Google+ arrived on the social media scene in 2011 like a lamb, with little heralding, and on the surface level, it’s hardly become a lion that can compete with Facebook or Twitter. It’s been referred to alternately as a “little version of Facebook” and a “ghost town.” For what’s considered by some to be a half-hearted effort to join the social networking world, however, Google+ is making some serious waves in social media and in many ways, is already leading the pack…if not leaving them in the dust.Hanging out with the President
Earlier this year, President Obama opened a Google+ Hangout and answered questions from people across the country following his State of the Union address. Topics ranged from gun violence to his plans for Valentine’s Day, and the discussion was so successful that the White House has since launched a series of Google+ Hangout conversations with White House administration officials.
The president isn’t the only one taking advantage of this highly interactive and versatile aspect of Google+. This past April, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Guns N’ Roses drummer Sorem and former New York Ballet principal dancer Woetzel participated in a Google+ discussion on public policies for arts education for the Americans for the Arts. There’s even an astronaut, Chris Hadfield, stationed at the International Space Station who saves his Hangouts and posts them on YouTube.
Apart from holding live chats, users can save their Hangout sessions and, with the click of a button, immediately post them on YouTube. It’s also fully integrated with Google Docs, so users can share written information and presentations live. Google+ Hangouts have been used for:
- Creating tutorials
- Creating podcasts
- Conducting meetings and interviews
- broadcasting performances
- interacting with customers
Even though the key word in social networking is “social,” some users also like to use their social media sites almost like a diary, helping them remember where they’ve been, who they’ve seen and what they’ve liked throughout the day.
The problem with a lot of sites, though (for some people), is that once you “check in” to a location or post a comment/review, that post is immediately shared with all of your friends. With Google+, if you check in to a location, it only appears on your profile if you allow it to in your settings. As for reviews, these appear under a separate tab on your profile where users can see what you like/dislike, without bombarding them with posts.
It’s a more discreet way of socializing. But that doesn’t mean that your opinions are simply recorded and buried. If someone in one of your circles looks up a place you reviewed, for example, your review would be one of the first ones to appear because of your relationship. The same goes for music, events and other locations. Google+ intelligently shares users’ opinions when they want it; not when they don’t.Sharing images
In March, Google+ announced that users can now upload full-sized images to their profile. While these images do count toward their max of 5G free storage, the ability to store full-size images is a major plus to photographers and those who want to preserve the original integrity of their images. And these images can be shared easily, whether you want to show them to friends or potential clients.
Images don’t just have to be a static save. Google+ Events offers the ability to switch any event to “party mode,” which allows users to upload images in real time and create a live slideshow. People can view the images on the site or the images can be projected live on a screen during an actual gathering.
Another interesting feature for images is +Emotion. When selected, Google+ scans the image selected and mimics the emotion of any human, dog or cat in the picture. The program can even detect glasses, hats and even tell babies from adults.
When Google+ was released, developers described it simply as an extension of Google; hence the lack of fanfare. Ever since its release in mid-2011, it has been building not only on apps and integration but on its following.
As of December 2012, Global Web Index reported that Google+ was second only to Facebook in terms of active users on a social platform. While it still falls far behind Facebook’s 700 million active users, with 343 million active users and counting, Google+ is quickly gaining ground. And with the multitude of applications that are being integrated into Google+ every day — as well as the search engine powerhouse that is Google — Google+ is far from a “little version of Facebook.” It’s actually rewriting what it means to be a social network.
What has your experience been with Google+? Why would you use it over another social platform, or vice versa? What have you heard about Google+ that has kept you from using it or has encouraged you to sign up?