Using Google+

Phil Bradley on why information professionals should be adding Google+ to their social media portfolio.

Google has been both poor and late to the social networking scene, with the failed attempts of Google Wave and Google Buzz behind them. Now however we’re finally seeing Google+ or if you prefer Google Plus - starting to take off. It’s the second largest social networking site in the world, having surpassed Twitter in January of this year, although that’s based on signup numbers. It actually has approximately 359 million active users worldwide. I’m finding it a useful tool; it’s not replacing Facebook or Twitter – it’s doing something rather different.

You’ll be familiar with the concept – if you have a Google account at the moment (including a YouTube or Gmail account) you can jump right in – just click on the +Your_Name option to the left in the black search bar at the top of Google screens. If you haven’t got an account yet, just click on 'Sign up' on Google screens. You can search for people, subjects, places and so on, and you can add people to your G+ account by putting them in 'Circles', which you make up yourself.  People can then decide if they want to follow you back (or block you of course!) but if they don’t follow back you’ll only see what they make available publically or in communities (more of which in a moment.) In turn, you can post status updates to individuals or circles. Short, Twitter like updates or longer entries similar to blog posts, G+ is happy with anything.

There are a lot of 'communities' available, which are similar to Facebook groups, and there are thousands of them – I can pretty much guarantee that whatever interests you either professionally or personally there will be groups that cover it. For example, I have created a UK Library Community at and one on Internet Search at which you’re welcome to join. There are also several other library/librarian based communities available as well which you can find by searching for communities using whichever keywords appeal to you. I generally find that the conversations that I have in G+ communities are more interesting and indepth than those that I’ve found on Facebook – I certainly get better links to other resources but as always your mileage may vary. Of course if you don’t find what you like, you can always create your own community – it’s a very quick and simple process.

Another key reason to take a look at G+ is the 'Hangout' facility, which is their chat option. You can simply 'hangout' yourself, and anyone that is connected to you can open a chat window; you can have a total of 10 (including you) in a chat room, and you can monitor and control them without any fuss. You can also have a hangout with people in any of the communities that you have joined, so it’s an easy way to get a group of people together. There are options to share your screen, so it’s a great way to run a quick tutorial session for example, and there are other things that you can do – read bedtime storybooks to children, let someone fix your computer at a distance and so on.

G+ isn’t a perfect system, but I think that it’s a good one. If you tried it a while ago and were not inspired, I’d encourage you to take another look. If you’re still wondering about it, I’d suggest giving it a try; who knows, you might like it!

Phil Bradley is an information specialist and well known Internet consultant. He runs courses on various aspects of the Internet, is a webpage writer and designer, is the author of several books about the Internet and speaks on various Internet related subjects at conferences.

Image courtesy of ivanpw via Flickr.