By Kara Haas, CPA
Late in June, Google offered yet another choice in Social Media, Google+. Are you ready to add one more social networking site to your to-do list?
Presently, Google+ is in a beta testing phase and is available by invitation only. The goal of the Google+ project, is "…to make sharing online more like sharing in real life." The tour will take you through five core areas: Circles, Hangouts, Instant Upload, Sparks, and Huddle.
Circles are an easy way to group people. Begin with identifying groups of people that mirror your tangible world. This way, you can separate family from weekend friends, and work colleagues from childhood friends.
Hangouts provide a method of informal and spontaneous collective chat. The chat can accommodate up to 10 people and automatically sense whoever is speaking the loudest, designating them as center stage.
Google + provides an instant upload feature that places photos and videos automatically in a private album to be designated later to the appropriate circle.
Sparks take the RSS feed and keyword search a step further. Enter keywords, interests, and topics into Sparks, and the latest related articles, blogs, videos, and images will populate. Should you find something that you would like to share with everyone, select +1, the Google + way of sharing.
The huddle feature seeks to eliminate the dreaded phone tag when attempting to make plans. Pull a group together to decide on a movie, restaurant, or project through a group text/instant message forum.
Sound familiar? Well, to many, Google+ may already resemble Facebook.
Michelle Golden, Social Media Strategist and author of Social Media Strategies for Professionals and Their Firms: The Guide to Establishing Credibility and Accelerating Relationships, shared her initial impressions of the medium. She explained that it is an extremely powerful tool for search and will likely change the way we interact with one another, bringing preferences and contacts' preferences closer to our view. Initially, her biggest concerns are working through the user interface and privacy. One of the tradeoffs to the powerful search functionality of Google is the ability to access and link data. Lastly, while latecomers to the social media marketplace may find Google+'s "Circles" easy to use, Golden reminds us that we have been able to execute this preference for years on Facebook. She also points out that LinkedIn also has a list feature that serves a similar purpose.
Who is using it? Google applied the selective invitation method to introduce this tool to the marketplace. Similar to the short supply of the hottest Christmas toy, more people seem to be grasping for an invite. From observation, it appears individuals embracing this medium are those affiliated with the tech industry. It seems that many of the early invites went to this group. Feeling left out? The best way to get connected is to have a Gmail address, share it with someone utilizing Google+, and have them add you to their circle.
Once inside a circle, we found a great video by Seth David of Nerd Enterprises, Inc. to provide additional guidance and short cuts. David also provides a downloadable cheat sheet in either Excel or PDF for future reference.
As with any social media, the best way to learn is by listening and watching. Soon after establishing an account, you will see etiquette articles giving guidance.
Sentiments amongst current Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn users are mixed. Many have their one preferred social media tool. Some are frustrated by the limited participation and finding it difficult to increase momentum. While others welcome it as a fresh start and an opportunity to correct any previous set up errors or habits established on Facebook. The primary complaint amongst Google lovers is that Google+ currently is not available to Google Apps users that have their e-mail, docs, and calendar tied to their business domain.
Words of Wisdom from seasoned users: Identify your audience and what mediums they frequent. Some professionals reach their customers on Facebook and Twitter and utilize LinkedIn for professional networking. If Google+ gains momentum, this may be an area where people find a comfortable blend of personal and business engagement, along with a center for the latest news, videos, and events in shared areas of interest.
Begin slowly. When starting out, sharing less is more. Take time to read the Terms of Service and familiarize yourself with the privacy settings.
While you may cringe at adding another social networking activity to your schedule, Google+ might have the features and search capability to centralize research and connect you with new markets.