Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Google Plus Sparks Ideas for Causes

Ray Krock, the founder of McDonalds said, “The two most important requirements for major success are: first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it.” New media, especially the infant Google Plus, can help causes,  like the one I am privileged to work for, raise awareness and rally support for diverse social issues by being visibly inspiring without tiring and creating a thriving social media environment with a variety of options to participate.  Here’s why I am sold on Google Plus for causes even though at the present time business accounts are under development. I thoroughly expect when they are released that the business accounts will be as good as personal accounts, if not better.

1. Circles. Being able to easily create and customize private names for Circles, place people in them, and then target messages to these specific groups are steps forward for personal and business imaging. Applicable messages can be sent to and received, for example, by clients/customers/supporters, legislative representatives, family, local community figures, or work colleagues.  In addition, a message can be sent to a person’s email address if they don’t have a social account (we all have relatives that refuse to join social media, don’t we), assuring inclusivity.

2. Spark. The Spark feature that allows people to search for subjects reflecting their self-motivated interests and then easily share them with their Circles is seemingly the next generation of search.  So when someone has an interest in my cause they can search for a spark on the information right through their Google Plus account.

3. +1 and Google Search.  The +1 feature allows a public testimony for information  as it goes viral and the groundbreaking feature is that +1’s can be linked to a tab on one’s Google Plus account and are visible  by one’s connections in the massive Google search system. After using Google Plus for several weeks, I was amazed at another feature. Anything shared by someone in one’s circle is matched with Google Search results. So if someone in my circle Google searches for “child abuse” they will see my name under any website I have publically shared in Google Plus just like they can see my +1’s.  Wow!

4. Hangouts. Google Plus’ Hangout feature provides free video conferencing for up to 10 people to collaborate and potentially do community organizing to help change the world. 10 really is a nice working number. I’m looking forward to the day when we can get partners and stakeholders into Hangouts focused on preventing child abuse and neglect.

Individuals and organizations have different types of relationships.  Knowing they can separate people into Circles that represent those relationships, means control over the content they share with them. Taking the open platform popularized by Twitter to the next level, this is encouraging the early adopters of Google Plus to meet new people with shared interests through social media that could birth relationships to change the world in unprecedented ways.  Expect to hear more and more creative uses and positive results from Google Plus in the future as public officials, community leaders, businesses and nonprofit organizations start to use it to selectively and successfully communicate with the world through new media. 
Alan Stokes, New Media Coordinator
Prevent Child Abuse Michigan (Michigan Children’s Trust Fund)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Google + Praise

Google + is a real winner for me personally. As one who uses social media some in my day job and has an above average experience with the main players in social media both personally and professionally, I can tell you that while Google + won't cause me to run right out and cancel my Facebook or Twitter accounts, it has quickly earned my vote as the top social media option for me personally.  I say this even though it is still in Beta (users by invitation only) and they are continually making improvements to it.

Before I explain my personal love for Google+, there are several great resources to help one get the most out of Google +.  Below is a CNETTV introduction to Google+ by Rafe Needleman on YouTube.

Simon Laustsen has a cheat sheet on the basics of Google+ that thanks to the collaborative resource of Google + has quickly made it's way around the world.   Simon lives in Denmark and the only 3 people we have in common at the time this was written is Larry Page (CEO of Google), Mike Elgan (Silican Valley, CA), and Newt Gingrich (US Presidential Candidate).  Page 1 of Simon's Cheat Sheet (English) .  There are additional pages to the Cheat Sheet that you can find readily available.

In a more detailed way than Simon's Cheat Sheet, 120 diverse people are working on a Collaborative Document to show early adopters of Google+ how use it to it's full potential.  See a story about this collaborative resource at the following site. 

The above three resources should help one to feel pretty comfortable using Google+ to the fullest extent possible.   Now on to why +Alan (as Google+ shows)  likes it so much.  When one logs in to Google, a black top bar lists links to all one's Google products (Calendar, Gmail, Documents, etc.) and after signed up with Google+, that area is accessed through a link that has +(the person's first name).   Here are 8 reasons I like Google+ a lot (not in any order of importance).

  1. Finally Able to Include People Who Aren't in Social Media.   I have some people in my life that are very close to me that are not on any social media.  From time to time I post something that I really wish they could receive.  With Google+, all I need to do is add their email and my post is sent to them via email.  They don't have to be signed up with any social media account to receive the good news from +Alan.  
  2. Avoid Certain Posts Going to All My Network.  The Circles in Google+ allow one to place people in certain groups (the name of which is kept confidential from anyone else).   This means that I can limit some of my posts to circles that the information actually applies to.  For example, I have a son with autism and therefore have a circle on Autism and many of my posts related to autism resources will be directed to an Autism Circle on Google+ and won't clutter the feed of all my friends. 
  3. Get More Use Out of Other Google Applications.  Because Google+ is integrated into Google it makes it easy to open GMail, Google Calendar, Google Documents, etc.  from the top black Google bar within Google+.  This easy access means I'll undoubtedly use these other products more.  
  4. Research with the Spark Search Feature.  I can save search subjects in my Spark tab and do repeated research on them.  This functions much like the Twitter search feature in theory, but actually searches Internet material on the World Wide Web not just what is on Google+.   I entered my name as a spark and a  news story came up about a surfer named Alan Stokes. 
  5. Private Names on Circles.  I like the fact that I can call Circles what I wish and no one is going to be offended.  The name of the Circle is private and is custom established by the user to help with targeted posts.  In fact, one of my first questions on Google+ was whether people would know if I put them in a Circle called Fools.   The answer is no they would't know and no none of my Circles are for Fools (for the time being at least).   
  6. No Game Apps to Clutter Up The Stream.   If one likes playing games and thinks that all their friends are interested in knowing when they reach a new level of achievement then Google+ probably isn't for them.  I see no reason why Facebook won't continue to own the gamer crowd.   So far Google+ isn't trying to compete with the Game App scene and doesn't appear to have any in place.
  7. Selective Sharing of Location.  Location sharing concerns me in terms of privacy and Google+ has an excellent system in place for that.  Like all other posts, pictures, links, etc. one's location can be sent to just a specific circle or circles that the user feels it relates to.  So as long as you set up your circles up right you don't have to worry that your boss will see you were out late on a work night at a party in his neighborhood, especially if he/she wasn't invited.  
  8. Following New People is Encouraged.   In Google+ it is easy to follow anyone and put them in a Circle.  Thus, Larry Page, the CEO of Google is in over 124,000 circles at the writing of this. Does he know many of those people. I doubt it.  These are people that want to read his public comments in their news stream.   Remember Larry Page is not put out because with Google+ he has the mechanism to post as much as he wants to a limited audience, bypassing the masses of his admirers.  That is why the cartoon below is appropriate to an extent.  

Someone can follow one's public comments in Google+ for purposes of personal enrichment and it doesn't matter to the user as long as they are only seeing one's public comments.  Just because one is following me doesn't mean I have to put them in a circle to receive any personal posts.  

On July 15, I posted on Google+ the following short analysis of why I liked Google+.  I end with this brief summary.  

In Praise of Google+ Google+ is like a hybrid of Facebook and Twitter that allows one to move back and forth smoothly between the full range of public discourse with the world and private conversations with those closest to us. And to accomplish that lofty goal they have harnessed the search, research,  communication, and organizational resources already part of the Google offerings.