Google+ is Google’s newest attempt to dominate social networking — let’s just forget about their last attempt, Buzz, which was a dismal failure. Google tried to combine features users found desirable in Facebook and Twitter (and other social networks) into a single, more open social platform. If you’re not one of the few already using Google+ in Beta testing, here’s what you find and how you can use Google+ to supplement your social media marketing strategy : (and if you are IN, here’s a great setup guide from Social Media Examiner).
Good Things About Google+
Open – you can link with anyone you want — they don’t have to accept you as a friend so you can talk to anyone and share content with people on Google+ or others (by email).
Circles – you have circles as a default — friends, family, acquaintances, following — but you can create as many circles as you want and call them anything you want. Rather than overloading folks with information they’re don’t want, you can target messages, links, and updates to different users. So, I don’t have to bore my family with links to my social media blogs and my students don’t get updated family photos (unless I choose). Sure, Facebook has lists, but I’ve never figured out how to send to the entire list without selecting members individually — and if you know how, please let me know.
Creating circles is easy — you just drop people in.
Hangouts – are places you create, ad hoc, to chat, show movies, conduct training — whatever you want. Today, Robert Scoble posted information regarding a hangout for the liftoff of the shuttle. Brandon screened a movie on a hangout yesterday – he reported audio was ok, but digital quality lacking. Now, if you’re a film studio you might worry about copyrights, but I’m not sure this is the most effective use of hangouts. I see it as a valuable way to transmit webinars or other training, do interviews, and other ways to get visual information out. I’ll probably use it in the fall with my social media marketing students as a way to have guest speakers, like Mike Stelzner of Social Media Examiner, appear present virtually to the class and allow them to ask questions.
Sparks – are topics areas that interest you. I thought they might be a good replacement for my Google Alerts and Google reader RSS feeds, but they don’t appear to contain the same links – and they’re not as valuable. Still, interesting if you want to follow some general trends in your area.
Integration – Google+ integrates automatically with Gmail and your Google profile – so a lot of the setup is done for you. You can chat with Gmail contacts within the platform – something Facebook just added this week.
Bad Things About Google+
Selectivity – while you can talk to anyone on Google+, they don’t have to listen. Radio buttons control who you see in your stream, so if you only want to “hear” from friends, you can. So, while you can send a message to Matt Cutts (of Google), he may not hear you. This had to happen, otherwise your stream would move too quickly to read — especially when Google opens it up and you’re linked to more users.
Limited options – while you can move connections into whichever circle you want – they only go in 1 circle at a time. Sometimes you’d like to put people in multiple circles. You can also only listen to the entire stream or the stream from 1 circle. You can’t choose to listen to family and friends at the same time.
No business pages – although those are in the works and should be available soon.
Transparency – this might be a good thing, but privacy isn’t a priority here. For the most part, information is public, although you can share updates with only some people. However, just like Facebook, you never know where info will end up after someone else shares it.
Not much out there – obviously, Google+ hasn’t hit critical mass yet — on purpose. It still has that “new car” smell and everyone, including Google, is still figuring out the systems. There aren’t enough people or apps to make it truly interesting, but it’s good to get in early and learn the ropes before everyone is there.
So, if you’re IN, let me know how it’s going for you. If you’re not in, you soon will be, if you want. Google is opening up more slots all the time.
Next post, I’ll talk about some more strategies for success on Google+. See you tomorrow.