What Is Google Plus Good For?

Category: Social-Networking

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?

Who Uses Google Plus?

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.

Am I saying that Google sells your personal information to the highest bidder? Definitely not. As I wrote in my article Is Google's Privacy Policy Evil? I do NOT believe that's true. Google does sell aggregated, non-personally identifiable information, which is quite different.

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...

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Most recent comments on "What Is Google Plus Good For?"

(See all 25 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

15 Jul 2014

I have a google+ account but I don't use it. I tried google voice but I wasn't able to make it work by registering it on my cell phone number. I was trying to get the cell and land line to all ring together and record voice mail. I couldn't get that to work so I took both numbers back out of it and gave up. (My cell is another number on my daughter's cell account so I didn't think I should be messing around with the voice mail on her account.)
As far as using it as a social network for friends and family, I guess I heard too many Facebook horror stories to give it a try.

Posted by:

15 Jul 2014

I HAVE a Google+ account, I'm logged on and I STILL can't comment on YT videos or even on MY OWN CHANNEL.

Who do you go to for help?

Posted by:

15 Jul 2014

I've been using G+ since it opened and find it a great way to communicate with insiders and users on all skill levels in the photography, software, and food areas. An amazing amount of free tutorials from Adobe, OnOne Software, Nik, and many others are available. Only a few of my social friends are on the service (they play on Facebook on which I also have an active account) ... I find G+ users to be more mature, more professional, and much more interesting than the FB crowd. G+ has a much easier interface and I find it welcoming. Probably the best endorsement I can think of is that no one has ever mentioned Farmville or Candy Crush nor have I seen a cat meme. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Posted by:

15 Jul 2014

G+ refused to let me edit my gmail contacts info the way I wanted it.
It kept resetting certain email addresses with its data, until I closed the G+ acct.

Posted by:

15 Jul 2014

Yes Bob I've been using Google + probably since inception and use it mainly if not exclusively to post positive comments after listening to YouTube videos of interesting discussions or debates or outstanding musical performers - particularly young people who impress me.

Not concerned about privacy in the least as my life's an open book and essentially dull and boring :)

Posted by:

15 Jul 2014

Comments like this always irk you because "... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important"?

Posted by:

15 Jul 2014

Sadly, I just don't know how to use it to full advantage and don't make the time to learn it. I have been to seminars that say it should overtake Facebook at some point due to the features Bob mentions. I don't find its urging me to share all of my pictures every time I take one helpful. Often I am taking informational photos for my own reference and don't want it shared. I do love Calendar and Hangouts, though the name Hangouts is silly. I have also used Drive but I like Dropbox better. I have been using other online tools for years, and I don't see anything there that is pulling me away from my current patterns. I will keep an open mind if someone out there wants to educate me!

Posted by:

15 Jul 2014

Well its just trolling Bob,
If you do not use the service how are you qualified to comment on it . . .

Posted by:

15 Jul 2014

Bob, I am like millions of other Google+ users, I have an account and rarely use the Google+ features. However, I am strongly considering using Google+, as my Social Media connection, instead of Facebook!!!

I am so tired of Facebook, making MY decisions, for me!!! Plus, invading my privacy, on so many levels, where there is no transparency!!! At least, Google+ and Google are "up front", about their own "ad" campaign and why, they are doing it.

I have been using Google's Chrome Browser solidly, for about the past 6 months. Up until then, I was using Firefox's browser. I uninstalled Firefox, when they decided to play "politically correct football" with their new CEO's career, back in the Spring. I had not been happy with Firefox, for some time and this was simply, the "straw that broke, the camel's back", for me. Overall, I am very pleased with Chrome. I have "adjusted" to it and feel quite comfortable, using it.

I loved that I could "export" all of my Firefox Bookmarks, to Chrome! So, I really haven't missed much of anything with Firefox, being gone from my computer life. Avast! works well with Chrome, too. In fact, all of my "protection" programs, work well with Chrome, just like they did with Firefox. Plus, I still have control over Scripts, whether to use them or not ... With Firefox, it doesn't matter ... Firefox decided that you did NOT need them and have disabled them, permanently. Don't like that. I am a savvy computer geek and DO know what I am doing!!! Plus, since when, does an Open Source Community, which Firefox is ... Not allow you OPTIONS???!!! Mozilla is based on Open Source coding, which is what Firefox is.

Posted by:

15 Jul 2014

In response to your comment, Bob ... First of all, the person making their statements, don't appear to be knowledgeable about the subject. Secondly, as though Facebook doesn't have any privacy issues! Basically overall, when it comes to Social Media, there is no privacy.

First of all, YOU are responsible for your own privacy ... Not someone else, in my opinion. There are so many ways, that you can use a browser, where your privacy is protected. For example: Avast! has in the Safe Zone, in all of it's paid versions. It is not available, in the Free version. Safe Zone is useful especially, for when your are doing "sensitive" computing, like banking or getting information from your doctor ... In other words, privacy issues with your data.

ALL Social Medias have privacy "issues", unless, you simply don't use it or don't say anything, that can compromise your privacy.

Posted by:

15 Jul 2014

I don't have a Google+ account, didn't know what it was, and I definitely will not have one in the future!! Thanks for the explanation, Bob.

Posted by:

Stephen Earle
16 Jul 2014

I use Googe+ at lesst two or three times a week. I like it for sharing pictures and informtion and links I think are worth investigating. I share with family and friends, never the general populace. Plus is easy to organize with circles so that you don't have to look at the general stream, and I almost never do. Google is also incereasing interoperability with its other tools, like Drive, which I use quite a bit. Unlike the previous commenter, I find it quite easy to use, once you get the way it "thinks". And I think the layout is much better.

I do have a Facebook account with very few "friends". I use it because everyone else in my family has an account, and I like to be able to follow links they occasionally mail me. Otherwise, I hate it. It's a "social" garbage collecter, and in my opinion Facebook is the REAL pain in the ass. My family and freinds also participate to a limited extent (just as I do) in Google+. That way I get the good stuff I am interested in from both "networks." But I much prefer Plus on many different grounds, technical and ethical.

Posted by:

Bob K
16 Jul 2014

google+ is pain in the.....
I don't use it. It gives you no privacy!!!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Comments like this always irk me. Who wants to guess why?


Bob Rankin,

"Do you have a Google+ account? If so, how do you use it? Post your comment or question below..."

Posted by:

16 Jul 2014

I have a google+ account but only sign into it when I need something it requires. Try not to be paranoid about privacy but very weary of weighing every comment, sight I visit, anything curious about and look up..."they" assume I want it, have it or will get it. Why does anybody need to know everything about us? Privacy is important and we are just tossing it away.

Posted by:

16 Jul 2014

They irk you because ... they show that the commenters have misunderstood what you wrote about. In this case, online networks do not and cannot give privacy; the users relinquish their own privacy, explicitly or implicitly, by making use of the services. Am I close?

Posted by:

Sandra Papavasiliou
16 Jul 2014

I've got an account. I'm not sure what to do with it though. I'm hoping that the photos up there in 'cloud land' with Google+ will survive the next computer meltdown. I'm don't know how to get them back down from 'heaven' though.

Posted by:

16 Jul 2014

I have both Google+ and FB, but don't use either one unless it's absolutely necessary; i.e. being contacted on one of them when it's the only option the sender has.
I still live in my little sometimes online/mostly offline world!

Posted by:

16 Jul 2014

I also have googlemania but lack googlephobia! Who knew in the heyday of invite-only gmail accounts that it would get so all-encompassing? There have been some gossip that gVoice may be folded into googleHangouts and then phased out. I think that gV is one of the best offerings that google provides. Not wanting to lose my gV account in the future, I was lured to "activate" my gHangouts account. Next thing you know, it is trying to lure me to install gChrome browser. I again had to relent. Next, it is asking me to make it my primary browser. I declined but noticed that one google component attempts to become a permanent member of my start-up components. Even upon declining and even when you exit gChrome, it is still running in the background.
I guess I must be very anti-social and was not taught to share at a young age; because I try to use it as little as possible and not solely for its tracking nuisances.
USER'S NOTE: Please don't be 'irked' by the length of my post or the fact that I no longer wish to capitalize google’s first letter. I apologize!

Posted by:

17 Jul 2014

This just in:
Since Google+ launched, many have complained about the service’s requirement that users use their real names. Complaints grew ever louder once Google started pushing users to use Google+ for YouTube comments....
Three years later, Google is giving up on this battle. You can now use just about any name you please. They’ll presumably have some issue if you use something like “Assface Mcgee,” but Google’s official word is that “there are no more restrictions on what name you can use.”
Read remainder at/from http://techcrunch.com/2014/07/15/3-years-later-google-drops-its-dumb-real-name-rule-and-apologizes/

Posted by:

21 Jul 2014

I use for my newer photos's since picasa lost my latest, when old comp went down.
I don't add anyone, hangout,etc.
Google n Facebook are Big Brother to me, ugh, I do use FB, for games and close frds n family.

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