Google+ is the most exciting new social network to come around this decade, and the only product with a chance of challenging the monopolies we know as Facebook and Twitter. As an Internet addict, I’ve joined every major social network there is – from Friendster (who?) to MySpace (so ugly) to LinkedIn (yawn) to Twitter (irritating) and Facebook (annoying to manage). Competition is delicious, especially between well-financed monopolies. Google+ really seems to have identified an Achille’s heel or two. In my opinion, the product is good.The Google+ Insider’s Guide is a place to discuss and share your secrets, tips, and strategies for getting the most out of Google’s newest toy. We’ll go over the latest pro tips, cover the hottest members to add to your Circles, and dissect the latest features as they arrive.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, let’s get into the biggest differences between Google+ and other social networks.
Circles – Define Who Sees What
Google+ redefines privacy in the social network by forcing you to group everyone you want to connect with into Circles. It provides four default circles to get you started:
- Friends – your closest buddies who you share those drunk pictures with.
- Family – your parents and siblings and in-laws who you share pictures of the baby with.
- Acquaintances – your work buddies who you don’t want to know why you’re really skipping work today.
- Following – the public people you’re interested in, who probably don’t know you in real life.
You can then define your own circles or modify the existing ones to fit whatever grouping you need. For example, I’ve created one called “News”, where I follow the blowhard journalists who’ve gobbled up the early invites.
Hangouts – Live 10 Person Video Chat
The Hangout is the breakout feature for Google Plus. It lets you “hangout” with up to 10 people to watch YouTube videos, chat, or start a conference call. No other social networks have this feature yet, and having tried my first one, I’d have to say, it’s really awesome. A number of the Google+ team members have been hosting public hangouts to get feedback from early adopters. It makes the experience feel very personal and accessible. To get started, you’ll need to install the Google Voice and Video Plugin, available here.
Huddle – Group SMS – Without the SMS
Huddle is part of the Google Plus mobile application, and lets you do instant group messaging with your friends. Check out the screencast posted by +Timothy Jordan for a great walkthrough. FYI – the video is perfectly sized for watching on your phone.
Currently the iPhone mobile app is stuck in Apple review land, but iPhone users can still get Google+ via the Safari browser on their phones.
On your Android phone, you can instantly upload pictures from your phone’s camera. If you enable the feature, it’ll automatically send the pictures you take to a private folder where you can choose which ones to make public.
Sparks – Google Alerts, Stream-ified
This is by far the weakest new feature on Google+. It’s basically Google Alerts for whatever terms you defines, only without the “alert” part. Its intention is to give you topics to share from around the web to “spark” a discussion with those in your Circles, but so far, the selections are anything but interesting.
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