There has been a lot written about Google+ in the last 8 months. From tech prognosticators who declared it dead on arrival, Google’s answer to social media, a zombie walking, an interesting place to find new friends, really it’s about to die any day just ignore those 60 million users, a great replacement for Twitter, not quit a replacement for Facebook, it’s still going at 90 million users *shock* surely it’ll die soon, it’ll hit 400 million users by June, and ‘my friends say it’s still a ghost town’.
I’m almost getting dizzy following the stories, yet all through the rollercoaster ride the Google+ team has continued to deliver amazing features. Two of my favorites are the ‘What’s Hot’ stream and Stream Filtering. More on those in a second…
It’s Not a Zero Sum Game
First off, I’d like to point out something that many commentators seem to be missing: The Internet is not a zero sum game. Users can and do engage with multiple websites. They upload to YouTube, blog on WordPress and share photos on Facebook. Or Flickr, or Picasa or Tumblr or… well you get the point – the 850 million users on Facebook are doing other things on the web. And if (when?) Google+ ever gets to 850 million users, we’ll be doing other things on the web too.
Yet surely Google search is a counterpoint to this? Doesn’t everyone use Google search? Not really, only 65% of the search queries in the US go through Google (if you believe the Comscore stats and others like it). Even then, this number is flawed. I love Google (and not just because I work there), and do most of my ‘search for stuff on the Internet’ searches at Google. But when I’m looking for something to buy I look on Amazon (and Zappos and Macys and NY and Company and Lucys and…). When I’m looking for flights I look on Bing travel (and Expedia, and Alaska air, and …). When I’m looking for apps I look on the Android market (and the iPad market, and Google, and …).
When I’m Looking to While Away Time
It used to be that I would while away time reading stories from Google Reader, or picking through stories on Twitter, or stalking friends on Facebook (before I quit Facebook that is) or surfing the random web on StumbleUpon. In fact my favorite channel is the humor channel on StumbleUpon. Combine an iPad with StumbleUpon and a hot cup of tea and you’ve got a magical way to spend an hour in bed before going to sleep. The last few months I’ve noticed a curious thing. I tend to spend a LOT less time on StumbleUpon and a lot more on Google+ – the lack of Google+ iPad app notwithstanding.
If you believe some reports, StumbeUpon is responsible for more than 50% of all social traffic. So if Google+ can largely satisfy the same scenario for me, I find it quite a big deal.
Stumbling with Google+
For the purposes of this discussion I’ll use the term ‘stumbling’ loosely to refer to the random browsing through interesting pockets of the Internet to unearth satisfyingly beautiful and enjoyable gems. There are three key ingredients to start stumbling with Google+.
The What’s Hot Stream: This one is easy. We all have a What’s Hot stream. Click on it, and every day you’ll find interesting, thought provoking or just totally hilarious content. Though I find it I go to it more often than once a day the content is the same as it was before, so in my mind this approach is insufficient to replace stumbling. In particular it’s a more general ‘What’s Hot for the Internet’, not related necessarily to topics you may be interested in.
Shared Circles: Constantly updated, this database allows you to find shared circles by topic. Another great place to find shared circles is this post by Gabriel Vasile and this Google+ Page dedicated to sharing shared circles. Now hold on to the thought of shared circles, because if you just go crazy with shared circles you’ll end up with a messy stream and get quickly overwhelmed with Google+
The Stream Filter: The stream filter is the little slider at the top right of the screen when you’re viewing any of your Google+ circles. This allows you to set how many posts from a given circle show up in your main stream.
Putting it all together: Now you’re ready to put it all together. Go ahead and set circles you really care about seeing (friends, family, maybe colleagues) to ‘Show everything in my main stream’. This will ensure that the important posts never get lost in the deluge of content you’re about to unlock.
Next, go crazy with shared circles. Add as many shared circles as you like, but be sure to group these circles by topic. You’ll get an opportunity to either create a new circle (maybe it’s Health and Wellness if you’re interested in that) and add everyone in the shared circle to it, or choose one of your existing circles. I’ve got circles setup for tech, wellness, photography, web comics, authors, creative inspiration and news, just to name a few.
Once you’ve added those circles, go to each of them and set the stream filter to ‘show nothing from this stream in my main stream’. Now whenever you’re on your main stream you only see the most important content. By clicking through to each circle you can easily see an up to date stream of all the great things applicable to that topic. You’ll quickly find that interesting videos, photos, articles and websites bubble to the top of the stream as it gets reshared.
These days, instead of stumbling I catch myself browsing through my circles. I’ve found interesting videos, hilarious memes, photos of beautiful landscapes and a tremendous community of people on Google+.
Which services do you find yourself using less, now that you’re on Google+?