The Ins and Outs of Google+ (and How to Snag an Invite)

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?

Google + has similar elements to Facebook

Google + has similar elements to Facebook

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?

Twitter is a good place to check for a Google+ invite!

Twitter is a good place to check for a Google+ invite!

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?

Image credit to carlosluna.

Amy Hoidas

Amy is one of Quality Logo Products’ Community Manager. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd and thoroughly enjoys reading business and financial news and having impromptu discussions about it. Oh yeah, she’s “one of those” people! A true Midwestern girl by nature, she loves riding her bike, photography, and the Chicago Cubs. You can also connect with Amy on


  1. Mandy Kilinskis

    As a fairly new Google+ user, I have to admit, I’m not yet impressed. The place has potential, but there’s no way it will be taking down Facebook or Twitter any time soon.

    • JPorretto

      I’ll +1 that.

      • LK

        I’ll + 2 that.

    • amy

      I know yesterday we were discussing Google and how they seem to try something to fit into every market. Sometimes it’s successful (search engine, picture sharing, email service), and sometimes it’s not. I commend their effort to try something new, but just taking the most popular features from other social networking sites isn’t anything new or creative. It’s convenient for the user, but not much else.

  2. Peemo

    Another social network I’ll be chastised for avoiding.

    These blogs keep reminding me how old and crotchety I’ve become.

    • amy

      Aww, hang in there 🙂 Being old and crotchety has its advantages too

  3. JPorretto

    After my short time on Google+, I’d say the whole experience is just…. dry. You add someone to a circle and then…. what exactly? There’s just really not much to do that isn’t done (better) somewhere else.

    Though the instant updating of comments is pretty nifty. I’ll give it that.

    • amy

      There are somethings that are quite spiffy on it. I use Picasa to touch up photos so it’s really nice that I can go into my albums already and pick a picture instead of having to save it and then load it onto Facebook.

      On the down side, Facebook has conditioned me to be able to simply press “Enter” to post a status, link, picture, etc and with Google+ you have to manually press “Share”. A minor problem, but kinda inconvenient.

  4. Amanda

    Great post Amy! =) This is the best set of details I’ve heard about Google+ to date…thank you for filling us all in!

    I’d say that I’m a below average social networking user. I deleted my MySpace page a long while ago, quit using Twitter after about 2 days, and use Facebook fairly often–every other day or so- (it’s the only one I see a point in using) and that’s it, I haven’t joined any other sites. I enjoy Facebook, and hope it stays how it is for a long time, and if it does, I don’t think I’ll have a need to use more sites. Google+ doesn’t sound super impressive to me–but I think it has a pretty good chance of catching on. The +1 feature sounds neat, and with the huge love of the Like Button, I think people will start loving the +1 soon enough too, that is once they start letting people join “normally”–I don’t think people will be a big fan of this invite stuff.

      • amy

        I totally agree with this blog’s suggestion that Google is “creating an artificial shortage of invites for hype”. Facebook was hugely popular when it was strictly open to college students and that’s part of the reason it has maybe become so huge today. People love that exclusive feeling that inviting creates.

        I wonder how long the invite stage will last, just until testing is done or afterward too?

        • Amanda

          Yeah–that’s more of how i meant it when I said people won’t like the invite stuff…I meant for the long term. But who knows!? People are crazy, lol. =) If it weren’t for the invite thing, I might join and check it out…but needing an invite makes me care less about joining. Facebook satisfies my online social needs.

      • Amanda

        5 million is a great start–it will be interesting to see if this site sticks around–we all saw what happened with MySpace.

  5. LK

    I haven’t been too impressed since joining Google + either..
    It currently appears to be a downgrade from Facebook and I feel like all the “features” they are saying Google + can do, that Facebook can essentially do too.
    Unless Google + pulls something big out, and lets more people join (really.. I think I only have like 8 people in my “circles”) then I have no desire to start using Google + regularly.

    Good post though!! 🙂

    • amy

      I’m with you too! It’s so plain looking, but not simple like Facebook, just boring. I’m not sure if I’ll check it regularly like I do Twitter and Facebook, especially if it doesn’t catch on. I only have 6 or 7 people in my circles and I see them daily so I can pretty much be kept up to date by simply talking to them.

  6. Vern-Matic

    I recently noticed that while waiting for an invite into Google+ I now look down on myself the same way I used to look down on Apple consumers that wait in line for hours awaiting the new Apple “thing”.

    • amy

      Nothing wrong with being an early adopter. At least you don’t have to wait outside during a rainstorm or in negative thirty degree temps 😉

  7. Joseph Giorgi

    I haven’t explored Google+ for myself, but given everything that I’ve heard and read, I’m just going to wait this one out. We’ll find out relatively soon whether this new platform can live up to all the hype it’s generated over the past couple weeks.

    Seems that Google is banking on “Circles” being a major hit with casual users, but as Lauren pointed out, that feature doesn’t amount to much if no one is even there to use it. I’m curious to find out how adamant the public will be about jumping into a new social network when they’ve already spent several years becoming fluent with Facebook.

    I can see Google+ taking off, but not for a little while. It’s going to take some time. Of course, Google has nothing but time.. and power… and resources. They should be able to give their new platform the marketing push it needs.

    Excellent post, Amy! 🙂

    • amy

      Thanks Joe 🙂 You’re quite right about becoming fluent in Facebook, since it has been apart of our lives for at least five years (they removed their student email requirement in ’06) and we’ve sat through several changes during that time. It’ll be interesting to see if people are willing to put up with another social network when they do updates and changes.

      Very true about their available resources, both in tangible and intangible assets. If the public wants to see Google+ work, I’m sure they’ll do whatever it takes to make it successful.

  8. Karla Campos

    Hi Amy, I am shocked to hear that people are selling invites on Ebay! I have been inviting bloggers to join me because Google + is a great way to unite with people in your same niche. I like the hangout feature because you can video chat with up to 10 people at one time, which I think is great for businesses. If anyone wants a free invite please ask on my facebook page at : )

    • amy

      Hey Karla! Thanks for the comment 🙂

      When I came across people selling invites my jaw literally dropped to the floor! I knew you could sell anything on it, but that shocked me.

  9. Kyle

    I haven’t been staying up to date on the latest Google+ news at all so thanks for the introduction, Amy! I might try it out once it goes public, but for now I’m content with occasionally checking my Facebook. I’m not a huge fan of social network sites so having one account is plenty for me.

    I guess it really depends how it takes off. As is the case with all of these social networks, time will only tell.

    • amy

      Happy to help Kyle 🙂

      I think a lot of people are in the same boat with you, checking up and updating Facebook is enough for most people. It’ll be interesting to see what comes about from the testing phase.

  10. Amanda

    Turns out you can +1 things without using the actual Google+ site. As long as you have a Gmail account, you can +1 your little hearts out. Needless to say, I’m loving being able to +1 without the invite deal. Love it! =)

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