Google’s latest social media blitz is an all-inclusive “suite of networking tools” called Google+. Sending out a limited number of invitations employed the basic strategy of supply and demand, which helped the site reach approximately 5 million members in less than a month. But now as the dust has settled, users keep asking themselves “how do I use Google+ and what’s the value?”
The service itself integrates Google Profiles and Google Buzz while providing new features like Circles, Hangouts, and Sparks. In terms of functionality, it can be confusing, so here’s a breakdown of the main features that differentiate it from other sites (namely Facebook).
Circles. According to Google, Circles are “The easiest way to share some things with college buddies, others with your parents, and almost nothing with your boss.” When you post links, pictures, and videos you also click the corresponding Circles who will have access to your post. In terms of control, Google+ has an edge over Facebook’s confusing privacy settings that appeared as an after-thought to compete with G+.
Hangouts. These live web chats immediately connect you with friends, family, and colleagues for a (digital) face-to-face interaction. In this respect, it can be a great tool to collaborate on projects. While Facebook is known as more of a personal social networking site that lets you stay in touch with friends, Google+ can be a great way to also share content and schedule meetings in your industry.
Sparks. We’ll resist the urge to break out into song, but Sparks is basically a feed of your favorite things. If you love fashion for example, click the Fashion category to read popular posts about Fashion Week, the latest trends and more. It’s the Google equivalent of Twitter’s hashtags and is especially helpful if your friends keep posting irrelevant articles to their feeds.
Should You Join?
Google+ is valuable for those who are looking for another outlet to communicate with friends, family and colleagues while retaining control over content. If you’re not quite sold, keep in mind that it’s a work in progress. According to Mashable: There’s a reason why Google “calls this a ‘project’ rather than a ‘product’ — they don’t want people to think of this as the final product, but as a constantly-evolving entity that permeates every corner of the Google empire.” Our best advice is to try it out and see if it works for you.