Google+: The Pluses and Minuses

July 27th, 2011 in .News & Events
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With over 750 million users on Facebook, the social media company is a monolithic Goliath in the not just in social media, but arguably the world. Also-rans Friendster, MySpace and a slew of other social networking sites have almost gone way of the dodo, but if there’s a company that can challenge Facebook in terms of user reach, my money’s with Google.

With a couple of misfires like Orkut and Google Buzz already under their belt, Google is looking to try again with the launch of Google+. After almost a month of usage, it’s really grown on me, and with 20 million users already signed up, G+ is the fastest growing social media site to date. Others have stated that it feels like a combination of Twitter and Facebook, and I’d say that comparison is spot on.

It was a little slow going at first, what with the lack of invites available for adding friends. And without the ability to add friends, how are you going to grow as a social media platform? With the invite issue slowly getting sorted out, I’m starting to see more of my friends from Facebook give Google+ a try.

With more people giving it a go, I was able to properly try out a lot of the functions of G+. The main features of Google+ are divided up into four sections via buttons near the top: Home, Photos, Profile and Circles. The first three are fairly self-explanatory, but Circles is where your friends come in to play.

As friends are added, you can place them into specific circles based on whatever label you choose. I’ve labeled a few like “Family”, “Circle of Trust” and “Interesting People”.
You can choose to follow someone, but they don’t have to follow you, which is similar to Twitter.

The Home tab is where most of the action happens, including GChat, posting items or viewing posts from friends and my personal favorite, the Hangout feature. Hangout allows you to video chat in real time with multiple parties, and the way that Google has integrated it into part of the user experience is very seamless and natural. This has huge potential for not just chatting up multiple friends, but also business meetings and even customer service for large companies.

There’s also the “Stream” and “Sparks” areas on the left hand side, which allows you to follow posts from people in your circles and news articles for anything that you wish to keep up with, like technology, finance, traveling, to name a few.

On the surface, the Stream posting feature doesn’t seem that different from Facebook or Twitter, but once you dig deeper, you’ll realize that it’s more of a mash up of the two. If you post something, the default setting is “Extended circles”, which means that everyone in your circles as well as their circles can see what you just posted. You can remove this and set it to specific circles, or even specific people, which turns it into a private message. This provides a bit more privacy, as you have to make a conscious effort to post to specific people, instead of just blasting it out to everyone in the world (which you can still do via the “Public” group).

Going back to the earlier point of following someone in Circles, you can follow people like Michael Dell (Dell Computers), Tom Anderson (formerly of MySpace) and Ben Huh (, who all have huge followings. Michael Dell has hosted a few hangouts, where he talks with customers about various things tech related and is wondering how Hangouts will change the way customer support is run with companies.

Tom Anderson routinely posts insightful social media trends while Ben Huh posts funny images that come across his way via the interwebs. These are just a few of the very people I have in my “Interesting People” circle.

So far, reaction amongst the early adopters has been positive, but it is very much still a work in progress. Things like vanity URLs or updating your profile could be a bit more intuitive, while Sparks is ok, but could be changed to things that are trending. As someone who’s been on Facebook since it first came out in 2004, I have built up an extensive number of contacts and pictures on there, and would like to see the ability to easily import those over without having to rely on a third party app or software. Who knows? We may even have a Google+ account for TiS in the future so we can all chat! What do the fine people of the internets think?

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