Less than a month after it launched in late June, Google+ had over 25 million registered users — a milestone that took Twitter 29 months, and Facebook 3 years to reach.
Have you tried it yet? Or are you waiting to see whether it’s a useful tool for multi-channel marketing? If you haven’t made up your mind yet, here are the absolute basics that marketers need to know.
What is Google+?
It’s not exactly a social network — it’s a sharing network where people create contact circles. Here’s how Shimrit Ben-Yair, Google’s product manager for the product describes it. “Google+ Circles solve the tough sharing problem that Facebook has failed to crack. On Facebook, I have 500 friends — my mom’s my friend, my boss in my friend,” she says. “So when I share on Facebook, I overshare. On Twitter, I undershare, because it’s public. Google+ hits that spot in the middle, where social interactions are shared based on types of contacts.”
What can you do on Google+?
- Connect with online contacts, and identify nearby contacts to connect with.
- Upload and share pictures and videos.
- Chat or video chat with friends and colleagues.
- Search by topics, or find contacts interested in the topics you’re interested in.
- Share thoughts, links, and information.
How is Google+ organized?
Like Facebook, Google+ is organized around your profile and your “Home/Stream”. Think of your Home/Stream as your Facebook Newsfeed, with the option of filtering by one of your Circles to cut down on the clutter. (A feature that Facebook added to its own Newsfeed in mid-September, causing much uproar among long-time users upset about the changed appearance of their home page.)
Also like Facebook, you can share photos, videos, “+1” (Likes), status updates or posts. There are a number of privacy options — you can edit profile visibility, search visibility, who can see other people in your circles, who can send you email, what users can be blocked, and other options. One note: regardless of your privacy settings, if you comment on someone else’s post, assume that your comment will be public.
There are four components to Google+ beyond the profile and stream:
- Circles — Organize your contacts by dragging your contacts into the appropriate circle. People can be in more than one circle — friends, family, following are the default group, but you can add your own. Customers, clients, suppliers, professional contacts, prospects, peers — you define the groups, then determine what content you share with your circles. You can even add contacts from your address book who aren’t on Google+ — they’ll get an email from your Gmail account when you post new content you want them to see.
- Sparks — Sparks is a topic-aggregator, which works much like Guy Kawasaki’s All-Top. You can choose one of the featured interests, or pick a topic of your own. PC World published this tutorial on Sparks early in the site’s life, and there are a number of videos on this feature available (you guessed it) on Sparks. Sparks is a great tool to find information to help in your professional development, as well as tracking area of interest from movies to fashion, sports cars to recipes.
- Hangouts — The simplest way to describe Hangouts is as a group video chat room, which holds up to 10 people. You invite people to join a hangout — either an entire circle or individually. The video switches from person to person based on who is talking, and the group can all watch an external video on YouTube.
- Google+ Mobile — iPhone and Android users access Google+ through their own mobile site, optimized for their phones. It works like the desktop version of Google+ but includes a group text feature similar to GroupMe or Beluga. The group text feature within Google+ Mobile is called Huddle. One thing to note about Google+ Mobile: if you take a photo with your camera phone, and you’ve installed Google+ Mobile and enabled instant photo sharing, the upload is AUTOMATIC. On one hand, this can be a good back-up — but you might want to think twice about it if you’re prone to using your camera phone for photos of the more intimate variety, and if you don’t have unlimited data in your cell phone plan. (Restrict the automatic uploads to WiFi access only to minimize battery and data charges.)
Here’s a quick comparison between Google+ and other social networking sites.
Will you be adding Google+ to your social media marketing mix? How soon?