Summing Up Google+

How does new social platform stack up versus other tools?
By Tom Flanagan
Tuesday, July 12, 2011.

Google’s new social platform, Google+, launched June 28. The service started as invitation-only and with little to no marketing efforts, Google was forced to shut off the invitation mechanism due to the large volume of requests.

I’ve been following the conversations regarding the new application and it’s been interesting listening to both the positive and negative feedback. Kristen Burnham, of the Web 2.0 Advisor blog at, declared that “Users don’t want another social network, what they want is a better social network.”

On the flip side, I was surprised to learn that Kevin Rose, entrepreneur and co-founder of Digg, decided to forward his blog’s domain name to his Google+ profile.

After numerous failed attempts in social media (Google Wave, Buzz and Dodgeball), there is a lot at stake for Google with this new platform. As Inman News columnist Gahlord Dewald stated in “Google +1: a social solution for the search giant?” there are many things Google isn’t good at. Most of them involve social things.

1. Circles

Google+ is based on a “circle” analogy, and this is where Google’s philosophy on sharing differs from Facebook. As stated in the interactive demo, “Circles makes it easy to put your friends from Saturday night in one circle, your parents in another, and your boss in a circle by himself — just like real life.”

Unlike Facebook, where a user broadcasts updates to a large audience, Google+ allows a user to break their “friends” into subgroups. These groups can be family, friends, co-workers, etc. This allows for very targeted conversations.

2. Stream

The Google+ Stream is very similar to the standard timeline you’ve come to expect. However, your Circles are displayed, enabling a user to select and view a Stream for that particular circle. This is actually a very nice feature.

You can also update your status here and you are not bound by the 140-character limit of Twitter. Some users may love this — personally, I’ve grown to appreciate that number. Adding photos, videos and location is super easy, but there are some missing elements, including an accessible RSS feed. It will be interesting to see Google expand this module.

3. Hangouts

Hangouts is a video chat module that allows for group videoconferencing. As you may know, Facebook recently partnered with Skype to bring video chat to Facebook, and TechCunch wrote an in-depth article, “Facebook Video Chat vs. Google Hangouts: It’s No Contest,” which covers these features in detail.

Essentially, Facebook supports one-on-one video conversations and Hangouts allows group chats. In fact, up to 10 people are supported. I tested this module and quickly discovered that performance and quality are greatly enhanced with a high-speed Internet connection. This is an intriguing feature that could have a ton of potential for remote team meetings.

4. Sparks

Sparks is another useful feature. Just enter a topic, click “search,” and articles from across the Web regarding that topic are streamed into the Sparks module. Topics are automatically saved and can be accessed at any time. You can be specific in creating Sparks. I was surprised at the different results displayed for “real estate marketing” and other industry-related terms.

5. Privacy

As with all social networking services, configuring your privacy settings in Google+ is imperative. To access your privacy settings, click the “gear” icon at the top right, select “settings,” followed by “profile” and “privacy.” Here you can customize everything from notifications to visibility.

Although Google is focused on the consumer experience, they announced via YouTube that they are developing plans for a business experience on Google+ that will be released later this year.

What I found most intriguing about the announcement was the availability of rich analytics and connection to other products, such as Google AdWords.

It is certainly too early to predict if consumers will adapt to Google+. Is it a Facebook and Twitter “killer”? I doubt it. As real estate professionals, do you have room in your busy lives for another social network?

Tom Flanagan is the director of information technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I. You can contact him at or @tflan on Twitter.