Contrary to popular belief, Google Plus is not the barren social wasteland some have made it out to be. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Since launching in 2011, Google Plus has grown to 300 million monthly active users over the past 3 years to become a formidable force among the mix of other social networks. Statistically, 31% of the Google Plus population are between 25-34 years old, while 62% of overall users are men compared to 38% being women. “Plussers” are uploading 1.5 billion images (and gif’s) each week and is on its way to outpacing Twitter. So why is G+ such a big deal and what sets it apart?
It starts with functionality. Google set out to make G+ simple to navigate, with a number of their services easily accessible right from the G+ homepage. Users can drop and drag features to rearrange frequently used apps (Gmail, YouTube, News, Google Play, Maps, Search, Docs, etc) to get to quickly. Everything you need is integrated in one convenient and handy place.
Unlike Facebook, Plussers can choose the layout of their newsfeed, toggling between a one column or three column news stream. This is just the beginning, however. Here are three of my favorite features about Google Plus:
Circles are a creative way to organize people or organizations that you follow on Google Plus. Users can create an unlimited number of circles, name their circle any title they choose and also have an unlimited number of people in a circle. Not only can users share a post publicly, they can also share something privately to only a particular circle and even click an option to have a post emailed to those in that circle as well. I recommend setting up circles based on your interests; and it’s ok to have the same people categorized in different circles. Add friends, family and maybe even past or present co-workers to create specific circles. Don’t forget that following companies, groups, news organizations or joining communities will help build up your newsfeed.
When Google Plus launched their communities feature back in December 2012, they redesigned what traditional groups or forums looked like and took it to a different level. I suggest researching and joining various G+ communities based on your interests. Whether you’re into technology, cooking, changing careers or home decor there are communities out there for those and just about every other topic. Users can share and contribute content related to the subject of the community and engage with other members by commenting, “plussing” (+1) or sharing posts with others. When you join a community, you’ll also receive that content in your newsfeed, even if you don’t have those particular community members in your circles. Joining communities is a great way to network and meet new people who share your interests as well as grow your knowledge base.
Hangouts On Air (HOA’s)
Hangouts are Google’s version of a group video call. The maximum capacity is 10 people on a call and up to 100 people on a group text chat. Check out the system requirements and set yourself up via desktop, laptop or mobile on Android or iOS devices. Among the many features in a live HOA, users can chat privately or to a
group, open Google Docs, share their desktop (as well as photos and videos), access the Hangout Toolbox, or even utilize the “Google effects” special features – which are pretty cool. Hangouts keep you connected to your friends and family, no matter where you are or what device you’re using. +Martin Shervington offers an ultimate guide to Google Hangouts and he’s a great resource to have in your circles.
All of the services through Google Plus are free and simple to navigate. Still not convinced to hop aboard the “Plus Bus”? These resources, user guides and tutorials can help you discover even more great G+ features. So take it for a spin and kick the tires – it’s worth the time to try out!
David Nicola has over 15 years of experience in various Human Service industries and has been actively using social media as a tool to power workforce development since 2010. He enjoys partnering with businesses and organizations to help them get the most out of their social presence. He loves golfing, running (sometimes), hanging out with his family and is a huge San Francisco Giants fan! You can follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn and Google Plus.