Originally thought to be the ultimate rival to Facebook, Google Plus + opened to an eager public looking for a viable alternative to the relatively few social media options.
In the few months since people began using Google Plus, it has acquired just as many detractors as it has fans. Critics cite the service as too closed off, serving only a niche audience.
But a recent and significant change may cause people to rethink their perceptions of the service. Google Plus has been open to the public since September 20th, meaning that people no longer need an invite from another user of Google Plus in order to start your own profile.
Now with the social networking service more accessible than ever, there’s no reason not to check it out.
Here’s a brief overview of what Google Plus offers to the blogger or web aficionado looking to extend their online influence.
Google Plus+ Features that Streamline your Networking Experience
By now you’ve heard about many of Google Plus features, but let’s go over them for those unfamiliar with the service.
Like any other social networking service, Google Plus allows you to make a profile using your personal information for reference, including your name, your hometown, where you work, etc.
Right from the beginning we encounter something that makes Google Plus stand out among its peers: you have to use your real name when you sign up with Google Plus; the service doesn’t allow for false names or pseudonyms. This is great from a networking perspective since you won’t have to wonder about the authenticity of someone’s profile. Everyone signed up with the service (in theory) is the genuine article.
One of the most innovative aspects is their “circles” feature. As you add friends, acquaintances, business contacts and so on to your list of contacts, you’ll find the need to mitigate the information you share on your profile.
Some information would be better suited to fellow bloggers interested in your coverage on a topic, while pictures from a family reunion would be best relegated to those closer to you.
The circles feature takes care of this information feature flawlessly. You simply put each contact into their relevant “circle” depending on their connection to you, and you may choose to share information with separate circles or the entirety of them.
You can choose to grow your relations differently depending on the circle; the feature essentially lets you network at your own pace across the social spectrum. The brilliance of the idea has been infectious: since the debut of the Google Plus circles, other major social media services have mysteriously added similar features to their own interfaces.
Integrate Google Plus+ into other Google Services
You’ll be at an advantage if you already have a Gmail account or if you’re familiar with other Google services like Google Reader, Google Maps, Google Calendar, and so on.
If you have a Gmail account, Google Plus will recommend contacts from that account to add to your list of contacts, giving you a base of connections to work with. Think of Google+ as the social networking arm of your Google services, utilizing every other resource the company has in order to ensure an optimal social networking experience.
You can easily search for new contacts on the Google+ interface by simply typing a name, subject, location, etc. into the search bar and sifting through the results for the person that may be interested in your information.
A Healthy Balance between Professional and Casually Social
As I see it, Google Plus stands somewhere between professional and casual extremes on the social networking spectrum. While it has the professional edge similar to business-minded social media sites like LinkedIn, there’s definitely a softer edge to the way Google+ allows you to interact with your peers.
And while the setting is more casual than the one offered on LinkedIn, it doesn’t anywhere approach the loose and fast pace of a place like Facebook. You won’t find your news feed cluttered with requests to play mini games involving farm animals, nor (if you utilize your circles correctly) will you be inundated with mindless status updates.
You can reach out to potential professional connections in one breath while posting about your new favorite band in the next, and the right people will see each post.
Google Plus, in other words, is the perfect social networking tool for the professional looking to expand their reach.
Blog post submitted by Alvina Lopez, freelance writer and blog junkie.