The Google+ Project

It’s been a couple weeks since giant Google launched their latest effort in social, Google+. The search giant has had a couple false starts in their attempt to go social with both Google Wave and Google Buzz failing to catch users’ attention. However, from the buzz around the web, Google+ might just have the potential to rival the leader of social, Facebook.

What is Google+?

In short, Google+ is Google’s latest attempt at a social network. The official Google blog stated that,

“Today, the connections between people increasingly happen online. Yet the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions are lost in the rigidness of our online tools. In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it.”

 

To facilitate ease of sharing, Google is integrating many of their current features and products into Google+ in the form of Circles, Sparks, Hangouts, and Mobile. They’ve also included a ‘Stream’, analogous to Facebook’s newsfeed or the Twitter stream – something social savvy users will find familiar. The constantly updating stream will aggregate updates and postings from all your friends in one place.

Circles

Circles are similar to Facebook lists, but easier and more intuitive. The premise behind circles is that people don’t want to share everything with everyone. For example, you most likely share different things with your friends than you do with you family, and you probably want to keep your weekend escapades separate from the information you share with your work contacts. You can easily do this by separating your contacts into different circles, such as ‘friends’, ‘family’, ‘work’ or a customized circle. To do this, simply click on a contact and drag them into the appropriate circle where they will only see the information you want them to see.

 

Sparks

Sparks brings content to you automatically based on whatever ‘sparks’ your interest. Maybe you’re interested in cycling, dogs, cooking, or you’re a car enthusiast – sparks collects interesting content from across the internet and brings it right to you, on a separate page for each topic. It’s easy get started with Sparks, you type a topic of interest, such as ‘social media’ into the search box and, if you like the content that appears, you can click ‘Add Interest’ and social media will be added to your Sparks.

If you later decide you don’t want to follow a certain topic, it’s easy to delete it from your Sparks – simply hover over the topic you wish to delete and click the X.

Hangouts

This is basically video chat, with an added twist of being able to have a multi-person video chat. You can choose which friends, or even entire circles, you wish to video chat with, and anyone in the Hangout can invite their own contacts to join as well.

Mobile

Huddle

If you remember group messaging from the days of msn messenger, you’ll quickly understand the Huddle feature. Instead of having multiple similar conversations, you can instead start a Huddle where everyone can chat together. This feature could be incredibly useful for trying to make plans to get any group of people to meet all at one place at one time.

Instant Upload

Photos taken on your mobile phone will be automatically added, with your permission, to a private photo album in the Google cloud. This way, you can share them straight from Google+, without the hassle of traditionally uploading them. Many users fear only having a copy of their photos in the cloud, which is why it’s easy to backup your online images to your home computer using Google Takeout.

Location

You can easily add your location to every post you make in Google+. Or not, the choice is up to you.

Privacy

Social networks, most notably Facebook, have been notorious for their privacy issues. Google has tackled users’ privacy concerns by making it easy to customize your Google+ profile’s visibility. Your name and photo (if you upload one) are the only things that are public on your profile, everything else can be customized to private. Or, you can assign different levels of profile visibility to different circles. Furthermore, the names of your circles won’t be disclosed, not even to the people that are in them. So, feel free to put someone in the acquaintance circle without worrying about insulting them!

As with Facebook, you can block people you don’t want to interact with, and choose whether or not your profile is indexed by search engines.

How to join Google+

Currently Google+ is in Beta testing stage and  can only be accessed through invitation from a current Google+ user. If you have a friend already on Google+, ask them to invite you! Or, you can sign-up here with your Google ID and be notified when Google is allowing more users access to the testing stage.

If, once you’re a Google+ member, you decide it isn’t for you; you can downgrade your account by following the steps in this guide. Deleting just your Google+ account will leave your other Google accounts unaffected, or you have the option to delete your entire Google Account and all associated services.

Have you tried Google+? What do you think of it? Let us know below in the comments section.

 

Facebook Privacy – Should You Be Concerned?

Privacy and Social Networking

An article in today’s Vancouver Sun raises the Facebook privacy issue again: the article discusses the increase in bogus online identities and points out that many business individuals are steering clear of Facebook as a result.

Every time Facebook makes changes, like those we mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, the inevitable wave of hysteria follows. Whilst privacy is undoubtedly an issue, it shouldn’t be a reason to avoid social networks completely. Given that 400 million people (and counting) use Facebook, if you are in a professional role where building your network is part of what you do, then it is simply foolish to ignore Facebook completely.

How To Mitigate Facebook Privacy Concerns

Privacy is indeed a concern, as is identity theft, but if you take a few simple precautions when social networking you can really help limit the risk of these eventualities actually transpiring. What better a time then to review some simply steps you can take to mitigate these concerns:

1. Use the privacy settings (in Facebook click on settings at the top right hand side of your screen then privacy) to make sure that your personal information such as date of birth, home address, email etc are not there for all the world to see – dont want to encourage identity thieves or spammers do we?

2. Off the Wall – dont use peoples wall to communicate personal information or communications. If it is longer than a couple of sentences take it to Facebook email.

Duckhunt

3. Remember that the first thing recruiters do these days is to check out candidates on Facebook. If you intend on ever applying for another job you should be cognizant of this. Boasting about your drinking prowess to the world will not land you that coveted job. Always do the granny test, be careful of what you post and again use the privacy settings accordingly.

4. Be authentic – upload a profile picture so that people can see that its really you – or what you look like after all these years, as the case may be.

5. Be selective about who you add and which pages you like. Dont add every TD&H who invites you and remember what mother said about strangers! Seriously though, being selective about who you connect with gives you more control if safety is a concern: this is not about quantity – it is about quality.

6. Never Buy Friends or Followers – never use sites that promise you thousands of new followers or views. There is always a catch. (Thanks to the a forementioned Sun article for that one!).

7. Be respectful and dont use profanities too much – you never know when someones kid is watching over there shoulder (take it from me – this happens a lot!).

8. Be true to who you are. Transparency is key to effective social media participation. Dont try to present yourself as something or someone you are not. Imagine how embarrassing it will be when someone crawls out of the woodwork and points out the truth – to everyone.

9. Say It – If it is not worth saying out loud, it is not worth saying on line. This is a good mantra to bear in mind when considering your status updates.

10. Block Em – If someone is rude to you in comments or on your wall, you can block them. Again go to settings, privacy and scroll down to Block List to do so.

11. Applications – you should be aware that most of the games and applications on Facebook are from third party companies you know nothing about and are often set up for the simple purpose of collecting you marketing info. Once you add the application, they have access to your information. Be wary of which applications you add and again use the privacy settings to control this.

Thanks to Tailor Ransom for the great Flickr image!

Use Social Media to Maintain and Grow Your Network

Building relationships online is as important to growing your business or reputation as networking in the real world. Not only can you be more effective using social media but you can also get more done in less time.

The Internet is a great way to expand your career horizons and get to know new and influential contacts. Here are a few pointers to bear in mind when using social media to network.

1. Dont try to network in every Internet networking hub out there. Choose those where you get the biggest impact (i.e. those that your existing contacts already use, those that reflect your target audience, or those most applicable to your niche). The most popular are LinkedIn (Professional Network), Facebook (fastest growing) and Twitter but there are many networks that are industry or job specific (like Active Rain for real estate) too so take time to check them out.

2. Leverage existing on-line networks to grow new ones. I use the Out-Smarts’ Facebook Page profile to promote our Twitter account and vice versa and add more contacts in that forum

3. Promote your activity in your chosen forums by including it in business cards, profiles and on your website.

4. Use widgets. Most of the social networks allow you to widget a link to your profile. Add this to your site, blog etc and include widgets for other networks in your networking profiles.

5. Always remember to be professional in these forums – ask the Granny question and make sure your content is appropriate to your professional standing.

6. When you meet new contacts in the real world find then on-line and add them to your networks.

7. Trawl the friends of your friends and contacts and add those you know or those gurus in your business.

8. Don’t spread yourself over too many networks or allow them to suck up your time. Schedule it into your day.

9. Join groups. Facebook and LinkedIn both offer groups. Join applicable ones and gain access to more people in your field.

10. Participate in the right forums. These should relate to your industry or market and to those of your prospects.

11. Ask and answer questions and use your status to attract new contacts.

12. Blogs can be a great way to build your network too. If you have a blog, always follow up with people who leave comments to connect with possible prospects and peers.

13. If you don’t have a blog then use blog comments as a forum to connect with influential bloggers in your industry, to build awareness of what you do and to add value for their visitors in turn.

Are You Listening?

Social Media Listening Tools

Social media content is a great source of information for research, customer service and planning purposes. It’s important to use tools to effectively listen to what is being said about: your company, its products services and representatives; your competitors and clients; your market niche as well as your target geography and other marketing considerations.

With millions of people on-line every day exchanging opinions, thoughts, feedback and other information – this data source shouldn’t be ignored.

But how to listen effectively, what to listen for and how to do so in a timely manner? As with any other market research initiative, it is important to have a social media listening strategy or plan that outlines what you are hoping to learn, the information you want to track and how you will analyse and use it.

There are thousands of social networks, millions of blogs, how do you sift through this information to find the gems that are relevant to your company and industry? It’s important in advance to know what you want to listen for. Identifying and listening for keywords pertaining to your company name and product or services names is a good start. This allows you to get going with something concise and manageable and get a feel for the type of information you will return.

There are a number of tools available to effectively listen some are free, the obvious one being Google and some charge. If you expect that you will use these tools extensively or if you hit the wall with free tools then you may want to consider the paid options as they provide structured and strategic solutions.

Here are some more specific services:

FREE

Google Alerts – this service sends e-mails outlining Google search result for your keyphrases.

There are a plethora of Twitter tools like Twitter Search, Monitter (my current favourite) and Tweetlater that allow you to monitor for keywords via email or online.

Pipl – great tool for assessing your personal brand online across multiple social networks

Backtype – search terms, follow conversations.

PAID

Radian6 – this is a paid service but word on the street is that its worth paying the price. Radian6 tools

Trackur – another tool for social media monitoring. Starting at $18 a month with a free trial.

 

Out-Smarts Podcast #30 – with Smart Cookie and Bratface Marketing’s Andrea Baxter

Twitter is a fabulous tool. Case in fact: recently I connected with Andrea Baxter from Bratface Marketing on Twitter. You might know Andrea from her success as part of the Smart Cookies team that shot to fame following their appearance on Oprah.

Andrea joins us to talk about that meteoric success, how Smart Cookies use social media and about her latest venture Bratface Marketing. Enjoy!

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Links to blogs sites mentioned:

Marketing Vox

Duct Tape Marketing.com

Start Up Nation