I am a pretty huge Google Plus fan, even though almost none of the people I am connect with on Facebook are using it. Most of the active users in my circles are professional connections or other bloggers and I seriously consider that a damned shame considering how awesome Google Plus is. In this post, I’ll go over some of the features Google Plus offers that make it obliterate anything Facebook offers.
The good news is that Google+ is growing rapidly in 2014 after three years of very disappointing growth numbers. The joke of it being a ghost town is becoming more and more an exaggeration each month. I think a big part of that shift is due to several major functionality releases from 2013, most of those are actually on my list here for why Google+ is awesome. The numbers paint an interesting story too.
People are resistant to change, however, so getting them to switch is going to be like convincing someone to vote Libertarian over Democrat or Republican. But hey, a guy’s got to try…
The Feed. This is my favorite aspect of Google+. First, as you set people up in your circles (mine range from family and friends to Broncos and professional circles), Google will allow you to check specific streams from those circles. So up in the navigation bar of your default location, you will see your circles in order to filter Google+ posts accordingly. I can quickly check up on family – which so far no one uses – or switch to some of the more active circles for cool post updates.
What sets the feed completely apart from Facebook is that under the “All” feed section, you can see all of the posts from all of your circles with one caveat. The caveat is that Google pays attention to the hashtags and topics you have posted on your own profile and through its powerful algorithm puts popular posts from people outside of your circles related to those topics. I have connected with so many new people interested in the same things I am interested in and shared content and discussions with on a regular basis. It is a fantastic way to ensure you stay well connected to your interests, hobbies and news related to your profession.
Within the Google Plus feed, you will also find suggestions to people you may know much like Facebook, but you will also get suggestions for pages and communities its algorithm has determined may interest you.
Photo Editing/Sharing. You will not find a better photo sharing service than what Google provides via this social network. Period. In fact, you won’t find many paid software programs that can achieve what Google has created at zero cost to you. I am not exaggerating either. Here are some of the key features of their platform:
- Automatic Photo/Video Backups: Google Drive, via your Google Plus profile, will automatically back up all of your as you take them – at full size and resolution. You get the first 15GB of space for free, but then its only $1.99/m to up it to 100GB. I have utilized this service to backup my entire hard drive of photos and video taken over the years. You can’t get much more protected from a hard drive crash than having all of your most precious photos on the cloud. The best part of this service is that these files are private unless you specifically indicate they are to be shared on your Google+ profile.
- Auto Awesome: Whenever you upload a photo to your profile, Google also provides a function called “Auto Awesome” and with a name like that it better be pretty awesome. And it is. These set of tools enables you to easily combine a series of photos into one shot to background erasing or people erasing to a video editing tool that help you make a mini-movie out of many different video and photo files. The video tool also allows integration of music. I mean, this is stuff you get from a typical professional multimedia software program for hundreds of dollars.
- Intuitive Search Abilities: How many of us forget to add a description to every single photo we upload? I’m guessing most of us, however, Google’s got the infrastructure of the most complex search algorithm on the planet. That algorithm can now index photos based on “object recognition”, so if you have a photo you uploaded that had something like a lake or house or dog then you could search your photos for one of those objects and Google would return all of the photos it could “see” that object within it. Eat your heart out Mark Zuckerburg.
Animated GIF’s. I freaking love animated GIF’s and I hate that Facebook doesn’t support them. Some of the best responses to posts are snarky GIF memes. I want to GIF meme dammit! With Google Plus, I can do it all day long. In fact, here is one of my favorites that I use anytime someone says something utterly stupid or confusing. Get with the program, Facebook.
Google Hangouts. If you have ever used Skype for anything, then you probably need to switch to Google Hangouts. Skype can be buggy as hell, while Google Hangouts is mostly stable. I personally use this program to meet with my entrepreneurial masterminds group, where we can bounce ideas off each other and discuss our SaaS application development. I also meet with my partners who are building those SaaS applications. It saves time and allows us to meet from the comfort of our own homes, rather than meeting at a Starbucks or at each others homes.
As a blogger, we’ve also had massive group discussions between Denver Broncos fans and some of the star players on the Broncos roster last year. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Composing a Google Plus Post
Well, I have covered all of my favorite aspects of Google Plus, but how does one post to it? It is far more advanced than the crap Facebook has, so I’ll go over the different nuances here. I am mostly summarizing an in depth post on this subject from CopyBlogger.com. It’s definitely worth the read if you are very intrigued by this subject.
The biggest difference in my mind, is how you have the ability to format your Google Plus post. If you are a blogger, this is huge as it gives you an additional way for Google’s search algorithm to associate your content with your topic, thus increasing your chance of getting search traffic for that particular blog post. Formatting takes a little practice, since its not contained within a WYSIWYG editor and it is certainly limited – however, Facebook has none of this.
- BOLD: You can bold your headline text by placing an asterisk(*) at the beginning and end of the headline sentence or title. This one’s easy.
- ITALICS: This one is a little annoying to use, because it requires you to get over the weirdness of how it looks before publishing. You must place an underscore(_) on either side of the word or phrase you want to italicize.
- STRIKEOUT: I’ve never used this one personally, but if you ever have a need you can do it easily enough by putting a hyphen(-) around the word or phrase you need struck.
- BULLET POINTS: If you want to add a bullet list like this one here then you would need to put each bullet point on a new line by hitting the space bar and then a hyphen(-) before listing the item. A new line is necessary for each bullet point. Clunky, but effective.
The next part of putting together an awesome post is hashtagging. Google will try to auto hashtag your post if it finds popular topics within the text you wrote up, but I’ve always preferred to make sure the topics the post covers are all listed out in hashtags as well. Hashtagging is simple, you just put a pound sign(#) before the word like so: #Broncos
Hashtagging is great for reaching audiences outside of your circles, but there are more ways to reach bigger audiences as well and that is through the @ symbol. If you have a topic related to a famous person, a friend or organization, then the @ symbol works much the same way it does on Facebook.
You can see from my most recent share from this blog on Google Plus that I followed some of my advice here. My point is that you do not have to compose every single post using all of these features, but its good to know they exist. Many of my posts are just videos or GIFs or just a regular share like I would do on Facebook. I just have more functionality to make my Google Plus posts awesome.
Google Plus is not Facebook
It’s better than Facebook. People just don’t know it. Like I said at the beginning, people are resistant to change and I seriously doubt Google+ will overtake Facebook as the most used social media network on the planet any time soon. However, for those of us who are sick and tired of the same old Facebook junk, Google has provided a unique experience that provides so much more functionality to those who love technology and are intuitive to their unique design style. I personally cannot recommend Google Plus enough to people.