one. But before you moan and groan, you may want to consider jumping on the Google+ (said “Google Plus”) bandwagon; it’s growing rapidly and appears to be worthy of the attention it’s getting.
In less than a month, Google+ has already reached 20 million unique visitors. Interestingly enough, Austin is the highest ranking city in the U.S. for Google+ penetration (percentage of users compared to city population).
Google has attempted and failed at social projects before, the most recent of which was Google Wave. However this time around, the company’s modest launch approach and Google+’s user-friendly features and clean look may allow it to rival Facebook, which is precisely Google’s goal.
Google also created Google+ in the hopes that it would help people connect just like they do in real life. Thus the critical component to the social network’s use is its friend management tool, Circles. You can mimic the imaginary “circles” you place people you know into mentally with Google+’s virtual circles. By placing your contacts into to a circle, you create groups of people to share information with. For instance, the friends you place in your “Best Buds” circle may love that picture of your secret new tattoo, but your grandmother probably won’t. The solution? Choose to share that photo with “Best Buds” and not your “Family” circle. I really think the key to a successful Google+ experience lies in the organization of your circles and therefore those you share information with.
Speaking of sharing, one way to find content to share is with the Google+ Sparks content recommendation engine. This is one of the features that makes Google+ different from any other social network currently available. From fashion to movies to your favorite hobby, you can search for any topic. You can then share the content directly with your circles with a few simple clicks.
Anything you choose to share will appear in your stream, which is comparable to the newsfeed on Facebook. Posts with a recent comment by one of your friends jump back up to the top of your stream. If someone’s post isn’t to your liking, you can “mute” the post, which deletes it from your stream. Also, from your stream you can comment on or “+1” any posts that you like or agree with. This is similar to clicking the “Like” button on Facebook.
Another feature that differentiates Google+ from Facebook is its video chat service called Hangouts. According to Mashable.com, Google SVP of Social Vic Gundotra “thinks one-on-one video chats are much like knocking on a neighbor’s door, while a Google+ Hangout is like friends sitting on a porch.” Up to 10 people can join a hangout chat at one time. Once in a hangout, video switches from person to person based on who’s talking into the microphone. Smart!
Google+ also boasts a built-in photo product, a group messaging tool called Huddle, a profile page for each user, and easy-to-use privacy settings (found by clicking the gear-like icon in the upper right portion of the toolbar on your Google+ account).
So are you ready to give Google+ a whirl now? First, you need an invite from someone already on Google+. Mashable.com reports that restriction will eventually be lifted, but for now, it is best if you ask a friend to send you an invite. Also, a Gmail account is required in order to sign up.
It should also be mentioned that Google has been adamant about businesses not yet creating Google+ pages. Google+ Product Manager Christian Oestlien explained more in a Google+ YouTube video. “The business experience we are creating should far exceed the consumer profile in terms of its usefulness to businesses,” Oestlien said. “We just ask for your patience while we build it. In the meantime, we are discouraging businesses from using regular profiles to connect with Google+ users.”
So until then, or until you get an invite, click here for a complete guide to Google+. Happy networking!
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