Google+ is the next big social network to be thrown our way. It has a lot of potential and is similar enough those we already know to be useable, but has some subtle and cunning differences!

I’ll apologise in advance for all of the in-the-know phrases I’ll be using- every social network has its own lexicon: ‘like’, ‘follow’, ‘friend request’, etc. I’ll have to assume you know a wee bit about ‘likes’, et al, as it’ll be a pretty long-winded article without these terms!

The Layout

It’s laid out in a very similar way to Facebook, which most will be familiar with, so it feels very natural to navigate. Good start.

You’ve got all of the usual things, like the main page with the newsfeed (‘Stream’), a photos page, your profile page and your friends (‘Circles’).

Filters and Circles

The first place where it makes Facebook feel a bit clunky is in the Stream. There are filters down the left that you can apply to see posts from the Circles you want to see. Very slick.

The circles themselves look lovely– your list of friends sits at the top and the circles underneath. Drag a friend and drop them in a circle, or create a new circle for that person. You can delete people from a circle, add them to multiple circles or move them from one to another. All satisfyingly animated!

This is also where a bit of Twitter comes in- you can follow someone’s feed without actually being followed back. This is also a bit like Facebook’s ‘Pages’, but with the potential to be ‘liked’ back.

Back to the the stream, and whenever you write a post, be it a link, text (status update), photo, video, etc., you are given the option to decide which circles to share it with. Every tweet you post on Twitter is public. Facebook is very complicated indeed- you have to go to a settings page and edit your privacy settings. And what’s more, they keep changing the goal posts. What Google+ does is gives you the opportunity, with every post, to decide who it should be seen by- all circles, particular circles, individuals only, extended circles (friends of friends), public, and so on. This means your boss will never see that post about you being in bed hung-over after a great night out, when you’ve called in sick to work!

Hangouts

You can have a video conference with anyone you want- Skype will bells on! You create a ‘Hangout’ where you’re online and open yourself up to whichever circles you choose. A bit like Facebook’s Chat feature but actually chatting! It’s open to multiple chatters, so it’s not just one to one! Skype demands you buy an upgraded account to take advantage of this feature!

Incidentally, Google+ also has a straightforward, text-based chat feature too.

Sparks

Sparks are loosely like Facebook’s ‘Likes’- you’re not limited to profiles and pages people have created- the whole web is available to list in your Sparks! When you add a Spark, you’ll be fed news related to this whenever it’s available! You can type something into the Sparks search bar and Share any of the results you find interesting on your Stream.

A Bit More Open

It allows you to share content with people who aren’t on Google+, via their email address. This is not only a good thing for people you want to keep in the loop who aren’t members, but a good way of Google getting extra coverage and potentially more members.

Exclusive!

Google+ was very hush-hush at the beginning. There was a strangely convoluted loophole where you could invite people to join, but it was unreliable, took ages to get through, and even when your invitee did get the invite, the system was almost always over it’s join-limit! It’s now a bit better and the invites are official, via a button, but it’s still not open to the general public.

This has generated a bit of a buzz around it, which has been a great way of marketing their product!

Watch out Facebook!

Google+ is easier to use, more flexible, more user friendly, more inclusive and prettier than its main rival, Facebook. Only time will tell whether it overtakes Facebook in popularity, but there have been reports that in recent months Facebook has not grown for the first time in its history, so maybe its time for something new!

If you would like an invite, I’d be happy to send you one- send me a quick message and be sure to include your email address- that’s how I’ll request you!