There are quite a variety of opinions regarding Google+, the growth it can achieve, the value it can deliver, and the future direction of the platform. Google claims G+ is their fastest growing product ever, now with 50 Million daily users, while the Wall Street Journal reports it as a ‘virtual ghost town‘ occupied by google employees. Either way, some brands, teams, and individuals are already gaining large followings and racking up +1′s while experimenting with how best to use G+, hangouts, and circles. I took the time to set up my profile but still spend the majority of my social time on Twitter, where my stream has been filled with news and updates about the new Facebook timeline, but G+ has been slowly growing on me and I think it is time to start hanging out.
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a social media panel at Biola University, and a question was asked about Google+. If someone is already spending their time building networks with already established profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, is the time investment worth it on Google+? We agreed that creating a profile was a good idea, if only because you could put your mom in her own circle and it was very easy to set-up if already a Google user of Gmail or YouTube. After mentioning how the Dallas Cowboys, NY Giants, and even local TV stations were using the hangout feature, I admitted I had not yet participated in a hangout yet, mumbled something about how I couldn’t do it on my blackberry and decided this needed to change asap.
The following evening I jumped into a G+ chat hosted by Chris Yates and Charles Hogge which runs alongside the weekly #smsports chat on Twitter. Recognizing a few names from the weekly chat, I was within seconds listening to a live acoustic guitar performance as I started to check out the layout, which includes a chat, shared screen, and sharing YouTube videos. Less organized than the Q&A hangouts done by President Obama, David Beckham, or the New York Giants, it was very laid back, with a few participants also watching TV and any topic was fair game. It was a very unique experience, putting faces to names I had only seem on my twitter stream before and is a great way to build your personal network.
After experiencing the hangout on my computer, I wanted to see how it worked and looked from a phone, so I checked it out with the help of my buddy Eric Fleming. The mobile hangout was very cool, and I started imagining hanging out from a plane, a train, my couch, or even a ballpark depending on wi-fi availability. You can invite specific circles or friends, or start a public hangout anyone can join. (I have not been able to join larger hangouts from the Android Razr Maxx, as this type of hangout is ‘not yet supported on this device’)
The networking possibilities are fantastic, combining the hangout and the unique G+ circles feature, allowing exclusive content sharing, and hanging out, with specific groups of people. Getting the most out of this feature would take more of a time investment, but you can invite specific circles to hangout building upon relationships you have built via other social networks by adding a face to face chat. I know I will be spending more time on Google+ in 2012, especially utilizing the hangout feature since sports teams are slowly joining the party as well. I predict many opportunities for fans to hangout with their favorite athletes this year, and would you rather talk to an athlete on the phone or live video chat? Tweeting a phone number is a great idea, but look for more hangouts coming soon.
You can find me on Google+ here, be on the look-out for hangouts and a follow up post about my experiences with G+ next month.