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Google Plus: you reaching out to the community

  • GooglePlusGooglePlus (plus.google.com) grew the fastest of any social network thus far; however, some statistics show that less than 5% of those who signed up for an account are engaged on it.
  • I don’t believe Google+ is going anywhere soon. For one, it was a huge investment from Google. They are going to ride it out as long as they can. And now they have incorporated Google+ into search results. If you are logged into your G+ account while searching on Google,  you will see results from your friends if they have referenced the keyword you are searching for.
  • I think GooglePlus is a sign of more personalized networks, which is how trends are showing we are moving. Less people will all be on one platform, and instead we’ll group around interests or passions (take Pinterest for example).
  • One of the best features for churches is to use the ‘hangout’ option – FREE video conferencing for up to 9 people through a personal profile and an unlimited amount through a page. It is the best group video capabilities I’ve seen so far. One example would be if you had a group that met regularly and they also had one person who brought a computer and logged into a Google+ hangout. Then if other members of the group couldn’t make the meeting, they could still be “present” by live streaming.


Google+ Tips

Personally, this is my analogy: If Facebook is my past and my friends and family, Twitter is my present and my news and my network (my now). I think of Google+ as my future and my academia and where I learn and grow.

  • It’s similar to Facebook in that you find friends, though you “circle” them instead of “friend” them (more on that in a bit), share your status update, comment, share photos, share videos and share links.
  • You view your friends’ updates in a stream (like Facebook’s status updates or top news).
  • But Google+ does not elevate the profile page like Facebook does (especially when Facebook soon makes the change to the new Timeline). So in that regard it is more like Twitter. And the types of news that appears to be shared on Google+ is more like Twitter. People are passing along news, websites, conversation pieces, and thoughts and because of the unlimited space to write, it has more flexibility than Twitter.
  • Similar to Facebook, you can comment on an update and see comments from others whom you may not have “circled.”
  • Like Twitter, you can make a status update public to the whole world. Unlike the original Facebook, you can also limit who can see that status update to just one person if you prefer (Facebook has responded to Google+ by attempting to mimic this option with their lists feature). You can also email it to a friend who isn’t even on Google+.


Most interesting features of Google+:

  • Circles – the way you have a “friend” on G+ is to “circle” them. You begin by naming a circle or two anything you would like. No one else can see what you named the circle. You drag their profile box into a circle and that is how you are connected. You can have someone in a circle who does not have you in their a circle. In other words you can talk to them without them talking to you. And someone can add you to their circle without you adding them back (they can try to talk to you, but you won’t be listening!).
  • Sharing – When you are ready to post a status update, you have the option of typing in the names of specific circles (to just share your thoughts with a few people), you can share with all of your circles (all at once with “your circles” or even “extended circles” and it goes to your circles & all of their circles), or with the whole world (no circle named). When you share with everyone, then it is searchable by google.com as well.
  • Connectivity – Google plans to make G+ part of its search results and connected to websites. You may have seen the +1 showing up on websites – this is an easy way to “like” something and share it with your G+ account.

Google has also allowed profiles for businesses, non-profits or organizations to set up accounts. Obviously, groups on Facebook could be set up like circles, though there are some restrictions. You can share a circle with others, though the name of the circle will not be seen and all the people who received the invite would have to accept it. They cannot “ask” to join the circle like you could ask to join a group on Facebook nor can they search for one.


How to use Google+ for ministry:

As G+ is currently released, there are a few ways to use it for your church.

  • Sign up as a person and find your congregants.
  • Be specific about how you put them into circles – organize now to help yourself in the future. You can put one person into multiple circles.
  • Use the ‘hangout’ feature – to invite others to video chats (at least up to 8 other people).
  • Create discussions (share documents through Google docs!), have a book review, link to videos, photos and websites.
  • Similar to Facebook, your status can be about what you are thinking, reading, watching, quotes from authors, movies and music. Link websites and readings. Tease about sermon ideas. Ask questions of faith. Challenge for social justice. Probe for actions to your sermons.
  • Be sure you put your church website in information (extra Google search results credit!)


Downside to Google+

  • Learning a new social networking platform! I truly believe Google has a better product than Facebook, but the world may be too “facebook” weary to learn it.
  • Note that it is more difficult to search for friends (no easy button to search all your Facebook friends. It does grab all your email addresses and you can download an address book, but I thought the suggestions were pretty weak so far). This has greatly improved the longer Google+ has been around.
  • But once you start commenting on other people’s status updates or just reading their threads, you can find people you agree with and follow and put them into a circle.
  • At this time, you cannot set up your own url for your profile.

Here are a few “How to” videos for Google+ I found helpful:

Find me: Google.com/+ then search for me under “Natalie Aho”.


Final Tips/Best Practices

  • Upload some images. Google will automatically link to your Picassa account if you have one.
  • Status updates – you can lock a status update (as mentioned in video above) if you don’t want it accidentally shared outside the circle you intended. Also handy when an event or conversation has run its course.
  • Search for a topic within Google+ and find what amounts to blog entries on the topic.  Soon google and g+ will be inseparable.
  • Use the connection with videos and YouTube (also Google’s product) and watch a video with other people through a hangout and then discuss.
  • Share from the black bar without opening the platform itself (see video above on websurfing).


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