Google+ publicly launches – how it works

Add another social media platform to the mix. Google+ is now open to the public, after testing for months on an invitation basis. The site still cautions users that it’s in Beta mode which means features are still in development.

I played around with the site for awhile tonight, and found it easy to use. The biggest obstacle is finding people you know who are on the site. In the setup, it offers to find people from your address book. This is common for most social sites, and I never do it. The privacy advocate in me kicks in and cautions me against it.

There is a “find friends” section which Google+ says is it’s best guess at who I might know and want to add to a circle, but I can’t get it to work. It keeps defaulting back to the circle of people I’ve already added, and prompts me to add my email contact list which I’m not doing for now.

There are a bunch of unofficial directories to find people to follow. They’re interesting, but not full of thousands of people as the options are still a bit limited until more people join.

Targeted posts
When you find someone you know on Google+, you add them to a circle. You can create and name the circle or you can use the defaults like friends, family acquaintances, etc. That way, you can decide post by post who sees what you’re posting or sharing. The idea is to prevent your boss from seeing something you’d only tell your close friends.

That’s why it’s essential you group and re-group your friends. It’s a simple drag and drop process. When you add someone to your circle, Google+ says you share information with they and you can see what they’re sharing with you, they’ll be notified that you added them to a circle  and they’ll be given the opportunity to do the same. However, Google+ says the person you added to your circle will never know which circle you added them to. In other words, if you add your boss only to your work circle, they won’t know that even though only posts you approve for the work crowd will appear in their stream aka “feed.”

You can add people to your circle without them accepting your request. It’s like a fan page on Facebook. They can like you, and you don’t have to approve the like or in this case the circle add. That doesn’t mean you can view their profile.

There appear to be public and private profiles. Sometimes, I can instantly see all the posts for an individual and other times I get the message, “X hasn’t shared anything with you. People are more likely to share with you if you add them to your circles.”

You can still click on that person’s profile and see which “people” (note: not friends) you have in common, the people that person has in circles, and the people who have that person in circles if they made those designations public. It doesn’t automatically show people who have you in circles. You have to add that option, so you are given some privacy.

Just like on Twitter, I’m finding people for now by searching who other people are following or including in their circles. For now, I’m not sharing my email Inbox.

Facebook similarities
This weekend, Facebook changed my news feed and removed “most recent” option. My feed was split in two, and only the top stories were shown in my main news feed. I heard from lots of readers, and of all the people who commented not one left positive feedback about the change. Just as quickly as Facebook changed my feed, they changed it back. The same situation played out with a few of my friends.

During this brief two-day test, I noticed the pictures my friends posted were much bigger. It now makes sense. They resemble the pictures from Google+.

Custom options
With Google+, there’s a lot of custom options. You can prevent someone else from re-posting what you shared or you can prevent them from commenting on it. I’m not sure why you would do this, unless you post something crazy, but it’s an option.

Privacy options are also easy to follow. They seem pretty simple for now.

You can also filter your stream or news feed based on the circles you’ve designated. If  you’re only interested in news from your friends you can see it clearly without browsing through a lot of posts from your family that don’t interest you at the time.

Lots of Google features under one umbrella
Google+ is really much more than a social platform. It has many features that make it an all in one platform. The top toolbar also links all your Google accounts like mail, calendar, documents, photos, and reader. I clicked right on reader, and without having to log in, my account pulled up.

You can also search words in Google+ and find people who have posted news stories or just simply a post with a certain keyword. It’s a great way to find news on a subject that interests you. That is a great search tool for finding news or information you may have missed whether it was posted on Google+ or not. It pulls information from the web as well.

The company is also very aware of the privacy issues in the digital world. I’ve done stories about your digital footprint that’s left behind when you search for something online. Your searches are tracked which is why you may see an ad for a specific brand of shoes after you searched for that brand in any search engine.

You can avoid this type of marketing by browsing privately or deleting your cookies. The cookies are the digital footprint you leave behind. With Google+, there is an option during startup that asks if you want to allow personalized ads. This checkbox clearly gets to the heart of the debate over digital privacy.

Overall impressions
A lot of people don’t seem to be posting as frequently as they do on other sites, and some have noted that it’s not the competitor’s site just yet. Most people I added to my friend circle have 100 friends or less.

I’ve only highlighted a few of the features. There are many more like “Hangouts” or a “Huddle.”  They’re both easy ways to catch up with multiple people online or on the phone.

While it’s a new venture, who thought a few years ago that MySpace would disappear as a major player and Facebook would take it’s place? Who knows what the future holds. It’s clear there is a new player in town. It will be interesting to wait and see if it takes off.

What do you like or dislike about Google+? Do you think you’ll make the switch or are you already inundated with social media? Click “comment” below.

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  1. Pingback: Facebook changes news feed – what these changes mean | Jenn Strathman

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