Google+, The New Kid in the Neighborhood
It is no secret that I love Google’s new addition to the social media realm. In case you are wondering, I am talking about Google+, the new contender in the social media arena. There are many reasons why I find it better than the others (namely, Facebook and Twitter), but mainly, Google+ is innovative and technologically refreshing in comparison to the unchallenged ‘king’ and ‘queen’ of social media Facebook and Twitter.
Some people look at Google+ as a direct contender to Facebook, and lack to see the big pink elephant in the room: Google is not ‘fighting’ Facebook. In fact, Google is not ‘fighting’ Twitter, nor is it ‘fighting’ any other social media platform out there. Google is, instead, redefining the field of social media, and it does it with its most powerful ‘weapon’: its search engine. The one (most powerful) element that other social media platforms don’t have is control over what shows and what does not show on Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Google is changing that, and that is part of Google+.
Since its launch in early July, 2011, there have been dozens of articles praising and criticizing Google+, so writing another similar post wouldn’t make any sense. Instead, I would like to focus more on some of Google+ features that really strike me as innovative, and most importantly, as common sense.
The Most Obvious One: ‘Circles’
‘Circles’ are brilliant. The reason is that they turn your Google+ into either a Facebook-like stream or a Twitter-like stream. If you wish, you can even create a ‘work’ stream, sharing information only with your co-workers and turning it into workplace wiki. It is also brilliant in the sense that it solves two problems with one solution: how to switch between your ‘Twitter-hat’ and your ‘Facebook-hat’ without leaving the platform. In other words, you can share your conversations only with your friends-circle (Facebook-hat) or, alternatively, you can share it with your ‘the-rest-of-the-world’ circle (Twitter-hat). Solve two problems with one solution. Brilliant!
Admittedly, it may take time to get used to switching between the two platforms of Facebook and Google+ (partly because we have consumed so much Facebook over the years, that it takes time to adjust to a new system), but once you get more of your friends to join Google+ you will find ‘circles’ to be a brilliant solution.
Consider these two examples:
You can even share information on your stream only with a few people, and only these people will get to see what you wrote. See this illustration below:
Add People to Conversations
Alternatively, you can add an entire ‘circle’ to the conversation. For instance, “family & friends-circles”:
Share with any 'circle' you'd like
Editing and Re-editing Statuses
One thing I passionately dislike about Facebook and Twitter is the inability to edit what you posted. There is nothing more annoying than posting a status on Facebook and finding, a moment later, that you misspelled a word. Twitter has the same problem, but for the sake of this argument I will stick with Facebook only because it is a much larger platform, and also because it allows 420 characters in its textbox. The problem magnifies itself when you post a comment and later find out that you either misspelled a word or said more than you wanted to say.
Google+ solves this by providing the option to edit; you may edit as many times as you’d like, and this includes your posts as well as your comments. I cannot believe that Facebook hasn’t picked-up on this simple, yet important feature. I don’t condemn Twitter for not adding this feature, because with only 140 characters, misspelling is not necessarily a flaw, but a necessity (‘great’, for example, is ‘gr8′).
The illustrations below show the edit mode in your ‘status-update’, and also in the ‘comment-update’:
You can edit statuses
You can edit comments
Remember the ‘most-powerful-weapon’ I mentioned earlier, ‘Search Engine’, well, this is where Google really flexes its muscles and pushes the competition aside. In my opinion, it is the most interesting feature of them all because it involves Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and blogging. There has never been a better time to focus on your website SEO than now. Blogging? You better start soon, if you haven’t already, because Google+ ‘Sparks’ is redefining the way we’ll consume information. Big statement, you say. Test it for yourself. Search any topic (type SEO for that matter), and you will see the latest SEO posts appear in your ‘sparks-stream’. How latest? When I searched for SEO at 9:55AM, I noticed a post that was published at 5:09AM.
How is it different than Facebook’s search engine? Well, Facebook’s search engine is a closed system, i.e. it relies only on what ‘Facebook-nation’ (so to say) is sharing. In other words, it does not rely on the web for information, instead, it uses the information it finds inside Facebook (profiles, pages, groups, etc).
‘Sparks’, on the other hand, uses the entire web for information. Now that’s powerful! Pick a few topics that you’d like, and get the news straight to your ‘Sparks-stream’. What I really like about ‘sparks’ is that it provides fresh content from the web, making it ideal for consuming news in any language that you choose.
I read many comments on the blog-sphere saying that ‘Sparks’ is useless. I beg to defer. ‘Sparks’ is brilliant, and I think it will change some of the SEO rules we learned thus far, and will emphasize the importance of blogging and ‘fresh’ content. Imagine, you can add any topic from the entire web! This is powerful.
The illustrations below show how recent the content is, and also the use of different languages to consume information:
Let’s ‘Hangout’ With ‘Hangouts’
What I like about ‘hangouts’ is the ability to add up to 10 people into one conversation or, to use Google+ term, ‘hangout’. This is something I cannot do with Skype (unless I purchase the premium package, which I won’t because of its cost) or Facebook (though I strongly believe that this will change soon).
The possibilities of Google+ ‘hangouts’ are endless: family, friends, conference calls with some of your co-workers, and probably a dozen more options you can think about. But this is not what is really great about ‘hangouts’. In a sense, Skype does the same thing, so where is the competitive advantage? The brilliance in ‘hangouts’ lies in the fact that you can use it anywhere in the world, from any computer (assuming the computer has a mic and camera). If you want to use Skype, for example, you need to download Skype into your hard-drive. With Google+ the service is in the cloud, and all you have to do is log-on and start ‘hanging-out’. A perfect solution if you travel around the world and want to stay in touch with relatives and friends.
For a great article on Google+ privacy settings, read Ron Arden‘s (eDocumentSeinces) recent post: 3 Security Tips to Help You Navigate Google+. It covers some important information you’ll need from the onset. In a nutshell, Google made it quite simple to set your privacy settings. Unlike Facebook, Google+ privacy settings are straight forward and easy to use.
For example, one thing I don’t like receiving are social-media emails. When you join Google+, receiving all notifications by email is the default mode. You can change it:
- While on Google+ page, click on “Google+ Settings”:
- You will ‘land’ on Google+ window that looks like the illustration below. Simply uncheck all the email notifications, and you are all set to go.
Am I a Facebook Defector?
The more I use Google+, the more I want to stay with it. This is usually a sign that a platform is working, and in the case of Google+, it is working very well! The design is minimalist with plenty of white-space, which I am sure nobody is going to complain about. The more I use Facebook, the more I see how it’s beginning to be reminiscent of ‘MySpace’. I think Facebook was late in implementing all the changes demanded by its ~700 million users, and unless it changes soon to look more like Google+, I predict that others, like myself, will migrate to Google+ permanently. It won’t happen overnight, but I suspect that it will happen.
So, to the question ‘Am I a Facebook defector?’ I think the answer lies in wether or not my Facebook friends will start using Google+. I am hoping they will start (or at least give it a try) after reading this post.
What is your experience with Google+?
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