Google+ is a new social networking platform launched by internet giant Google. From day one there have been mixed reports as to whether it can rival Facebook and Twitter share buttons, but from what we have seen Google+ buttons have been popping up everywhere, and they managed to gain 20 million users in just 3 weeks. This is despite only just becoming available to the general public after a 3 month invitation-only trial for a selected special few.
Outlined below are some of its main features.
The Google+1 button is the equivalent to the Facebook ‘like’ button. Google is encouraging web publishers to start adding +1 buttons to their pages, not only to encourage social sharing but also to help search engine rankings. Google will study +1 clicks, and the results will not only be influenced by the +1’s from your friends, but will be universal. Therefore as Google+ will not only be a social tool but will impact search results, it may put pressure on publishers to add the +1 button their pages. But considering webmaster’s current reliance upon Google and its products, we doubt that anyone would need much encouragement to add the button to their site.
However, like Facebook, you need a Google Account to be able to use Google+ and the +1 button, and although most of us already have one through use of Youtube, Gmail, Analytics etc. many people may not and may not want to set up an account just to +1 something.
However now that Google+ has opened its doors to the general public, we will see how many people bother to create themselves a profile.
This feature is like the Facebook friend list, but is far easier to use thanks to its drag and drop feature. Google+ has incorporated the option to sort your friends into different real-life social groups and choose who to post certain things to. For example you could share with your friends something silly about the weekend, and be assured that this won’t be posted to your Mum in your Family circle, or post an announcement like an engagement only to friends and family. You can also control what personal details are shown to each circle, this way you can control and filter who sees what.
When you click on a +1 button, you can also select to share this with certain circles who you feel it is most relevant to, i.e. share a music event with friends, or a film with family.
Google+ Sparks is a feature you can use to keep up to date with all of your interests. It is basically a search recommendation engine – when you search for something, the results will include both relevant posts on Google+ and web results. Your search can then be saved as a favourite so that anytime you want an update of what is happening with regards to that topic, it can bring up the freshest news. Your favourite searches and topics are listed on the left under your circles so they are easy to find.
This is a video chat service with features such as:
- Hold hangouts via Android smartphone
- Share your screen
- Draw together
- Create and edit documents together
- Hold topic-based hangouts
- Up to 10 people can join 1 Hangout
- Jointly watch a YouTube video
Hangouts is one of the most talked about new features for Google+, mostly due to its potential for various uses e.g. cooking classes, interviews etc. But of course it relies on the user having access to a web cam. Despite this we can see that this feature may be one of the most compelling reasons to encourage the use of Google+. Another selling point is that as opposed to Facetime which relies on a wi-fi connection, Hangouts work fine on 3g, allowing for more practical use whilst on the move.
Google+ comes with an advanced photo album feature including options which aren’t offered by the likes of Facebook and Twitter. When the photos tab is initially clicked on, you can instantly see all the photos recently uploaded by all your friends – you can also see how many comments have been made on each photo. The usual features like a slideshow and tagging are available, however there are further options such as being able to check out photo details such as the type of camera used to take the photo. All tags also have to be approved before going live – so no more unexpected embarrassing photos of you without your say so…!
Uploading photos and creating albums has been made easier with a simple drag and drop tool; with the custom sharing options you can choose to share the album with particular circles or to the general public.
One of our favourite features is the editing tool, which you can use to edit your photos once they have been uploaded. At the moment it is fairly simple but allows you to add effects like contrast, cross process, black and white etc. We are hoping that they will gradually add more editing options to this in the future.
The Elephant in the Room – Brand Accounts
We are sure you will have noticed by now, but so far there isn’t an option for businesses to create their own page like on Facebook and Twitter. However this is something Google has addressed – they have specifically asked businesses not to set up any pages for themselves yet, as they are currently working on a platform for businesses but it will take some time to build. Thanks to high demand, they have sped up the development process and are going to be beta testing in the next few weeks. Christian Oestlien at Google stated “The business experience we are creating should far exceed the consumer profile in terms of its usefulness to businesses. We just ask for your patience while we build it. In the meantime, we are discouraging businesses from using regular profiles to connect with Google+ users.” Features expected to be incorporated into the business accounts are AdWords and Analytics.
Overall, it looks like Google+ is set be a big rival to Facebook thanks to its more advanced features. However Facebook isn’t far behind – they made changes to their home page at the same time that Google+ went live to the public, and are planning more; it has been reported that Facebook will be launching a major redesign of user profiles at their f8 conference this week.
So now that Google+ is available to everyone, we will see if they can maintain the hype that has been built up recently. Will their additional features be enough to convince loyal Facebook users? Or will Facebook continue to snap at Google’s heels with their continuous updates? Will the highly anticipated business platform blow Facebook & Twitter out of the water?
Take a look for yourself at https://plus.google.com
Watch this space.