With the recent roll out of Google+ three weeks ago, there has been much talk about Google’s attempt to stomp all over Facebook and other social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. So far the Google+ platform is available by invitation only, as they are still tweaking the system and working out the bugs. I was able to set up a Google+ account two weeks ago and so far I really like what I’m seeing.
Keep in mind that at this early stage, Google+ works only with Google accounts that have an active Google profile. If you haven’t created your Google profile, you will not be able to sign up for Google+. Judging from the feedback I’m seeing from other users, there are people who love what Google is doing, and then there are those who doubt Google’s ability to create a social media platform that will actually work well and catch on with the Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter crowds. After all, say the doubters, this is Google’s third attempt in the social media realm.
This time, however, I think they are on to something, and have created a powerful social media tool with a great deal of potential. G+ integrates what I like most about the other platforms and adds a bit more.
Here are my personal Top Five Favorite Google Plus Features:
#5 – Hangouts – Hangouts is a great way to communicate face to face with anyone via video chat. It is very easy to set up and, in my experience, works better than Facebook’s Video Chat feature. The interface looks good and is incredibly easy to use. You only need to download a simple plug-in the first time you initiate use, and you are ready to chat!
#4 – Sparks – Sparks is a feature that enables you to find, create, and ultimately share topics of interest and use them like a news feed source for information. Topics can be broad like the pre-set categories “movies”, “gardening” or “comics”. You can also create targeted topics like “1950’s Horror Films”, “Growing Tomato Plants”, or “X-Men” by using the Find stuff you’re interested in… search bar.
#3 - Photos / Instant Uploads from Android – For someone like me who is always forgetting to dump the pictures out of my phone, this feature makes photo uploading unthinkably easy! All you need is the Google+ for Android app and your photos automatically upload themselves to your G+ account immediately after they’ve been taken. The app is much easier to use than Facebook's upload interface and the photos are quickly uploaded into a private album, by default. You can set to share them with one or more circles when you upload or you can keep them private and share later. So simple.
#2 - Mute Posts – The Mute post option came so close to being number one on my list. It is a simple thing, but oh, so necessary. If you have a topic on your Stream feed that no longer interests you, or a conversation that you don’t care to follow, you have the ability to get rid of it via the mute, report, or block options. Link To is also an option in the menu if the conversation is something you want to pass along to others. Mute post is the kind way of saying "shut up" or "not now" to someone on Google+!
#1 - Circles (and Streams limited sharing capabilities) – Circles is definitely my favorite feature of all! Circles allow you to add people to different groups and categorize them. For instance, I currently have a few different Circles categories: friends, work, family, & following. Each of these are groups of people I interact with differently. For instance, I probably wouldn’t share pictures of my weekend exploits with my family or work circles, but would with my friends circle. I can use the family circle to keep up to date on the upcoming family reunion, and I can chat with co-workers about the latest and greatest SEO happenings in my work circle. The best part is no one has to read conversations from me that do not pertain to them. Each circle sees only what they need to see. No superfluous junk! If you do happen to have a big announcement you want to share with everyone, you can easily do that as well. You do not have to be in your Circles to segregate your posts, you only need to designate who gets to see what right from your posting bar in Stream (via Share what’s new…).
In a not so tiny nutshell, those are my top five favorite features that Google+ has to offer right now. Keep in mind that what we are seeing in these early stages is Google+ for the individual. With the scheduled roll out of Google+ For Business later this year, Google has the means to integrate much of what they already excel at (search, Google Checkout, advertising, analytics, mapping, and communication) and bundle everything together in one tidy and potentially powerful package for business entities. More on that when Google releases it!