Google+ Moms are Hip

Alright, so being a Google+'er may not propel me to "hip"ness, but by golly, today I'm feeling mighty hip.

Last month if you'd asked me what Google+ was, I'd say "no clue."

Today is a different story. Recently, I was fortunate to be schooled on this thing called Google+ — from a Google "insider" no less. It was kind of like being invited to the popular girl's house to play after school and she let you use her make-up ... and it was the coolest day ever (because at 11 your mom still didn't let you wear make-up, much less shave your legs)!

Anyway, Ms. Google as I fondly refer to her, threw buckets of techie words at me as she explained Google+. Today I am going to attempt to share what she shared—and offer my take on Google+.

What is Google+?

Google+ has been referred to as a social networking service. I'm kinda seein' it as a rockin' "interests" forum—an interactive venue where voices may be shared and heard. It launched in the summer of 2011. You could say it's kind of like Facebook—but offers more functionality and is significantly more robust.

You ask how it compares to Facebook or Twitter? Think of it this way:

  • Facebook is for checking in and keeping up with, friends and family.
  • Twitter is for surface interaction, quick updates.
  • Google+ is for people who share the same interests. It is interest-based. It's about finding new people and them finding you based on your interests.

How Does it Work?

Before we dive in, having some basic Google+ lingo down helps. Words you should know:

POSTS: You have a stream of "posts" just like you do in Facebook.

YOUR CIRCLES: With Facebook, you have "friends." With Google+ you have "your circles".

CIRCLING: In Facebook you "follow" someone. In Google+ you add them to a "your circles."  Circles are all about organizing the people you "follow" and "share" with by interests (for example; gardening, photography, cooking, etc). When you have something to share, you select the circles you want that "post" to feed to—perhaps all of your circles or just one in particular. It's targeted communication made easy!

ADD YOU BACK: When you "circle" someone, they will be notified. And if they are interested in what you're all about, they'll likely "Add You Back"—meaning they want to see your stuff, too. 

+1: If you like someone's post, you can "like" it by hitting "+1".

PING: If you're looking for a fast, easy way to start communicating live with your contacts, you can "Ping" them. Much like instant messaging. 

HANGOUT: And then there are the Hangouts—super coolness! Think video chatting like Skype, iChat, Facetime—but conveniently located right there in your Google+ window. You can Hangout with one or multiple people at a time. It may be kept private or go live with an "Air" broadcast (streamed live and then uploaded to YouTube).

What Stuff Do They See? What Stuff Do I See?

If you are out there posting, only the Circles you select your post to post to will be able to view it in their stream. For example, I know my gardening friends are not interested in photography so I'll leave that circle out when posting about macro lenses. But if I have some real cool content to share that would interest everyone, I simply click "Everyone."

Like with Twitter, you can "follow" or "circle" anyone you want. Whether you see posts from them depends on which circles they are posting to. Oh ... and you can post to a single person—much like "messaging" someone in Facebook—but it shows up in their stream rather than in a dedicated message window. This is where you want to take care. You don't want inadvertently send a private message to your public circles. Read more of my thoughts on privacy below.

What Makes it Robust?

The cool features I've discovered in Google+ are:

LOCAL: Click this button and you can find and rate local business. This could become a powerhouse of a tool for those of us on special diets. The more restaurants we review, the more help we can be to our little community. 

EXPLORE: See what's hot on Google+ by hitting the "Explore" button. You can then search by word or topic (such as "dairy-free" or whatever it is you are interested in exploring).

EVENTS: Create an invitation to an event (or dinner party or baby shower). Share photos from the event instantly in "Party Mode." Upload everyone's photos in one place after the event. 

HANGOUTS: These video chats allow us to communicate easily with our family 7,000 miles away—for free. AND it will allow me to communicate with Lexie's Kitchen readers via broadcasted Hangouts.

I recently hungout with Anne-Marie of This Mamma Cooks on a Diet. (She was a delight, and yeah, I look TOTALLY confused in the beginning ... I was still getting the hang of it ... it gets a little better, promise. And oh, how Ann Curry makes interviews look so easy!)

How I Plan to Use Google+.

I tend to be a private person. I rarely, if ever, broadcast sensitive and private matters over social media. That said, I like the way I can keep up with close friends and family with Facebook, but I've found it a little limiting when it comes to following communities that share my interests. This is the gap I think Google+ will neatly fill.  I believe it is a great public forum for exchanging ideas and following the "voices" of people, businesses, and bloggers that interest you.

If you have an audio/video-equipped computer, I think you will definitely enjoy the Hangout. Hangouts are private unless you click the Hangout Air feature which will then broadcast your Hangout on to your Google+ stream and then upload it to YouTube (so use with care!). Great for business. Not great for chatting with your girlfriends about the family that just moved in next door.

Get in There and Play.

The best way to get acquainted with Google+ is to get in there and play. I still have a lot to learn. Want to jump in? Head over to the Google+ homepage and create an account with your Gmail or Google log in.

And don't forget to "circle me", Lexie Croft, so that we can connect. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Tutorial and Sample Hangouts.

I will leave you with a few videos to further illustrate what Google+ is all about. I hope this has been a tad bit helpful.