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Google+: The Newest Social Platform

Since launching a few months ago, there have been a lot of questions about what Google+ is, and if it’s worth using. The answer is, “yes.” Here’s a look at how to use this new social platform and be ready to reach out to your audience.

What is G+?

The simple answer: It’s Google’s answer to Facebook. On the surface, this statement is fairly accurate, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Google has taken all that is good about existing social networks and added some exciting new features of their own. Let’s take a look.

The +1 button.

On the surface, this is very similar to Facebook’s “like” button, but it carries far more weight. When you are logged into Google and +1 something you find on the web, your friends will be able to see it right in Google’s search results. By +1’ing something, it also increases a topic’s popularity thereby increasing the odds that it will appear in searches and sparks (we’ll get to sparks in a moment). Read some more about the new functions of the +1 button, here.

The Stream.

Or, the home page of your G+ profile, looks very similar to the Facebook news feed, but minus the clutter and advertisements. In other words, G+’s interface is very airy and open, making it very clean and easy to use.

Circles.

This is where your friends are and managing the company you keep has never been easier. Managing your friend lists, block lists, etc. is one of Facebook’s biggest pain points.  With G+, it’s easy. Simply find one of your friends in the list, or someone you may want to follow, and drag them to one of your circles. You can also add friends to multiple circles.

Don’t want someone in one of your circles? Just drag them out of it. While all of this is happening, there are little animations tucked away in G+ giving it a little more of a friendly attitude and life.

Circles help maintain the privacy of your postings. By creating circles, once you post, you can select which circles (essentially which people) see that post, making things a little more private and worry free. G+ is a sharing platform. Think of it this way: If G+ was a newspaper, you would be its star reporter. Create news and share it! If you don’t want certain people seeing something you post, don’t let them.

Sparks and Hangouts.

These are two great additions to the Google family. Sparks flow content you may be interested in, into a news feed. For example, say you are interested in graffiti, simply add the term “Graffiti” to your Spark list and you will start to see content related to graffiti. Share it with friends, +1 it for search! Hangouts are just what the title implies. It’s a hangout. You can video connect with multiple friends, or just chat with multiple friends all at once.

How does all this translate to marketing?

It’s hard to say. Google has denied marketers access to G+ thus far, saying there are plans to create business-specific pages. Could this be the start of something big? What if you had an awesome new campaign or product you wanted to get user feedback on? Host a hangout! There is some good news. Google recently allowed Ford to host a consumer hangout where they invited consumers to talk about all things Ford, and just to talk.

Sounds like just the beginning and something worth monitoring. Odds are these G+ business pages will encompass everything Google for your business, from analytics, to search, to hangouts and possibly Google shopping.

Now that G+ is open to everyone, it is picking up more and more speed. When the business platform is finally released, we are bound to see more greatness from Google. You can follow me at gplus.to/tommylincoln, or read a larger dissection of the Google+ interface and iPhone app at our digital and direct blog.