Matt Cassem is a 33-year-old, socially-oriented, crazy person who tends to have pretty specific opinions (mostly uninformed!) about a variety of things. He hails from Tampa, FL where he spends his days avoiding the sun, and blogging about whatever he sees fit at Sarcassem. He’s also a Google+ super-user. He should get a badge. In this guest article, he gives some tips on how to use Google+ to newbies, and why it is now his preferred social network.
There’s been much frothing at the mouth regarding Google+ recently with people tossing out pretty bold statements such as, “This will kill Facebook!” or “Twitter’s dead now!” Whilst sensational, those are a little premature. Certainly Google+ is a strong entry into the social media realm, but it’s still in diapers, and its effect on the arena of social media/networking/etc is certainly yet to be seen.
If you’ve been kicking around the idea of trying out Google+, or if you’re just not convinced Google+ is anything special, I’d like to try and take some time out of your busy, little day and tell you why I think you should (at the very least) give Google+ a try.
The first thing people usually say is, “Eh, I just don’t get it.” That’s normal, since anything tech-related can seem daunting at first. I assure you, if you can use Facebook or Twitter, you can use Google+ just as easily. Yes, you might have to “read the instructions” as it were, but you can do that in less than 5 minutes.
Google+ is not really social networking (defined as using social media to connect with new people and keep up relationships while developing new ones) as it is social sharing. The concept is Google wants to make it easier for you, and more natural, to share your thoughts, discoveries, pictures, and videos with the people you know.
How’s that different from Facebook?
Well, it’s not so much different from Facebook as you might imagine, but that’s not a bad thing. What Google+ has managed to do is take the things that people use Facebook for and made it more simplistic. They took the distractions out of the way. Gone are the games that clog your wall. Messaging is integrated into your Google+ stream.
That said, one of the differences between Facebook and Google+ is a feature called Sparks. Sparks allows you to indicate your interests, and Google+ finds you relevant materials related to those interests and delivers them right to you. That’s something Facebook doesn’t do unless you count the targeted advertising.
Speaking of advertising, there are no ads whatsoever on Google+. Don’t let that be the main reason you switch, though, as you know Google is in the internet advertising game. I don’t expect Google+ to remain ad free for long.
The biggest difference between Facebook and Google+? Much more tightly controlled privacy. You control who sees what. While you can’t lockdown every, single, square inch of real estate on your profile thereby making it invisible, you can make it invisible to search engines, and you can ensure the only thing someone sees when they look at your profile is your picture and your name. That’s it.
If you have a thought, video, picture, or anything else to share, you can choose to share it with a single person, several people, or everyone in the world. It’s really, completely under your control.
Those are just a few things that make Google+ different from Facebook. Notice that I did not say it made it better. That’s a matter of opinion.
Ok, so what about Twitter?
Here’s where Google+ really gets interesting. It’s my opinion that if Twitter doesn’t change it’s offering and quickly, it’s in real trouble. Twitter’s main claim to fame is the ability to get information out very, very quickly. Sure, there’s some social networking aspect to it, but it’s difficult (at best) and clunky to use it for that.
Where Google+ has an advantage (and I’d say a BIG one) over Twitter is in making the sharing aspect entirely more social than before. I’ll break it down like this.
If you’ve used Twitter, and that’s your main way of sharing yourself and your thoughts and favorite things with the world, then you’re going to LOVE Google+. Here’s why:
- Threaded conversations– how many times have you seen someone respond to someone else in your Twitter timeline and thought, “What the hell are they talking about?” You might have an app that lets you see the conversation in a view form, but if not, the website kind of lets you do that…if the people involved used the reply button/link.In Google+, you can reply in line with the actual post so all responses and comments are kept together without having to worry about someone not doing it correctly.
- Sharing with specific people or groups – When you had a tweet that you wanted only a certain person to see, you had to either @ reply to them or DM them. If you wanted to send a tweet that only a certain groupof someones could see, you were out of luck.With Google+, you have the freedom to share your post privately with as few or as many people as you’d like. YOU choose.
- Directly embedded media– until recently, Twitter didn’t let you see even pictures that were shared without clicking on a link that took you to a separate website. While the images are inline now (depending on how they’re uploaded), they’re still pretty small, and you have to blow them up a bit to see them.With Google+, all media (videos, links, pictures, etc) are directly imbedded in the post. No need to futz with outside media hosting.
- Easier “list” management– Want to see tweets from specific groups of people? Well, you could create lists in Twitter, and then you could view the tweets from just that group of people, but there was no way to message those people as a group; it was one-way communication.With Google+, you group your contacts/friends/whatever into “Circles” (example: co-workers, bowling buddies, family, etc) and you can not only read everything that just those individuals share but you can also share posts easily that only those people in that specific Circle can see!
- Hangouts– With Twitter, unless you used an outside service, there was no way to video conference with any of your Twitter buddies. You had to use a service like Tinychat or Skype to do so, and if you wanted to video conference with more than one buddy at a time, it was going to cost you.With Google+, you can host a “Hangout” which allows up to 10 people to video conference at once for free! It even has a unique UI which tracks the person talking and puts them front and center while shrinking the others a bit to keep the focus on the person speaking.
The coolest part? You can even watch a Youtube video together at the same time without leaving the Hangout!
- No character limit– With Twitter, you had to confine your thoughts to 140 characters or less. You also had to make sure that other Twitter users’s names were counted in that 140 characters. That made it tough at times. It was also difficult to have a meaningful discussion with someone about a sensative topic without being misconstrued or misunderstood.With Google+, you have no such limitations! You can make sure your thought is fully articulated, and if you need to, you could even take the discussion into Google Talk (directly embedded into the Google+ site!) for a more real-time chat.
Wow. That’s a pretty hefty list, and I’m sure there are more reasons why Google+ has the edge over Twitter at this point in time. Being a heavy user of both Facebook and Twitter prior to joining Google+, all I can say is I still use Facebook (it’s for people I truly know and spend time with), but Twitter has fallen off my radar. It’s just not nearly as fun as Google+ is nor as complete, in my book.
If you need some resources to help you get a better feel for Google+ and how it operates, I urge you to check out one of the most comprehensive resources for Google+ on the internet at http://www.ansonalex.com.
Come on. Don’t be shy! Don’t be afraid! Give Google+ a shot! You’ll be glad you did!