What Is Google Plus Good For?
Google Plus (Google+) celebrated its third birthday on July 5, 2014. You may have heard of Google+; you may even recall creating your own Google+ account. But when was the last time you used Google+, or were invited to use it by an acquaintance? What (and who) exactly, is Google+ good for, and what are people doing with it?
Thanks For Sharing!
Ostensibly, Google+ is a social network: a place to discover people who share your interests, connect with them, and communicate with them. It’s a place where you can share what’s important to you, or at least what’s amusing you at a given moment. It’s place where family and friends can stay in touch; maybe an alternative to Facebook for some.
Google+ actually makes it pretty easy to do all of that; easier than Facebook, definitely. For example, you won’t get any stern warnings against extending invitations to connect to people you don’t know well in real life. You can use Google+ to make friends, not just to tell its owners who your friends are.
Sharing is the essential activity on any social network, including real life. The tools available to facilitate sharing on Google+ are pretty slick and easy to use. This is not a tutorial on using Google+, however. The question is, who uses it?
According to Google, about 540 million people have Google+ accounts; that’s less than half of Facebook’s member count. Furthermore, Google readily admits that less than half of Google+ account holders visit their Google+ home pages each month. They may be logged in but they are not using the Google+ social network dashboard. That’s OK with Google.
Google’s primary use for Google+ has nothing to do with social networking. Instead, your Google+ account, when you are logged into it, serves as a tracking and reporting system. It tracks everything you do across all Google services – Search, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Docs, Apps, Drive, etc. – and everyone with whom you share things using those Google tools. It sends very detailed data about your Google activities to Google, enabling the creation and maintenance of a rich profile about your interests, purchases, and associations.
From DOS to Dossier
That very broad dossier of your online activity is worth far more in advertising dollars than your search activity. Indeed, advertising rates for search-based targeted ads have been plummeting lately, while the cost per thousand viewers of ads targeted on a “sharing” or “social” basis are rising. Apparently, those who control the purse strings upon which Google depends are buying into the mantra, “The future is social.”
Google is interested in your social activities, but it isn’t terribly interested in being your social networking platform, as Facebook is. Google just wants you to have a Google account and stay logged in to it, so it can keep your dossier up to date.
That’s why a Google+ account is now mandatory if you wish to use certain other Google services. You must be logged in to a Google+ account in order to post a comment on a YouTube video, for example. As time goes by, more and more carrots and sticks will be used to encourage everyone to have a Google+ account and remain logged into it constantly.
Of course, Google+ does have value as a social networking platform, a Facebook alternative, and it does have millions of regular users, many of whom are fanatically enthusiastic about Google+. According to AC Nielsen’s independent measurements, Google+ had 29 million visitors who spent an average of seven minutes each on the social network’s domain. (Note that they probably spent a lot more time on other Google services while logged in to Google+.)
The New York Times made the mistake (or the cunning troll) of calling Google+ a “ghost town” in a front-page article dated February 14, 2014. The objections from loyal Google+ fans provided insight into what uses people are finding for Google+ - which may have been the NYT’s objective with the “ghost town” crack.
Just Hanging Out...
Many defenders of Google+ emphasized its photo-sharing features and Hangouts, its video chat, texting, and VoIP service. Both are available on desktop or mobile devices, and are synced across all of one’s registered devices.
The Photo AutoBackup feature of Google+ is particularly handy. When activated in your Google+ account, it saves a copy of every photo you take on your mobile devices. I have met some very sad people who lost their phones or tablets; the irreplaceable photos caused them the greatest angst. Google+ also offers a set of photo editing tools that let you easily crop, enhance, or add creative adjustments.
Hangouts is now built into the Google Chrome browser; there’s nothing to download or install. (Plugins are still available for other browsers.) Among other things, Hangouts in Chrome lets you call phone numbers on a Web page with a single click, via Google Voice.
Note that Photo and Hangouts require a Google+ account. I expect every new innovation from Google to do so, and the requirement will be added to existing Google products as well.
Do you have a Google+ account? If so, how do you use it? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 15 Jul 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- What Is Google Plus Good For? (Posted: 15 Jul 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved