Several articles have appeared over the past week highlighting how Google+ is “dieing,” but maybe they’re looking at it through the wrong lens? What if Google+ never needed to be Facebook, but rather exist as something more?
So you’re on Google+, and you think it’s a ghost town because your friends aren’t on it? Well, what if I told you none of that mattered? What if I told you, you could see what you really wanted to see; interact with what/who you really wanted to interact with; and group those interests and engagements into categories and subjects? Well here’s five reasons how Google+ can make you forget that your friends aren’t here, while still being amazingly useful, interesting and engaging. It’s more than a social network.
1. The Search
Find People Who Share Your Interests
Use Google+’s search feature to find people you don’t know. Search for “Shared Circles” based off of your interests and add these small to large groups to fill your stream with engaging content. When you type in an interest – let’s say “photos” – click on the “best of” tab and see what photos are popular on Google+. If you agree, add these people or pages. Maximize this feature to see what’s being written about your search term from within Google+, as well as use it as a way to connect with interesting folks.
Also, use the search feature to maximize your own brand. This entire post is one big mix of keywords. No picking and choosing. Every word in the body of this blog is a searchable term in Google+. That’s hopefully how you’re reading and finding this post to begin with (original post). So for a place that’s attributed as a ghost town, I’ve seen more no-names get their message out here faster than anywhere else. All the other social media sites focus on building up followers and then your message. Google+ is the only site where your message can exist first, and then users follow you based off of the quality and relevance of your content. This way, people follow the message, not the herd.
2. The Circles
Group Into Categories
Most people coming from Facebook would view this option as a way of segregating your posts, but I’m here to say that you have it backwards. Separate your circles based off of interests. For instance, I have a Tech, Photographer, Google, Celebrity and News circles to name a few. Make sure that there are no repeat offenders, meaning you don’t have too many in multiple circles. This will help segregate your interests. Don’t be afraid to follow people you don’t know; add a shared circle based off of your interests; or use Google+’s search feature to find people.
So when you segregate, if you want to just see photos, you click on your photographer circle; if you want to just read tech news, you click on your tech circle, etc. In the meantime, here are five Shared Circles, containing five different groups of people/pages you should add. They’ll help jump start your stream, and actually produce content you might really want to see.
3. The Stream
Control What You See
Unlike the Facebook News Feed or Twitter Feed, in Google+ you have the ability to control what content from your circles is seen in your main stream. How does this work? By using a volume control on each circle. From here, you can decide the volume of each circle and how it gets produced within your main stream. This could range from everything to nothing.
Do not underestimate the importance of the “nothing” option. To offer some more perspective on this, I have an NBA circle containing all 30 teams. Now for me, it’s not necessary to really see anything in my overall stream regarding NBA team news, but I might at some point. So by moving the slider all the way to the left I can avoid NBA news from clogging my main stream, but view everything if I click on the specific circle. This is incredibly helpful if you’re following a lot of people and pages. Sometimes I feel hindered from following several people on Twitter, because I’m worried about the content I really want getting diluted because of the sheer volume of people I’m following. Thanks to Google+, they resolve this dilemma.
4. The Hangout
Here’s a benefit that is pretty self explanatory. Hangout with 9 additional people in a video chat from 10 separate computers or devices. What makes this feature great are the sharing options. Screen sharing and YouTube group video watching have made it to the standard Hangout feature, but “Hangout with extras” offers you the ability to share documents as well. So not only is this feature a great way to connect, but you can also develop it as a presentation/productivity tool.
5. The Sparks
Expand Your Knowledge
For anyone who uses Google Alerts, this is a great way to unclog your Gmail inbox and migrate this feature over to Google+. Most people who use Google+ regularly may not even know what this feature is, but it’s a great tool to see what’s going on outside of the Google+ ecosystem or within it.
So what is a Google+ Spark? Essentially it’s a keyword search, with any search criteria you enter into Google+’s search box possessing the ability to be saved. When it’s saved, it loads this phrase/keyword in a list under your circles list on your stream tab. You can save the search criteria as “everything, people and pages, Google+ posts, Sparks or Hangouts.”
By saving a search to just view “Sparks,” you create a stream of recent News Articles about your search term. So like Google Alerts, if you set up a Spark regarding Android, you could pool search results regarding recent content on the web about Android, find out if there is breaking news, or see what new products have been released. Extremely helpful to stay on top of things you’re interested in.
So view Google+ as a way to interact with your interests, and eventually your friends. Don’t be discouraged if your friends haven’t made the journey yet – they’ll get there. For now, take advantage of the obvious benefits that only exist here, legitimately interact with great thought leaders, and forget about your friends – Google+ isn’t going anywhere.