By Felicia Cravens, Contributor, US Daily Review.
Google launched its latest foray into the social media scene this June with Google Plus. Initially only available to selected users, it has quickly grown to a community of over 25 million. It combines some features of Facebook and Twitter, and adds some extras that may make it more challenging to navigate at first. Still, the rapid growth of Google Plus suggests that it may play a very important role in the future of social media.
Like Facebook, Google Plus allows you to share video, links, music and pictures easily. However, instead of “broadcasting” to all of the people with whom you are connected, Google Plus allows you to select very specifically the people who see what you post. This is done with “circles” – essentially categories into which you can place the people you follow.
If you are mainly interested in music, politics and photography, you might post from all three categories on Facebook. Your posts would be visible to every one of your Facebook friends. However, your photography connections may not want to see your political posts, and your political contacts may hate your musical tastes. Facebook forces you to self-censor sometimes, just where you might be most passionate. Twitter works in the same way; you broadcast to all who follow you, regardless of how they relate to you.
Google Plus allows you to create categories (circles) based around your interests or relationships, then fill those categories with people who share those interests. When you want to post something musical, you simply select the Music group and, for instance, all those in your “70s Disco Fans” circle will see it at the same time, your “All Politics, All The Time” circle won’t be threatening to block you.
Side note: One difficulty I’ve had with Facebook is trying to find posts I remember seeing and relocating them. Google Plus has an answer for that too, one that doesn’t involve loading up my Bookmarks or making me leave 17 browser tabs open at the same time. In Google Plus, I can create an empty circle, one with no users in it. Then, when I find a link or video I want to return to later when I have more time to digest it, I can share it to my empty “Bookmarks” circle. No one else sees it in my feed, and I can save the item there and revisit it without storing it on my hard drive or in my browser.
If that explanation didn’t help, perhaps THIS VIDEO is a better explanation of circles.
Another feature unique to Google Plus is the Hangout. Hangouts allow you to use the video chat feature with other Google Plus users. If you have a webcam and a microphone, you can join video conferences with others or host your own. Once in a Hangout, you are also able to share videos with everyone in the Hangout via You Tube. This could be used for something as simple as sharing a music video with friends, or something as complex as a training session for a company’s employees scattered around the world.
Google is still working out security issues with Google Plus. Michael Krigsman makes the point that no matter what level of privacy you desire online, there is no privacy on the consumer web; assume everything you post is either public today or will be tomorrow. This becomes especially important as Google integrates more applications into their domain. At present, your Google account can be linked to You Tube, Your Google Reader, your G-mail account and nearly any other Google-based application. Users will be exploring new ways to manage this integration as the platform is modified and expanded.
If you think you’re ready, signing up for Google Plus first requires a Google account. If you already have a You Tube or G-mail account, you should be able to use the same login information to access Google Plus. You might also find these links useful in getting started, or deciding whether Google Plus is for you.
Next Week: A look at Linked In
Felicia Cravens walked away from her accounting degree over a decade ago to become a stay-at-home mom. Since then, she has filled her “spare time” teaching drama in an after-school program and working in conservative politics. She founded the Houston Tea Party Society in 2009, serves as a frequent media contact, and trains and equips people new to the political process. She can be found on Facebook and Google+, and on Twitter as @somethingfishie