September 1st - 2011

WIRED OFFICE: Why all the fuss over Google+?

Google has recently launched a new social media platform called Google+ (plus).

Google has recently launched a new social media platform called Google+ (plus). At the time of writing this article, Google+ is in beta. To join Google+, you must receive an invitation from a connection who is already on it. By the time this goes to press, it is very possible that anyone with a gmail address will be able to join. This is not Google’s first attempt at creating a social network (e.g., Buzz and Wave), but it may be their most successful. Millions of people have already joined the Google+ project, although the majority of these people are “early adopters” of technology.

In an effort to merge all Google brands under one umbrella, Blogger, Google’s free blogging tool, will be rebranded as Google Blogs, and Picasa, Google’s free photo sharing, organizing and editing tool, will be rebranded as Google Photos. These tools are being integrated into Google+. Just log in to your Google+ account, and click on the desired tab located along the top black menu strip to access.

The Google+ interface is clean and intuitive to use. Like most social networks, Google+ encourages you to build a network of family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues. You can share photos, video and “what’s new” updates. Instead of using “Like” to share content, Google uses a “1+” button. Google has some additional features that, when ready for prime time, may result in some users abandoning other platforms for this one. At a minimum, many users will likely add Google to the collection of networks to which they belong.

One key feature of Google+ is Circles. Circles allow you to organize all of your connections into categories. For example, you can organize family connections into a “Family” circle, professional contacts into a “Colleagues” circle, and your BFFs into a “Friends” circle. Drag and drop your connections into the appropriate circle. You can add circles as needed, but don’t get too carried away -- it will just get more complicated to manage. You can then choose to share your updates with specific circles. There may be things you’d like to share with your friends that are not appropriate to share with the people you work with – this is easy to do. Just click on the Share button, and select the circle with whom you want to share that particular update. Circles provide more privacy controls than what is currently available on other social networks.

Stream is where all your updates are displayed. You can opt to view all updates, or only those from selected circles. You also have the option of adding your location to each of the posts that you share with your circles. The location feature is optional.

Google+ allows you to edit your posts after you post them. You also have the option of setting your posts to disable comments and/or disable reshare.

Hangouts provide a platform for users to video chat with one person, or with a group (up to 10 people). A webcam is required to take advantage of this feature. Just click on the Start a hangout button. When you’ve created a hangout, the notification pops up on your friends feeds so they can join in. Use this feature to hang out with friends or to conduct virtual meetings for business. Google+ allows users to add YouTube videos to their hangout, making it possible to watch video with your friends and discuss in real time.

Sparks searches for videos and articles it thinks you’ll like. You enter your interests, and a variety of related content including video, will be delivered to you. When it is convenient, you will always have something matching your interests to watch, read, and of course, share with friends. This feed is available in over 40 languages.

Huddle is a mobile feature that provides you with the opportunity to turn multiple conversations into one group chat. This can be useful when trying to align a group of friends to meet up in one place. Use Huddle to message once to your choice of circles rather than having to retype the same text message to multiple individuals.

Instant Upload is another mobile feature. If you frequently upload photos from your mobile device to your social network, you may appreciate this feature. Set your permission to allow Instant Upload, and your photos will upload themselves. Makes it real easy to access and share your photos.

Google has requested brands not to create Google+ profiles yet. The Google+ program for businesses is expected to launch later this year.

As a reminder, Google+ is in a pilot phase right now. While early acceptance has been good, it is too soon to say if this will be the next great social network. There are plans to add functionality and to improve/fix the features that currently exist. At this time, Google+ is lacking a search engine to locate content your friends are sharing -- ironic when you consider Google’s primary business. Perhaps this is on Google’s “to do” list. Located at the bottom right corner of the Google+ screen, there is a Send feedback button. Be sure to use this if you encounter any problems, as it will help to improve Google+. More information about Google+ can be found at http://www.google.com/+.

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