Have you heard of Google+?

If you haven’t, then you have now and I am sure you will hear it again and again.

Google+ is the latest offering by the search engine giant and brings them fully into the social media stable, competing with the social media sites you will be familiar with (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.). However, it is still in the last stages of testing and is invite only, so don’t be alarmed if you haven’t heard of it before.

It is for this very reason and for all the blank stares I have had recently when mentioning it in conversation, that I thought I would share what knowledge I have of it.

Circles
Facebook has friends which most people will be familiar with. The trouble is, how do you distinguish between different types of friend? In fact, friend isn’t even an appropriate word to use in a lot of cases. What if you want to post a status update to a subgroup of your friends? Sure you can create different lists and control what content they see, but it really is an all or nothing situation.

Google have got round this problem with social Circles. When you first sign up, you will see some standard Circles have already been created for you. These are Friends, Family, Acquaintances and Following. To add a contact to one or more circles, you just drag and drop the contact onto the Circle of choice.

Why is this any different to Facebook’s use of lists? Well, simply put pretty much everything you do in Google+ (including posting updates) can be controlled via your Circles. You can for instance post a message to your Friends Circle, or your Friends and Family Circles. You can select Extended Circles, which means updates go to contacts in your circles, plus their contacts if they are visible to you.

Hang Outs
Have you ever just wanted to hang out with your friends, but the pressures of modern life just keep getting in the way? Gone are the days when many of us could just up sticks and see people. Well, Hang Outs allow you to do that just that. You can effectively have a ten way video conference with people you know. Yes, ten different people can join in the same conference call all from the safety of their own home. All they need is a computer with a microphone and a web cam. Oh and if you are the loudest, your image takes centre stage. Skype had better watch out.

Sparks
Do you have a hobby or an interest that you want to read more about? Well, Sparks lets you choose different interests to read about. When you open Sparks, you will see articles relating to your interests. So there should never be a dull day with nothing to read. You can share your interests easily with others and see what interests other people have.

There is more to Google+ than the three things I have listed above. The ability to easily upload photos from your smartphone directly to your Google+ profile, or the ability to hold group chats on your mobile device for instance. Time will undoubtedly reveal the extent of the impact of Google+ on the social media playing field. From my perspective it looks very promising.

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