Google+ Facts & FAQs: A Google Plus Cheat Sheet

This post was originally published on Lalawag

Given all the media hype surrounding Google+ lately, the ‘+’ might as well stand for the addition of countless new stories on the social service to the pages of tech blogs across the interwebs. Or, if you believe said hype, the addition of a third major contender to the social web playing field currently dominated by Twitter and Facebook. Of course, hype is all well and good, but Google’s history with social doesn’t exactly bode well for the mass adoption and worldwide domination of  Google+.

That said, Google has had a lot of chances to get this right, and it’s entirely possible that this time they succeeded. Thus far, what I’ve seen of Google+ does support the latter. But, unless your core demo is full of early adopters, I wouldn’t start ripping up your website to make room for tons of Google+ code just yet. I would however recommend reading up on the subject. And, to save you from wading through the sea of stories about the service, I’ve made a little cheat sheet of the most pertinent, pressing facts. So, you’ll know what you’re talking about when the topic comes up at a conference or cocktail hour, without wasting a ton of time that would be much better spent watching the new documentary from that “The Rent Is Too Damn High” guy.

What Is Google Plus?

In a very dumbed-down nutshell, it’s a service that attempts to unify searching,  browsing and sharing, and give you more control over who you share what with. The project, led by Vic Gundotra, allows you to easily create ‘circles’ of friends unified by a common theme or interest, like ‘family’, ‘co-workers’ or ‘college buddies.’ You can then share targeted videos, pics and links with those people, get algorithmic content recommendations called ‘sparks’ and plan ‘Hangouts’, which are group video chats.  There’s also a mobile component with a very cool auto-upload feature that means any time you take a photo or shoot video on your phone via Google+, the media will automatically get uploaded to your computer.

How Do You Use It?

Go to https://plus.google.com/welcome for an overview of the features. As of right now, you need an invite to use it, which you may be able to get from a social media savvy friend or acquaintance. Or, you can sit tight for the alleged July 31 public launch date.

Why Should You Care?

Purely from a practical perspective, if you have a private Google profile, you should know that Google plans to delete all non-public profiles on July 31 as part of their continued effort to encourage social sharing across the web.

If you’re a site owner, marketer or other interested webbie, you should also know that Google is now using the +1 button — another piece of the Google+ puzzle — as a factor when determining search rankings. Although, there is still no clear evidence of how much of a factor it is. You should also know that the +1 button, like Google+ is only relevant to those users who have Gmail accounts. Without a Google account, there’s no way to access Google+ or the +1 button. So, depending on your user base, that might make them both a less pressing concern for you.

And, if you just like checking out cool stuff on the interwebs, then you probably don’t need me to tell you why you should care. But if you do, feel free to add me to one of your circles and we can chat about it.

What Are The Pundits Saying?

TechCrunch’s MG Siegler said “From the little that I’ve seen so far, Google+ is by far the best effort in social that Google has put out there yet. But traction will be contingent upon everyone convincing their contacts to regularly use it. Even for something with the scale of Google, that’s not the easiest thing in the world — as we’ve seen with Wave and Buzz. There will need to be compelling reasons to share on Google+ instead of Facebook and/or Twitter — or, at the very least, along with all of those other networks. The toolbar and interesting communication tools are the most compelling reasons right now, but there will need to be more of them. And fast.”

Mashable’s Ben Parr said “Google+ is a bold and dramatic attempt at social. There’s a reason why Google calls this a “project” rather than a “product” — they don’t want people to think of this as the final product, but as a constantly-evolving entity that permeates every corner of the Google empire[…]If Google can persuade users to come back every day, it has a winner. But the company will have to do even more to provide a truly compelling alternative to Facebook. At the moment, Google+ cannot compete with the king of social, but Google doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to take on Mark Zuckerberg’s giant quite yet.”

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