Should I Be Using Google+?

One of the questions I’ve been asked a lot lately is should I be using Google+?

Google+ is Google’s latest foray into the Social Networking market. Google has tried this before (remember Google Buzz or Google Wave?) but many people have written off their latest attempt as trying to duplicate the wildly successful Facebook.

But is that all Google+ is? Google’s version of Facebook?

And if so, do we need another Facebook? Let’s take a look.

Google Circles

The main focus of Google+ is around posting updates to your “Stream” – similar to Facebook’s status updates.

While Facebook has recently added features to enable you to limit who sees specific status updates, Google+ allows you to add friends and contacts into “Circles”. You can create as many circles as you like, and add people into multiple circles if you choose. For instance, I have business colleagues who are also friends, so I add them to both my “Friends” circle and my “UK Business” circle.

Google+ Screenshot

The idea behind circles is that you can share an update that is visible to a certain circle only.

For instance, when sharing a stream update about about an Australian IT event, I realize this won’t be of interest to all of those who read my stream, so I limit the stream update to my “Australian SMB IT Community” circle.

You can also share stream updates as “public”, meaning anyone can read those updates. Think Twitter updates here. Unlike Facebook, you don’t have to be “friends” with someone – so I might add someone to my circle, meaning I get to see their public stream updates – but they don’t have to reciprocate and add me to any of their circles unless they choose to.

You can also filter your reading stream so that you only see certain updates.

Circles are an intriguing concept and one that can be very useful. Expect to see Facebook implement something not too dissimilar into their status update features in the future.

Advantages of Google+

In my opinion the best thing about Google+ right now though, is its “Signal to Noise” ratio. You remember how useful Facebook was before people started playing Farmville and how you found great information on Twitter before it became popular and you got drowned up with rubbish updates?

Right now, a lot of the top thought leaders and some of the best people in the IT industry are making Google+ their focus for updates.

Add the following people to your circles to benefit from some regular and really useful content.

There are many more besides, but right now, there’s some great content on Google+ that you may not spot on Facebook or Twitter.

Improve Your SEO

If you read some content on Google+ that you like then you can +1 it – in a similar way to Facebook’s “Like” feature, as well as share it on your own stream. You can also disable the sharing of your own content so it goes no further than certain streams. Personal pictures may not be shared beyond your “Friends” circle, for instance.

From an SEO perspective, expect Google+ updates to become very, very important. I’m already seeing Google+ results higher in search engine results than other web-pages, so those on Google+ today are definitely getting themselves more visibility than those who are not.

Google Hangouts

Google Plus ScreenshotBesides the great content, the killer feature of Google+ right now is the “Hangout”. A Hangout is similar to a Skype video call in that it enables you to facilitate a group video chat, as well as group instant messages, sharing your desktop, and even sharing YouTube videos.

To use Hangout you need to first install the Google Voice and Video Chat plug-in. Once installed, you can quickly create a Hangout where a pop-up window allows you and your contacts to communicate.

The Hangout feature is a very cool one and is a great tool to enable you to get together with like minded people and friends.

I see great opportunities to use it within the IT community for sharing and collaboration – once Google+ starts to gain traction.

And that, right now, is the challenge.

The Future of Google+

While Google+ is hardly invisible, it doesn’t have critical mass – the only people really using it are those who work within the Technology industry as well as a few select other fields. The upside to this, as mentioned, is that the content you will find there is generally of good quality with very little filler. The downside is you shouldn’t expect too much of that content.

Personally, I love Google+ and have integrated it into my day-to-day use of Social Networking. I prefer it to Twitter for consuming great content, but not enough of my friends are using it for me to consider posting personal updates to it in preference of Facebook.

That said, don’t expect Google+ to go away. Get involved now, and understand what it is and how it can benefit you.

Because if The Muppets are already using Google+ Hangout, then you surely should be too!

As the former owner of an award winning IT Managed Service Provider, Richard Tubb works with MSPs to help them increase sales, take on employees and build up relationships with key industry contacts. You don’t have to do it alone any more – contact Richard and have a chat about your needs and how he can help you.

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