Google+ Takes Off. I’m Still Catching Up.
Google+: First Impressions
One of the coolest things about being in a technology field, you get first glance at all the neatest new toys and gadgets. You get to see how cool things are, how cool they can be, and how cool it is when they break. On the other hand, there is a lot to keep up on. If you’re in a particular niche, you can focus your sights on only what matters to you most. When you’re in a ravenous, widespread industry such as Internet marketing, you might have a tendency to focus too hard on your niche, projects, or clients, and miss something new that comes along.
For a few months, I’ve been getting scattered reports about this Google+ application. Many of them, I put to the side in a sort of “read later” folder. Of course, when you spend a lot of your day putting out fires, launching new initiatives, and keeping customers happy, later may come much later than you expected. Finally, this past week, I accepted a Google+ invitation, and I’ve been checking it out, looking for the neat bells and whistles and looking for what’s missing.
Keep a Lookout for the Google+ Logo, Soon to be Everywhere
Am I impressed? I can’t say that I am. It never ceases to amaze me what people put out these days. I am, on the other hand, thoroughly happy with what I have seen of Google+ so far. I use social media throughout the day, every day. I have not plugged my mobile phone up into the fray yet, because then I would never get away. I have always been of the mind, if it’s that important that you must know right now, right this second, while I am in a meeting, at the doctor’s, in line at the grocery store, etc. I will call you. Otherwise, it can wait until I get home. Plus, I deal with Internet, marketing, and technology all day. I need a break too—other than when my head finally hits the pillow. Google+ has got me rethinking my stance on this measure, however, and I’ll explain why soon.
Let’s talk about Google+. Let’s talk about the good and the not so good, and why Google+ might finally be the application to get me to change my rules about social media on the go.
A Nice Little Intro to Google+ Directly from the Google Team
Google+ at First Glance.
So, this is Facebook or MySpace, but without so many people, right? Yes and no. Google+ is the latest addition to the Google application war chest, taking over computers and the Internet one step at a time. Granted, I am a bit of a Google fan boy. I mostly use the Google search engine, Google Chrome, Droid over iPhone, Google Docs, Gmail, Google Adwords, and more. Blame it on my father, mother, and grandfather. It was an older generation that instilled one me the idea that: if you’re going to do a job do it right—something that could serve so many businesses and business people well today, if they got it—but, that’s a different article. Anyhow, Google does a number of things, and they do them well. They don’t launch everything at once. Instead, they add to their repertoire slowly, over time, working the bugs out and assigning the best teams to the right projects before trying to build their castle in a swamp.
Google+ is Google’s newest foray into the free flowing digital river of the Internet. Yes, it shares similarities with MySpace and Facebook, but it is also quite different. Remember Facebook came out back in 2004. MySpace came about back in 2003. There have been some missteps by either along the way. At the same time, these sites have had to try to keep up with rapidly developing technology. Google+, meanwhile, is being launched with several features that had to be shoehorned into previous, similar incarnations of social networking sites as part of the base platform. There are some big differences between Google+ and other social networking sites.
Reciprocal vs. Non-Reciprocal Contacts
For those familiar with social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, you know that to “friend” or otherwise connect with someone, either you must request to connect with them and they must approve your request or they must request to connect with you and you must approve it. This is called a reciprocal connection. On the other hand, if you’re familiar with social applications such as Twitter, you know you can connect with people—or, follow them—without them having to approve you. This is a non-reciprocal connection. Google+ is founded on the non-reciprocal connection, so you can follow people’s updates without them having to approve you. This can be an advantage, because some very popular people may be swamped with so many requests to connect, they don’t find the time to approve you. These people will have access to your “everybody” streams, but not your other circles (read on for information about circles).
Organizing Your Contacts
I want to be an organized person. I really do. The thing is, I’m just no good at it. I know all the rules about how on Facebook and Twitter, you’re supposed to have these lists to organize the people you know, so you can compartmentalize your posts, and share with lots of people at once without sharing with everyone. Just because I know the rule, however, doesn’t mean I follow it. Instead, I often bite my tongue so my boss or co-workers don’t get offended by a joke that would have my friends in stitches. I’ve even had to police a post once or twice, because the wrong person might see it and affiliate what that person said with something I said, even though I never said it.
In Google+ you don’t really have the choice. Everyone is placed into circles. This is a pretty neat little trick. Yes, it means you have to categorize everyone before adding them. It’s good for a few reasons, though. There is no one stopping you from lumping everyone into one big circle, but think about it. You’re already there, and it takes a simple check or a drag and drop to put people into specific groups, or circles. They’ve made it streamlined. They’ve made it fast. Google+ has made it so you have to spend that split second decision on whether you want this person to be included with everyone else, or you want them to be in a circle. The smoothness of Google+ circle’s drag and drop actually even adds a little bit of fun to it. You start out with a Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and Following circles on Google+. You can add more as you like, and you can also have people belong to more than one circle.
No Time for Silly Games
Okay, that’s a little harsh, and I’m just having a little fun. I don’t mean to insult anyone, but one of the greatest things for me about Google+ is the fact there are no games on there. Zynga has done a wonderful job in raking in the cash with such winners as FarmVille and CityVille. I’m sure people out there can name a hundred different companies and thousands of other games they enjoy playing through Facebook. I have a problem with all those games on Facebook, though.
The problem isn’t with the games themselves. Rather, the problem is with me. I have this addictive personality, and it hits pretty hardcore when it comes to all sorts of digital crack. I did the math several weeks back and found out I was putting in two to three hours a day on average playing one or two of these games, helping friends with their game requests and so on. I had to stop. I quit cold turkey. It wasn’t that hard, but I have to avoid those pesky little pixels at every turn. Not even having games on Google+ is a major plus to me (no pun intended).
Tying Everything Together
One of the neatest things I found today is how to bring my Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ all together in one place. It’s pretty neat how it works, although I’d admittedly like it to work a little bit different, but here’s the basics. I already have my Twitter feed tied to my Facebook, so when I tweet, it gets posted to my Facebook. That’s one of the many gazillions of Facebook applications out there, and you can access it here, if you haven’t already. This doesn’t let me see everything that’s been tweeted that I am following, though. Now, I have used to add-ons to bring it all into one little happy window on Google+.
The two add-ons I use—and, please note, I am not a huge fan of add-ons—are Google+ Twitter and Google+ Facebook. They can be downloaded for free from the links I provided there. Once you’ve installed these add-ons, you go into your Google+ profile, and click on the corresponding icon that has been placed in your top Google+ menu. The applications will ask for permission and to login to either Twitter or Facebook. Once granted, when you click on the Facebook or Twitter icons in the Google+ menu, you will get a frame within the Google+ interface that shows your Facebook news feed and your Twitter feed. You will also have the option from either of these frames to post directly to Facebook and Twitter (whichever tab you’re in). It’s nice to have it all tied up into one place.
Couple that with the thought that Google+ is Google and it’s even better, because you’re going to tie it into your Blogger, Gmail, etc.
But, wait! There’s more.
It would take a lot of space to go over all the features and options we have available to us with Google+. I’ll most likely cover some of them in later articles. For now, however, I’ve covered my initial impressions, which was my goal. If you haven’t gotten your Google+ invitation, so you can start enjoying this great new social media platform, look and ask around. I am sure someone out there somewhere has one for you.