Google +1 me

I want Google+ but what do I do with it?

Did you try to get in with the latest phenomenon sweeping social media and then found you couldn't get into it?

Did you manage to get in and then didn't have a clue what to do with it?

Well if you answered 'Yes' to either of these questions, you aren't alone.  Seems that everyone is jumping onto it without realising what it can actually do.  I asked a few people why are you you interested in Google+:

"Well it's free, right?" and "everyone is doing it, right?" and "it's by Google, so it has to be good?"

Well can't argue with those statements, so tell me what do you do with it then?

I'm just teasing, remember the days of MySpace and then all of sudden we had Facebook, didn't nearly everyone move over because MySpace had become just a virtual spare room, the kind you can't open the door to because so much has been dumped there and it's practically spilling its guts onto your newly hoovered landing.  Oh well I guess the Facebook spare room has been heading in the same direction for sometime so now we have a brand new room in the form of Google +.  I have to admit it does look clean and tidy, but then if I create a new Facebook account it looks the same because I'm not connected to anyone yet.

Before I signed up to Google + I took a look at what it could do for me, what was the point of signing up to yet another platform for social media sharing.  We all know that if you don't spend your life and sell your soul to the devil, sorry a sensible amount of time, putting the effort into these things then they just fall by the wayside.  Anything that involves followers unless you're the kind that only has an account to store photo's and connect with your mum and sister, well I think maybe Facebook is always going to be the better option for you.

So what exactly is Google + all about?

Firstly, lets remember that it's not fully complete yet, I have a message on my wall that tells me categorically I am part of a small group (namely 10 million or so give or take a few 100 people, I did just pull that number out of a hat - so don't quote me) helping to test it.  So if you couldn't get on to it, don't panic, just find someone that is and they can invite you.

But WAIT!!! Before you go rushing off, there’s still a % of people that won’t be able to join in just yet.  The message from Google:

“When you share something with people who are not yet able to use Google+, they will receive it via email but won't be able to comment or engage with the content like other Google+ users. They'll be able to join Google+ as we let more users in over time.”

So do you want to know what it's about?

Well Google+ is a social sharing tool combined with communications it has taken some of the key features from Facebook, thrown in a bit of Twitter, enabled some additional functionality that you would get with Flickr/photobucket and then thrown a bit of Skype on top. Yes there’s some other stuff in there but you have to bear with me right now I’m still learning too.

The one benefit that I see is, with Google’s other products such as Gmail, Picasa, Google Maps, you can start to see it coming together.  I already can get from my Google+ to my Google mail by the toolbar that runs at the top of my screen.

Being able to drop my thoughts, my blogs, share my photo’s, video chat and combined with being able to share all my latest web crazes and fads at the click of a button really does appeal to me.
So this is what the Google+ main page looks like:

I hear you “Oooohhhhh   it’s pretty!!” 

Do you like?

I see you nodding - do you still know what to do with it?

No! Ah well I’ll get to the point then.

When you start to set up your Google+ profile, it is fairly intuitive and it does walk you through what you need to do, it even suggests people who you may wish to connect with.

I’m not going to talk about how you create your profile, upload your photo, etc.. just what you can do with Google+.  So what are all these things?

This bit here is my stream, and the radio buttons to the left are my 'Circles'.

Everything you do in Google+ will be based around your stream, if you think about what happens when you receive information and updates through Facebook, Twitter, etc, its pretty much the same.  Your stream is your news feed, the part which is constantly updated with information every time someone including yourself posts something.   You have a text box to type messages and you can respond or comment on the items that appear on your stream. 

Those radio buttons underneath my profile picture are how I have defined each one of my Google + contacts.  Why?

Well a nifty little feature of Google + is Circles.  Circles enable you to put your friends, family, work colleagues, stalkee’s, hobbyists into their own specific groups so when you share information or want to view information you can choose which bits you want to share and see.  Why would you do this?  Well when you’re having conversations or sharing photos with your friends you aren’t always going to want your Mum or Gran to see or hear the same thing you just revealed to your best mates.  In the same way as you might want to share some of the latest train spotting hot spots without letting work know that you are in fact a closet train spotter.  

If you look at my stream circles, I specifically have one for blogging, I keep all my blogging friends and hot blog contacts in this circle but there a few (and you guys know who you are) that I have also put into my Avoid like the plague, (Tee he he no seriously) Friends and Family circle. I may want to see and share the blogging stuff but you guys are family so I need you in there too.  Do you get the idea?

Adding and setting up your circles is easy as pie, on the main page of google, you just go here:

Once there you get the choice to view people in your circles, Google will automatically suggest people you might like to add, that’s what all those faces in boxes are or you can find your friends, either through your contact list in Yahoo, Hotmail, by uploading an address book you exported to your hard drive or by the good old fashioned way of typing in their email and inviting them to join you.  From this page you can drag and drop each of your contacts into the right circle for you.  If you don’t want circles then don’t create them but I do think they are a great idea.

So that’s circles’s.  What are you thinking so far?  Do you like it or are you thinking you’ll stick with Facebook, etc.?

So what else is there? Well there’s Hangouts!

“ooh Hangouts, how do I get me one of them? What does it do again?”

Hangouts are the super cool group chat feature, now if you’re an avid Skype-r you will know that you can group chat.  I haven’t tried this feature on Google + yet but it does allow you to group chat with up to 10 people.  I guess it could get a little confusing if you’re all trying to talk at the same time but for large families or friends based all over the world or country it means that you are one step closer to having that virtual Christmas dinner without having to face uncle Jim’s reindeer pullover one more time.  I use the Skype version for friends in the states and family in Australia so it works pretty well for me, being able to combine my stream and my group video Hangout is making Google + really work for me.

If you don’t like the idea of video chatting, Google + also has Huddles for Group chat, it’s instant messaging for more than one person.  Again great if you are trying to arrange something with a group or even just to catch up and reminisce.  It’s all starting to come together, can you see why I quite like it?

So these are just a few of the features that I’m starting to see, one of the other cool things I like about Google + is my ability to share information with the click of a button but I already said that.  There’s another, Oh yes!!! another, Google has included in Google + Sparks.

Sparks is a way of finding information that is only of interest to you, click in the search box or click on an item and once you see the results you will see there’s an ADD INTEREST button.

Sparks will then keep you informed of any upcoming news, tips, etc..  It’s a way of filtering the types of information that only you want to see and it gives you the option to then share it with your friends.
Which is where I come to the last little tit bit of information.   I know there’s loads of stuff I could still be going on with but at this time the only other thing I’m going to share with you is the Google + 1 button.

Wherever you go over the web if you see this button, this means you can share it instantly just by clicking the button.  Yes we all use at some point the Facebook like seal of approval, we tweet, we stumble and so on but don’t forget you aren’t just flooding your wall with everything you like, you can use the circles to say who gets to see it or whether everyone gets too see it.  If you have a website or a blog and haven’t got a button, I would highly recommend getting one.
So that’s it from me, it’s been a pretty long post and I can safely say the longest one I’ve ever posted.  I hope  you got something from it.  If you have any further questions, well I’m not an expert but I may be able to help answer them or at least +1 it to you if you’re on Google+.
Until next time .