Understanding Google+ – Circles, Hangouts and Sparks

The recent launch of Google+ (or Google Plus as it is also called) has created quite a stir because people are eager to see whether the internet giant is able to put its unmistakable stamp on social networking with this latest offering. Google+ is this company’s contribution to making connecting and networking on the internet easier than it currently is by removing a lot of the rigidity that many online tools possess. Vic Gundotra, the engineering head at Google put it very succinctly in a recent blog post ” We’d like to bring the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software. We want to make Google better by including you, your relationships, and your interests.”

Google+ is considered by many to be an amalgamation, and therefore an improvement, on the different services currently available to people who want to connect with others online. It is currently in a beta version and therefore has quite a few bugs. Google is currently hard at work ironing them out by putting its considerable resources behind this project. This company is known to put a lot of effort into every product it launches and there is no reason why this one should be any different.

As a user of Google+ you will first fill out your profile properly with a nice photo.  Then start inviting friends and finding people.  You can import your contacts from Facebook to Yahoo then to a .csv file to upload to Google.  Once you have done this you will need to organize your groups of friends by specific topics. This initial effort takes a bit of time but it is definitely worth it because it makes a lot of sense to compartmentalize your different lives and maintain a high degree of privacy. Google has made this nice and easy for you, all you have to do is drag and drop your contacts into specific groups or “Circles” and you’ll then be good to go, (don’t worry about anyone being offended of the circle they are in as they will never know.. unless you tell them..ssshhh!!). You will also have “Spark” pages which links to content that is of interest to you will automatically land, like your own newsfeed, bascially your Google reader inside Google+. Another feature of Google+ is “Hangouts”. These are virtual rooms where you can video chat with your friends. It also has a group messaging feature within the different Circles. This is known as “Huddles”.  If you are a business this could be useful for online meetings or conferences.

Google+ is available on Android and all you need to do to get a stream of updates from your friends (akin to Twitter) is to download the app to your phone. Google+ even allows you to automatically send photos from your Android phone immediately as they are taken.

Google will be changing the look of its toolbar in order to add a “+You” button so that you can access Google+. As of now, it is available by invite only and only individuals can sign up for it. However, Google is open to adding more features to it depending on what user feedback they receive.

There is also a lot of interest regarding the way in which Plus will impact search engine results. There is no denying the fact that the company has also received negative reviews from a few tech reviewers. However, the final decision lies with the end user, as always, and it is the regular person who wants to connect with the world in the easiest and quickest manner possible who will decide whether Google+ is a success or a failure.

About The Author

Kerry Fitzgibbon

A social media strategist who loves helping others make money using social media. A trainer, author, coach and speaker - Kerry is passionate about social media marketing and in her spare time marathon running.