You may not have known it, but search engine giant Google has been trying to enter the social media realm since 2004 with the launch of Orkut, which was before the launch of Myspace or Facebook, when the only other player in the game was Friendster — oh how that site has changed since its inception! Still in existence, and boasting over 33 million users worldwide (merely a fraction of Facebook’s user base of 1.11 billion), the service never gained much popularity in the U.S., and is now fully managed and operated by Google Brazil.
Next came Google Friend Connect in 2008 (retired as of March 2012), and Google Buzz in 2010 (retired in 2011). The Internet goliath couldn’t seem to get this one thing right. But as the old idiom goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” and try again Google did.
The company launched Google Plus (or Google+) in 2011. It has quickly become the second largest social networking site in the world — surpassing Twitter in January of this year with over 500 million registered users. Looks like they nailed it this time…
So, what is it exactly?
Google Plus is a social networking service that, according to Google, “aims to make sharing on the web more like sharing in real life.” And these are a few of the features that help it do so:
The “Stream” is like a user’s homepage (you can compare it to the newsfeed on Facebook). It showcases the content and status updates of your “friends,” or in Google’s case, the people in your “circles” (more info on circles below).
“Circles” are used to organize those you follow into groups for sharing content. They can also be used to segment the content of your stream.
“Hangouts” are essentially video chat sessions. These hangouts can be private or public. Up to 15 people can converse at once, but you can let as many people as you want view a hangout. These hangout videos can then be automatically uploaded to YouTube (which is also run by Google).
But why do I need it?
We know — you’re already on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Tumblr, and you’re thinking ‘Why do I need to add another networking site to the mix?’ Well, did you read the part about Google Plus surpassing Twitter to become the second largest social networking site in the world with over 500 million registered users (read: 500 million potential viewers of your brand)? If the potential to get you and your content in front of all these viewers hasn’t convinced you that you should be a part of it, maybe the fact that Google is still the world’s most popular search engine will.
The content that you share on Google Plus is indexed by the search engine almost immediately, increasing your odds of being ranked higher in Google’s organic search results.
Further, the Stream, which we talked about above, allows you to comment on what others are sharing, +1 (aka like) their content, and re-share content to your own Google Plus community — increasing the likelihood of others to share and comment on your own content. Shares and +1s of your Google Plus content have a very strong influence in Google search rankings. And those Google Hangouts? They make it incredibly easy to create video content (from panel discussions to product demonstrations) that is archived, uploaded to YouTube, and indexed for search results!