What’s the “Plus” about on Google?
Bea Halstead, Social Media Manager
During September 2011, Google released another variation of social media, and although it's not the search engine giant's first attempt at joining the race, it will forever change the way we get information from the web. This is an overview of what features are included in a Google+ account making it the strongest competitor for Facebook, Twitter, and Skype in the social media and marketing community. The growth rate in the last month has increased by over 50% and over 40 million users are already engaged. So if you haven't used it, try creating a personal account and becoming more familiar with the fully loaded features below.
Once logged into a Google+ Account, users and pages will have a Stream (newsfeed), Search +You (a search engine recommending people, pages, and posts), Hangouts (a video chat service), Circles (a friend management tool), Games, and Photos (with photo editing tools). If you're already using Google products like Documents, Reader, Calendar, and Cloud, then you'll only need to select the +You button from the main tool bar under your existing login to get started with your Google+ account.
Google+ Pages can be created for any type of interest, and they can be created by anyone. The business page allows companies to include custom branded images in the header. It also contains a media feed (posts) for text, locations, links, images, and videos. You can even filter a business page's feed by posts, photos and videos by using the tabs just above the feed. Google+ Pages can be managed by multiple administrators as long as they have a Google Account, so content generation can be a collaborative effort. Individuals can +1 your page, share your page with other users, and they can add your page to their circles, which will update their newsfeed when your add content.
Sharing offers more exposure and control with the use of Circles. Selective sharing can now occur by adding people into different circles you create, therefore providing segmenting options for the audience so you can share more relevant posts. In addition, you can also “mute” posts that might be clogging up your stream. You can also filter posts by specific circles to concentrate on one area of content being shared.
+1 Buttons are used to highlight things around the web you like, agree with, or want to recommend to others. You may have already noticed when searching in Google that results are appearing with a +1 button next to their listing. By selecting the button, you are indicating that you like the content without ever leaving the search page.
Search, Plus Your World was released last week and combines the use of keyword search along with your Circles of friends, posts, and images to provide more personalized results. Content that appears based on personalization will include an icon next to the search result. You can turn off the personalized search by clicking on the icon at anytime. This new search feature will populate the left column search results with a label for Google+ People and Pages and can be seen without being logged into your account.
Photos, Videos, and Locations are shared directly in your stream, but can also be filtered out by selecting the different tabs located above the stream. Photos have editing capabilities, slideshows, and can include comments. Videos can be shared and discussed with friends via a Hangout session. Locations are detected automatically with GPS and include a link to a Google Map. Eventually may see features such as the integration of Google Places and a new feature called Check-In Deals.
Hangouts is a savvy new tool that allows group video chats by inviting people or circles with a maximum of ten people. It includes a microphone recognition feature so each speaker will become the main focus of the center video when they are actively presenting and smaller video thumbnails are seen below of the non-speaking participants. A group can view videos, chat via text or speaking, share screens, and even review Google Documents. To access this feature, a free plug-in will need to be downloaded to your computer or a mobile version of this feature is also available on the app for the Android Phones.
Privacy and Preferences have always been a concern to anyone sharing personal information, so Google has included the ability to exclude any section of information from being accessible to anyone. Before getting started, access your privacy options by selecting your account settings and choose a level of access for your content shared with the public, circles, and individual friends.
Google+ is here to stay with the new implementation of features that keep coming on strong, and with the emersion of search and analytics into the platform, Google+ will contain features of all other social channels, but will also include the power of search and tracking they are lacking. To see more examples of Google+, you can search for top profiles, pages, and posts by using socialsatistics.com.