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So a limited number of invitations to Google+ have been released and the blogging, social media and all encompassing tech world have been getting very excited about the possible emergence of a new “Facebook killer”. The number of users of Google+ has now reached the 18 million mark,which is impressive due to its limited release, and the new iPhone app will surely aid this uptake in capturing new users to this new “social sharing” platform.

 

Google+                                                                  

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So what is all the fuss about then? I’ve had my invite for awhile now and I have finally stepped into the world of Google+ so thought I would blog about my first experiences of the new social tool from Google. I have also been corresponding with other early adopters of Google+ and finding out what the general consensus is regarding this development, comments from them can be found at the bottom of the blog, along with a link to some handy add-ons for Google+.

 

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Why Google+?

Before delving into the features of Google+ I spent a bit of time trying to think why they were once again venturing into social networking. They have tried it before and have had varying degrees of success, the last being GoogleBuzz, yes that was a tumbleweed that just veered across your screen. Working at Approved Index, I have experience of the PPC monster that Google is, and being a Facebook user I have directly experienced the highly targeted ads that they have employed so successfully. So it boils down to one single factor, MONEY!!Google need to keep on innovating and a social networking site allows them to develop highly targeted ads to those users, therefore keeping their PPC revenue stream alive, not that it was beginning to falter.

Let’s Explore Google+ 

Right, we have looked at what this new fangled social networking tool is and why it might have been developed, but let’s take a look and see what features and benefits this new networking tool has.Firstly, below is a look of the homepage, this is the equivalent of your Facebook home feed & looks quite similar, don’t you agree?

google-plus-brand-starbucks

With the streams on the left you can select which stream comes through to your feed, so you can select just work colleagues and you will receive their posts,there is the possibility to add multiple streams if you wish. I personally like the look of the home feed, having none of the advertising that Facebook pins to the right hand side of the screen is refreshing , though how long that will last is debatable.

 

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Google+ Hangouts

This is something that I personally am really excited about; this feature allows you to chat with up to 10 people at any one time via a very similar system to Skype. They must be a little nervy now this feature has come to light, especially as they charge for conversations with multiple users. The hangout feature also alerts other users that your online and using the hangout feature, though thankfully it has the capability to block out any unwanted participants when using this feature.

 

Google Hangout

Google+ Circles

Now I haven’t got round to adding lots of people yet via Google+ but once I start this feature will come in really handy. Circles allow you to create circles of contacts that you can then categorise. You can keep your work colleagues in one circle, family in another and if you have any, enemies in another circle.

Google+ Circles

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Its an easy process to add your new acquaintances to whichever circle you deem most appropriate, you can literally drag and drop them into their relevant circle. Where this comes in handy, as mentioned by many other bloggers, is the ability to limit who gets certain bits of information. So for my work colleagues I can post specific articles related to digital marketing or other work related stories, thus not alienating my family and friends with alien stories about SEO, PPC or some other cryptic topic they have no interest in.

Google+ Sparks

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Google+ Sparks

This is another interesting feature on Google+ and one that I have started using more frequently. This feature allows you to choose topics that will then appear on the left hand side of your homepage. These topics then get updated automatically, thus allowing you to keep up to date with your preferred interests.

 

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Google+ Photos

Being inherently camera shy doesn’t give me a great position to comment on this particular feature, I have had a little exploration of this feature and I liked it. The usual features are there and there are some interesting features that in the future I may use. But if you’re more of a photographer, or someone who enjoys having their picture taking, unlike me who equates it to having my teeth taken out then let me know what you think of these features, and I’ll be happy to share.

Google+ Instant Upload

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Game Changer or Not?

Some of the key features have been mentioned above, but what will Google+ do for business? This is an interesting question and one that as of yet hasn’t been resolutely answered and that appears to be as nobody is really sure.Google+ at the moment is about the individual user experience, Google have announced that later in the year there will be business functionality and that’s when businesses will begin a stampede. But, I feel it’s important to get involved from the outset and understand the whole Google+ offering, then I’m in a better position when this becomes a business channel to operate on.

For me another area of interest is the SEO benefit that utilising Google+ could have for businesses. At the moment there hasn’t been too much research into this area, but I believe over time this will be an area that gets heavily experimented on, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled on the SEOmoz website as they will have some extensive posts regarding this area and the benefits it has on SEO.

Another big iceberg in the way of Google+ is that relatively well known social networking site called Facebook. With over 700 million active users, it’s going to take a lot to topple this behemoth of social, but can Google+ do it? Well in less than a month the site has had 10 million users register, and that’s an invitation based group of users, when this testing stage is out of the way who knows how it might go? I envision it being successful, but personally I don’t see Google+ toppling Facebook.  I see it as being an intermediary platform, somewhere between LinkedIn and Facebook, I already use it differently to Facebook thanks to the Circles functionality, and post comments to one circle that are completely removed from what I might post in another circle, I also enjoy the sparks functionality allowing me to easily get updates in areas of interest to me.

 

I’ve asked fellow employees at RBI what their thoughts are on Google+ and the responses I got were interesting.

Manas Datta had this to say “Not a Facebook killer…yet. That’sfor sure. Clean interface and Sparks make it easier as a proper content-sharing network.

Robert Watkins thoughts on Google+ were “Google+ lacks the simplicity of twitter and functionality of facebook. Only unique feature is the social circle, which is what facebook has always been criticised for.”

Adam Tinworth had a very good blog post, and he mentioned very succinctly the advantage Circles has over other social networking sites. Adam states “Circles is more significant than some people think, being less about privacy per se as about control and filtering. Being able to select only certain groups of people to see or share with at any time makes it a much more efficient social environment than Twitter or Facebook.” You can read the rest of this post on his blog here One Man and His Blog.

 

I certainly feel more positive about this new social networking tool from Google, and I am intrigued and excited to see how it’s received once it gets a full release, and the whispers of “I got an email today, what’s Google+when it’s at home?” have died down.

Add me on Google+ here and let’s see what happens with this new tool.

 

If you want to read further into this topic here are some of the best articles I have been reading regarding Google+

From SEOmoz there is a good review of the key features read it here The New Google Social Network – Google+

 

There is a good article regarding what Google+ means for your business, so I would recommend reading that.

If you want to have the ability to tweet and check Facebook, then follow this link and get the widgets installed on to your Google+ account follow the link to get Twitter and Facebook for Google+

 

If you have any other recommendations then please post them and I’ll check them out.

 

 

 


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