Despite my great admiration for Google products, I was trepidatious about throwing myself (and my time) into creating a new social network on Google+.
I already maintain three social networks—Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn—and spend time on several others just to maintain a sense of what's new and evolving in the social media space. That's what my clients expect, so I make the effort.
However, it is my life and my time. I drew the line at creating a whole new network. Because I was already using Gmail, Google Reader, and Calendar and had dabbled in Google Docs, I decided to click the “Claire +” button on my Gmail dashboard.
See? They sucked me in right away by personalizing that little button.
Here are my favorite features on Google+, as well as why they might work for you:
The feed or stream looks just like the Facebook feed we're all used to. One really cool difference I noticed right away: You can edit your feed update after you post it, unlike Facebook, where you have to delete your post and re-post if you make an error. (If you have clumsy fingers like mine, that happens often.) As a PR professional who is judged by typos, I appreciate the ability to correct my mistakes.
Easier photo uploads.
My biggest frustration with Facebook has been the difficulty in uploading photographs. Maybe it's just me, but unless you're using iPhoto or Flickr to upload, Facebook has never made it easy. In Google+, you can upload from your computer in the regular way, but you can also drag and drop, which is very slick. It only took me a few seconds to upload 20 of my favorite photos to an album. Adding labels is easier, too. Don't get me started on sharing photos via Twitter. It's an arduous process unless you're using a mobile app.
Google+ makes it easy to create different circles of people within your network. This feature enables you to easily drag and drop people into circles and to control which circle your latest post goes to. Facebook’s groups feature is so clunky and unintuitive that I don't know many people who use it. Plus, it was an add-on. Google+ was smart to make it part of its set of introductory features.
Here is a great Google+ site
that discusses the features in detail and includes video of how they work. I trust Google a bit more than Facebook. (Maybe because I think Mark Zuckerberg has shifty eyes.)
Dumb name, great concept. If you're wondering how you'll ever find people to follow, Sparks provides a window into Google+ that is a lot easier to use than searching Facebook for thought leaders on certain subjects. Plus, you can follow someone without his or her permission, unless they decide to block you (kind of like Twitter). Facebook's search does not seem very intuitive to me, and you can't just follow someone; you have to be “friends” to see that person’s feed.
Here's an easy way to introduce newbies to the nuances of video chat. There are still a lot of people who don't know how to conduct a video chat on their own. Being on Google+ gives you a simple way to chat with friends. The first time you use it, give yourself a little time to download the plug-ins you'll need. Here's a picture of what your screen will look like when you're chatting. My good buddy Josh, one of the founders of VineMe, and I had a chatted the other morning. (Don't laugh at my hair; it was humid.)
The Achilles heel of Google+.
So far, Google+ is off to a great start, with 20 million users. But early reports suggest
that even though many early adopters and Internet glitterati are using it, people are not coming back to log on every as they do with Facebook. Therein lies the problem. You can share on Google+ all day, but is anyone paying attention? I think this question will remain unanswered until the network gains critical mass, as Facebook and Twitter have.
Claire Celsi is a public relations and social media strategist in Des Moines, Iowa. She blogs at Public Relations Princess, where a version of this post appeared.