Should you jump into Google+?

Over last couple weeks, I’ve spent quite a bit of time figuring out Google+.  Part of that process is understanding who is going to get the most out of the product, how it fits in with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter both from a personal and professional point of view.  In doing that, it’s been a challenge to remove myself from the “geek factor” and imagine what my non-IT friends or colleagues would experience by participating in the G+ community.  (I use G+ as short-hand for Google+.)

Let me first start with a quick synopsis of what Google+ is.  Yes, it is a social network, but it is different in subtle ways.  It looks similar to Facebook in that it has a three column layout, Circles and Sparks on the left, posts from those you’ve “circled” in the middle, and a few links for mobile apps and invites on the right column.

You can use the list of circles on the left to filter the news feed, called the “Stream”, in the center column.  So if you create a circle for “Musicians”, then add Daria Musk and Trent Reznor to that circle, you can click on the “Musicians” label on the left to only see posts from them.

So how do you circle someone?  Where Facebook and LinkedIn require you to “confirm” the relationship, on G+, you can “circle” anyone.  This is super easy to do by basically hovering over anyone’s profile image or navigating to their profile.  You can add people to multiple circles, as well.

These circles are also part of the posting process.  When you create a post to share, you choose which circles will be able to see the post and whether you want it to be publicly visible or not.  This allows you to tailor what information you send to whom with a few clicks.  G+ defaults to the circle you’re viewing.

So how does all of that come together?  So I’ve created a circle called “Work” which contains all of my colleagues.  I’ve also created a circle called “Development Team” which contains all the member of our product team for CommercialTruckTrader and EquipmentTraderOnline.  Now while we’re working on stuff, I can share important information with just my work colleagues or my development staff.  I can also run our morning stand up meetings through Hangouts, G+’s video & audio chat component.

Everyone can quickly plug in, fire up their webcam and mic, say their piece, then disconnect.  Working from home?  Not a problem.  Pop into our Development Team Hangout and we can all see, speak, and perform our duties.

I’ve been testing these capabilities in circles to have discussions with the team which eliminates the need to manage easily out-of-order email exchanges.  To do this, just post and only share it with the circle you want to communicate with.  I’ve also been using this to share details about what the team is doing with other coworkers in the company who are on G+.

Meanwhile, I’m able to share every day things like my new robotic vacuum with my friends and family circles and not worry about clogging up my colleague’s streams.

So this is great functionality, but is it worth signing up?  Well, that depends.  G+ is the domain of many personalities, many of which are technology related.  Photographers have made a niche there and some musicians have too.  One musician in particular has been holding private concerts using the Hangout video chat for people.  Others have been hosting interactive cooking shows using Hangouts.  While there are more than 20 million users now on G+, most people’s friends and family circles are silent

If you are a technologist, or social media manager, or web culture guru, then you absolutely need to be present as the richness of the information in those areas is deep with industry-leading personalities engaging their followers in Hangouts and discussions on posts.  They are engaged with their followers in a way that Twitter doesn’t manage as easily.

Outside of that arena?  Well, it’s going to be quiet.  You can’t play Farmville (yet).  You’re not going to see that silly friend’s little cat chase the laser pointer (yet).  I say “yet” because as content creators, like the photographers and musicians, learn how deeply they can interact and share with people of similar interests, they will leave the Twitter and Facebook fan pages behind.  It’s not that they’ll totally leave them, they’ll simply use them less and G+ more.  The people who are interested in the content creators will follow them over to G+ because the content is rich.

I have significantly reduced my Facebook and Twitter usage since jumping into G+.  That seems to be a trend with early adopters.  But that’s because my primary community of interest has fully integrated into G+.  You’re not going to find Caterpillar or Dodge or International on G+ (yet).  Your social media campaigns aren’t going to suffer because you don’t have an account.

So here’s the bottom line:  if you have an invite and want to check out G+ to see what’s happening and experience a creative and interesting community, then jump in.  But don’t replace your Facebook or Twitter accounts with it (yet).

 – Ryan

P.S. – circle me on G+!  Let me know you read the blog & I’ll drop you in a circle to share info with regarding what we’re up to on CommercialTruckTrader and EquipmentTraderOnline!

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