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What in the World is Google+? Should I be on it?

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Google+ (G+, Google Plus or the Google Plus Project) is Google's foray into social media. In some ways, Facebook is squarely in Google's crosshairs, hoping to take a chunk out of the reigning social media king.

Whether it's a Facebook hangover or whether everyone just loves everything Google does, Google+ has exploded in popularity in the few months since its unofficial launch in June.

By the opening of August, Google+ reached 25 million users. It took over two years on both Twitter and Facebook to reach those numbers.

It's too soon to predict whether Google+ will dethrone Facebook, but preliminary surveys have shown that people will use Google+ and Facebook. Time will ultimately tell.

What are the Google+ features?

  • Google+: functions like a recommendation button, similar to Facebook's "Like".
  • Circles: create groups based out of contacts, connects, likes/dislikes, topics or conversations and the names of those in circles are private, but the "title" of the circle is searchable.
  • Stream: a Google+ RSS feed, where users can keep track of what people in their circles are thinking, liking or writing about.
  • Huddle: a hyperactive version of instant messaging, where people within circles can chat at once (great for brainstorming meetings!).
  • Sparks: kind of like "tags" but slightly different; Sparks allows users to select topics they like through Google search (many Circles are developed out of Sparks).
  • Hangouts: consider it an improved version of Skype where up to 10 people can teleconference.
  • Instant Upload: specifically for Android, instant upload allows users to upload photos or video through their mobile device and save it for later.

What are the benefits?

Not surprising at all, but there are some fantastic marketing benefits to Google+. However, the same benefits that apply to businesses also apply to the average consumer looking to connect socially.

  • The Google+ button functions similarly to Facebook's "Like" button.
  • Account set-up is quick and easy.
  • Circles allow for more division into groups than Facebook.
  • Access to and unity across Google's apps and tools including Maps, Gmail, GChat and Google Docs (among others).
  • Seamless integration with Android.
  • Hold officeless meetings through Huddle or Hangouts.
  • No "fake" Google+ accounts allowed.
  • Exclusive membership: right now, each user is awarded 150 "invites" to extend to their friends (Google did something similar when GMail launched).
  • Already gone "mainstream".
  • Twitter and Facebook users are dropping their accounts for Google+.
  • An "open" approach to privacy.

What are the disadvantages?

  • Companies are asked not to join Google+…yet.
  • According to PC Magazine's Mark Hachman, "…Sparks is nowhere as effective [as Google Alerts]," and suggests that Google+ "use Google for its search algorithm; I hear its pretty good."
  • Google+ dashboard is confusing and intimidating if you have a lot of circles.
  • The discrepancy between usability on Android versus desktop (Android is better!).
  • The hype: Google isn't made out of gold.
  • Google+ stream becomes easily cluttered and hard to read.
  • Not enough widgets, plug-in and (gasp!) games compared to Facebook.
  • Exclusive membership.
  • Right now, it's not fully launched.
  • Twitter and Facebook users are dropping their accounts for Google+ (a bit premature, especially because the bugs haven't been fully worked out of the system yet).

Is it right for you?

Honestly, it's too early to tell whether it's only great for personal use, business (since Google isn't allowing companies on yet) or both.

What the overwhelming consensus is that if you're interested, try it.

It doesn't appear that the big "G" machine will swallow up LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Keep them all, and see which one truly meets your needs.

Let us know what your thoughts are on Google+! Do you use it for your company or personal use? Are you going to make the switch from Facebook or add it to your existing social media repertoire?

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