Big news in the world of social media came down in the past two weeks. Internet tycoon Google has been testing its new network, Google+, with beta users. If this is all news to you, then don’t fret because you’re not alone. I’m here to walk you through this new site and provide you with an “ins and outs guide” so you can seem like a genius in front of your friends who ask you what Google+ is!
What the heck is Google+?
In a short answer, it’s a social network like Facebook or Twitter. However, it goes into other areas as well. It combines the features of Skype (video chat function), Tumblr (show what you’re interested in) and Foursquare (check in at places for your friends to view). It seems that Google analyzed popular elements of other social networking sites and has made them available on their new network.
This sounds familiar. Didn’t Google try this concept under a different name?
While they’ve had other social services (Orkut, Buzz, Wave, Knol, and Lively), this is a completely new concept for them. Even though you may have a Google profile, that doesn’t mean you have a Google+ profile. You need to explicitly join this new network; being a part of the Googleverse in an existing capacity will not automatically gain you access. On the plus side, though, if you already have a Google profile then you won’t need to recreate one from scratch again.
Since it’s a combination of Facebook and Twitter, do I friend people or follow them?
You can do both. You can friend people or just stalk different people (c’mon, we’re all friends here; we can admit we’ve sometimes creeped or stalked people). It’s up to you as the individual to decide how you share your content. You can share with just your circle of friends (Facebook influence), share with everyone (à la Twitter), or share with select groups of people only. You hold the power!
Circle? What’s a “circle of friends” on Google+?
This is a custom group of friends that you either know or have an interest in interacting with. You can put them into one or more Circles: family, friends, coworkers, exes…whatever you’d like. When you share something on Google+, you can choose to share it with everyone (like a big promotion at work) or to share it exclusively with select Circles (like pictures from your drunken shenanigans last Friday night). However, according to some beta users as of now, Circles aren’t working too well. Twitter has had lists available for years (and Facebook has them, too), but there hasn’t been a huge draw for people to manage their networks this way.
Do you ‘like’ things similar to Facebook?
When you +1 something you essentially ‘like’ them and it appears in your Stream, which is a lot like Facebook’s News Feed. On the downside, as of now there is no easy way to view what your friends have +1’ed and you cannot search content in your stream.
Where do marketers fit in?
When you Google something now you may see a +1 icon to right of the title page. However, not every brand out there has this button and after Plus becomes more widely known, the motivation to add that button will be increased. In the future, influencer marketing and community management will be addressed, but for the time being Google+ is about people and not so much brands.
Where do I sign up?
Since it’s still in the testing phase, invites are currently the only way to sign up. However, Google+ periodically shuts down invites due to surges in demand, so keep checking back if you receive an invite but can’t use it yet. If you desperately want an invite, you may want to ask around on Twitter or Facebook to see if anyone has the hook up – or you can just head over to eBay to bid on one. (Side note: If you thought people bidding on ghosts in boxes was silly, then you may want to just wait for an announcement from the search engine giants themselves).
Google is motivated to make this network a major competitor to Facebook and Twitter to gain a share of the social networking market. Whether or not it will be successful is still too early to call. So, go ahead and cheer if you’re thrilled at the prospect of updating another social website or take comfort in knowing that everyone is waiting with bated breath to see what will happen.
Please share if you’re excited or indifferent to this new potential rival to Facebook and Twitter. Are there any specific features you’re looking forward to?