Google Plus (G+) is a major foray by Google into the world of social media. The platform takes the best of Facebook and Twitter and slaps it into one. I affectionately call it TwitFace.
And while a small group of techy South Africans have gotten really excited about Google Plus (G+), a training session I had with a client this week highlighted the cold, hard reality that many local social media users either don’t know what G+ is or why they should use it.
Here’s why I like it:
- TwitFaceAs mentioned, G+ combines Twitter functionality and Facebook functionality into one. In essence, G+ looks a lot like Facebook. It has a newsfeed, a box to share your status and a profile of who you are.
However, it’s in the friends department that G+ gets really interesting. G+ lets you classify friends by placing them in circles. These circles will be used to determine who sees the content you post and allows you to control what content you see on your newsfeed.
The real Twitter-like element with your circle of friends lies in the fact that you can put people in your circles even if they don’t know you. The concept is based off followers on Twitter.
If the person reciprocates and places you in their circles, then you can generally see each other’s content. If they don’t reciprocate, you’ll only see content they post if they make it public. I’ll explain content sharing shortly.
- Circles unpacked
Let’s unpack the circles concept further. You can place people in multiple circles and I classify my contacts in varying degrees of relationship. Currently I have 14 circles of friends varying from the people closest to me to people I am interested in knowing about.
- Close Friends
- Friends (people I know quite well)
- Colleagues (people I work with)
- Business (clients or people in business that I know)
- Acquaintances (friends of friends or people I have not seen in years)
- Gamers (people who like to blow other people’s heads off online)
- Media (seeing as I am in the media industry, anyone I find who is also in the media industry gets added here)
- Thought Leaders (local people well versed in social media, the Internet and tech)
- Interesting people (they people might work for great companies or just have interesting profiles)
- International (thought leaders overseas)
- Adme (people I don’t know who have added me to their circles)
- Invites (people I have invited to G+ who have yet to join)
- Preferred stream (people I want to hear from)
So Family and Close Friends are my close circles while Interesting People, International and Adme are furthest away from me.
I soon found that my newsfeed was getting bogged down with international people who have lots of cool things to say, but don’t stop posting, so I created the preferred stream and added the people in the circles from one to nine. On the left hand side of G+ you can categorise what content you see by the circles you have added people to. So I could look at specific circles like close friends and see what they are posting, but generally I look at the preferred stream circle because that’s what I mostly want to see.
In order to see content from people in the International circle or Adme, I have to go to those streams.
If I start interacting with people in Interesting People and Adme circles, then they get “upgraded” on my social network to one of the other circles.
Given that most of my Facebook friends weren’t on G+, I started networking and in a few weeks I have 506 people in my circles (people I am following) of which about half (258) have currently added me to their circles. I have therefore extended my social media reach by several hundred people with G+.
While I can use my circles of friends to segregate what content I see in my news stream, I can also use my circles to control access to content I post, by adding circle access to the content before I click share.
If I post public then everyone can see it. If I pick specific circles then only those people see that content and if I pick just one person, then only they see that content.
In this way I can share information which I want people close to me to see, while preventing people I merely know through the Internet from seeing it.
G+ sits on the Google menu along with Gmail, Google docs etc. and notifications show up in any of these other Google products so when I’m in Google Docs or Calendar, for example, I’ll notice stuff happening on G+.
I am also an Android user, so I have a G+ app on my phone for when I am on the road.
A lot of the things I’ve spoke about are possible in Facebook or Twitter, but G+ does them so much better. It’s slick and fast and so easy to use. Other social networks just feel clunky. I hardly use Twitter anymore, and the only reason I stay on Facebook is because a lot of friends are there and I do help clients with their Fan Pages on Facebook.
There are other cool things on G+ too: the hangouts section where one can group video chat; the Sparks section where you can search content by interest and have it delivered in a stream to you; the easy to use photo uploading system, and so on.
But these are all ancillary to the above points which are what make G+ such a brilliant social network. And given the rapid growth of G+, I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time before most of my Facebook friends join me on G+, and I can use G+ as my primary social network.
You can view Steve’s G+ profile here.