Despite my great admiration for Google products, I was a little trepidacious about throwing myself (and my time) into creating a new social network. I already maintain three mainstream social networks (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) and then spend time on several others just to maintain a sense of what's new and evolving in the social media space. That's what my clients expect, so I make the effort.
However, it's my life and my time. So, I truly do draw the line when it comes to creating a whole new network. Since I was already using Google's ubiquitous email product (G-Mail), and also dabble in Google Docs, use the Google Reader and Google calendar, I decided to click the "Claire +" button on my Gmail dashboard. See, they sucked me in right away by personalizing that little button. Instead of reviewing every single feature, I thought I would share a few of my favorites.
The "Feed": The "feed" or stream looks just like the Facebook feed we're all used to. One really cool difference I noticed right away: You can "edit" your feed post after you post, unlike Facebook, where you have to delete your post and re-post if you make an error. (If you have clumsy fingers like mine, that is OFTEN!) And as a PR professional who is judged my typos, I appreciate the ability to correct my mistakes.
Easier Photos: my biggest frustration with Facebook has been the difficulty in uploading photographs. Maybe it's just me, but unless you're using iPhoto or Flickr to upload, Facebook has never made it easy. In Google Plus, you can upload from your computer in the regular way, but you can also "drag and drop," which is very slick. It only took me a few seconds to upload 20 of my favorite photos to an album and adding labels is easier, too. Don't even get me started on sharing photos on Twitter. It's an arduous process unless you're using a mobile app.
Circles: Google+ makes it easy to create different circles of people within your network. This feature allows you to easily drag and drop people into circles and also to control which post your latest post goes to. Facebooks "groups" feature is so clunky and unintuitive that I don't know many people who use it. Plus, it was an add-on, so many people already had 500+ friends by the time it was ready. Google+ was smart to make it part of their set of introductory features.
Google's transparency Here is a great G+ site that discusses the features in detail and includes video of how they work. I trust Google a bit more than Facebook. Maybe it's Zuckerberg's shifty eyes.
Sparks: Dumb name, great concept. If you're wondering how you'll ever find people to follow (the quintessenial question on Twitter), sparks provides a window into Google + that is a lot easier to use than searching Facebook for thought leaders on certain subjects. Plus, you can follow someone without their permission, unless they decide to block you (kind of like Twitter). Facebook's search does not seem to be very intuitive to me, plus, you can't just lurk on someone. You have to be friends to see their feed.
Hangouts: Here's an easy way to introduce newbies to the nuances of video chat. There are still a lot of people who don't know how to do video chat on their own. Being on Google + gives you a simple way to chat with friends. The first time you use it, give yourself a little time to download the plugins you'll need. Here's a picture of what your screen will look like when you're chatting. My good buddy Josh (one of the founders of VineMe) and I had a chat this morning. Don't laugh at my hair. It's humid, so gimme a break.
The "Achilles Heel" of Google +: So far, Google + is off to a great start, with 20 million users. But early reports suggest that even though many early adopters and internet glitterati are using it, people are not coming back to log on every day like they do with Facebook. Therein lies the problem. You can share on G+ all day, but is anyone paying attention? I think this question will remain unanswered until G+ gains critical mass like Facebook and Twitter. So I guess we'll have to wait and see.