Google+ is a new social networking site released by Google Inc. to compete with Facebook. While Facebook has over 750 million users, in less than a month since launching a limited trial phase, Google+ has reached nearly 20 million users. Google+ is still in the process of growing and expanding, but the overwhelming response already leads some people to believe that it could be the next king of social media. With that in mind, we have put together a complete guide to tell you about the ins and outs of Google+.
Google’s big thing about Google+ is that they want to make sharing information very similar to how you would share information in real life. The video below gives a good overview of the services offered by Google+ with a heartwarming narration that sums up what Google is trying to accomplish.
In its current state, you have to be invited to join by someone who has a Google+ account. Once invited, you must have a Gmail account to sign up. Then you simply fill in your name and birthday and it will take you to your profile to set up.
The Google+ Profile is similar to its counterpart Facebook with a few differences. The features on the profile are tagline (a short description of yourself), employment, education, profile photo, introduction, bragging rights, occupation, places lived, relationship, looking for, other names, nickname, add links (to your Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn), search visibility and privacy settings. Many people have even compared the look of Google+ to be very similar to that of Facebook. In fact, you can actually make your Google+ look like Facebook with a CSS code.
The privacy settings (clip below) are one area where Google+ looks to really separate themselves from other social networking platforms by making them very simple to set and ensuring that you can easily choose which information is shared with who. In the settings you can allow people to email you from a link on your profile, and choose whether to make the link public, private or limited. You can also change your password, create a multiple account sign-in, delete your profile and delete your Google account.
There’s also a profile and privacy tab where you can adjust the visibility of every part of your profile, manage circles (which we will discuss later), change network visibility, adjust photo settings, visit Google Privacy Center, and view your profile as someone else would see it. It’s important to note that if you do decide to leave Google+ then you can take all of your data stored on the site with you including Stream posts, Profile data and photos. This feature is noticeably different from Facebook, which makes you stay to access such information.
Simply put, Circles, YouTube video below, make Google+ what it is. On Facebook, most users have a large number of “friends” that are all just jumbled into one category. On Google+ you can have an infinite amount of circles depending on how you want to divvy up your friends. For instance you can have a “best friends” circle, an “acquaintances” circle, a “family” circle, a “work” circle, etc. To add a friend to a specific circle you drag-and-drop them into that circle, and to delete a friend from a circle you drag-and-drop them out of a circle.
Down the road circles become very important because you use them to choose which information you share with whom. For instance, there may be some things on your Google+ account that you want your good friends to have access to that you wouldn’t necessarily want your family to see. While Facebook does allow you to limit your profile in certain ways, this is a much more effective method of organizing how your online life is disseminated to your friends. Learn more about exploring circles in this video:
The Google+ Stream is very similar to Facebook’s Newsfeed in that it displays information from your various friends including status updates and photos that are uploaded. The big difference is that there is much more of a filter on Google+, both in the information that you decide to share as well as the type of information that is displayed on your Stream. You can decide whether to share certain information with all of your followers or with certain circles. Moreover, you can choose which friends you want to see on your Stream based on circles.
The right side of the Stream is also much like Facebook. You can choose to activate Google Chat on your Google+ account, they suggests friends for you based on Google Contacts as well as friends of friends, you can manage circles and you can start a Google+ Hangout video chat.
In another attempt to take real-life connections and put them online, Google now has a way to have sporadic hang out sessions. In these video chats you can either invite people to “hang out” with or share a hangout with one of your circles of friends. There can be as many as 10 people in a hangout, and the main video switches based on who is talking. If you and your friends are into watching viral videos, then you can all watch a YouTube video at the same time as well. There is also a group text chat feature, allowing a number of friends to talk, much like a chat room. To explore more about hangouts, watch the below video.
As Google puts it in their video introducing Sparks, it’s a way to allow people to nerd out together. In a nutshell, Sparks allows you to find various content about your favorite activities, hobbies or interests. All you have to do is type in a topic and Sparks will deliver a number of articles and videos about that subject. Then you can share that content with various circles. For instance, if you were a big movie buff then you would look up “movies” and be able to read and/or watch different content about that. If you find something worth sharing, Sparks makes it easy to share it with a circle of other big movie buffs. More information on Sparks can be found here:
The photos section of Google+ runs much like Facebook’s, except it is a bit more fluid, there are more things you can do with the photos and the privacy settings are a lot easier to use. It basically runs like a slideshow, and the comments show up on the right side of the photos as opposed to the bottom. You can tag yourself or any of your friends in a photo, except people have to approve tags on each photo before they will actually be tagged. Perhaps the best feature of the photos section, however, is that it allows you to drag-and-drop photos from your browser into an album.
For all the photography buffs out there, Google+ also allows you to see what type of camera was used to take each picture. There is also a basic photo editor that allows you to cross process, auto contrast, use black-and-white effects, rotate and delete photos. As with all other content on the site, you can choose which circles you want to share your photos with to make sure that college party photos meant for your close friends are not viewable to people you know from work.
Google+'s mobile application (as illustrated above) is available on both Android and iPhone app stores. The mobile application has many of the same aspects as the web version including Stream, Photos, Profile, Circles and Notifications (which show you any activity from other people on your Google+ account). A really neat function of the mobile version, though, is Huddle, which is a group texting service. This allows multiple people to text each other at the same time that works well when trying to figure out plans among a big group of friends.
Currently, the Android app has one major function called Instant Upload that is not available on the iPhone. Instant Upload allows you to put photos that you take in a private album and lets you decide what to do with them whenever you choose. Once you sign online to your Google+ account, then you can choose which album to have them in permanently as well as which circles of friends you want to share them with.
More to Come
There are already so many things you can do with Google+, but according to them they are still nowhere close to having a finished product. According to Mashable, they are toying with having a Google+ for Businesses, which would allow businesses to have accounts much like Facebook has in the form of pages. There is also talk of games coming soon as well as a number of other features. Nevertheless, expect it to stay a bit more controlled than Facebook got after awhile as many people became overwhelmed with the amount of applications and pages that had taken over their profiles. One of the things that consistently came up as a positive about Google+ when compared to its rival is that it has a very clean interface right now without much of the clutter that tends to come with Facebook.