It’s been talked about since its limited launch began. But is Google+ really Facebook’s new rival? Whether you’re on the social site yet or not (it’s now open to the public, no invites needed), it can be overwhelming to learn another social networking tool. And while there has been a lot of talk about whether or not Google+ is going to overthrow Facebook, it’s best to get a little Google+ 101 out of the way first.
While perusing the site, it’s not hard to spot the many differences, both visually and functionally, between this new social media platform and Facebook. If you haven’t yet checked it out (or are feeling too overwhelmed to dive in just yet) here are a few of the key features of Google+ as compared to Facebook:
The most prominent difference may be how Google+ organizes friends. Just like in real life, we have different circles of friends, made up of acquaintances, colleagues, college friends, etc. Google+ enables you to create different circles for different categories of friends. Rest assured, these friends will never see the names of the circles that you’ve added them to, only that they, indeed, are part of at least one of your circles. In comparison to Facebook, where you can make friend lists to categorize contacts, Google+ allows you to choose which status updates, news and other posts are shared with certain circles (there are still certain limits on this when it comes to friends on Facebook).
Hangouts is another feature that sets Google+ apart from Facebook. Hangouts is a place for group chat and up to 10 people can use it at once. This is great for videoconferencing or talking with multiple friends. What’s really interesting about Hangouts is that it focuses the video stream on whoever is currently speaking, by automatically switching the main window on the speaker until someone else takes over the conversation. Very nifty, indeed!
So far, Facebook has reacted to Google+ by introducing its own video chat service powered by Skype. Although this new feature is simple and easy to use, it currently only allows for chatting with one friend at a time. We’ll see if the Facebook team decides to enhance this service by offering group chat in the future.
This cool Google+ feature allows users to choose or search for topics they’re interested in–hobbies, sports, politics–you name it and “pin” said interest for easy access under the Sparks column. Think of it as a news feed bringing you just the goodies from topics that interest you. Sparks can easily be added to, deleted and modified and is separate from the regular Google+ stream.
In addition, Google+ mobile is extremely user-friendly and includes many exclusive features for mobile phone users. One such feature is called Huddle, which is a group chat where multiple friends can have discussions in real time. Instant Upload is yet another element, which allows you to upload videos and pictures from your phone and then edit and share them with anyone you want.
And although Google+ has recently spent much time closing down profiles that have been set up for businesses, some corporate profiles, such as Mashable and Ford Motor Company, remain open. Other businesses and brands await the official launch of business profile pages. So it still remains to be seen how brand pages will play out across both Facebook and Google+ platforms.
“How users communicate with each other is different from how they communicate with brands, and we want to create an optimal experience for both,” explained Google+ advertising lead Christian Oestlien in a blog post on July 6.
With its new social site, Google is making a statement about what it truly means to be integrated. The company is even doing so with regard to its Picasa and Blogger apps which are moving to Google Photos and Google Blogger to coincide with the new social network (although it remains to be seen how that’s really going to take off from the standpoint of brand recognition and user satisfaction).
Google is pushing us to ask why we would overwhelm ourselves with numerous services when we can consolidate them all into one. When you keep in mind that it’s also a search engine, an email service and now includes mobile services and video chatting, Google+ may have just turned the brand into a one-stop shop for all of your communication needs.
What do you think of Google+? Is it just another site on the ever-growing list of social media platforms or something more? Are you ready to jump the Facebook ship and throw your chips all in on Google+ like Chris Brogan? What are your initial thoughts?
Jodi Osmond recently graduated summa cum laude from UW-Milwaukee with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and media communication and certification in digital arts and culture. As a social media and community engagement intern at Allée, she is eager to continue growing professionally while embracing her passion for public relations and social media. Don’t forget to visit her on Google+!