Google+ was first released to a small field test of tech enthusiasts and journalists in June 2011. I ignored dozens of invites to join as I wanted to avoid integrating a new service into my overly busy personal and professional life.
You, too, likely feel the need to erect a better digital scaffolding to process all the incoming information and requests. When Google+ launched, my scaffolding felt a bit rickety and hodgepodge. I was reluctant to mess with it, as I certainly didn’t have the energy or desire to bolt a new structure.
Google+ overcame my reticence, demoted other members of my info-routing team to less strategic roles, and transformed my scaffolding into a sturdy rampart equipped with advanced targeting systems. Here’s why it might do the same for you.
1. Easy, spam-free setup: Google+ is almost instantly usable. It imports contacts from wherever you might be storing them. Google doesn’t spam your contacts to build its subscriber base. The “Profile and Privacy” settings are clean, comprehensible, well-thought-out, and brief—easily set and tweaked.
2. Circles: These are the Google+ crown jewels. If you’re a Facebook user, you’re probably used to sharing with an undifferentiated group of “friends,” and if you’re a Twitter user you’re used to sharing with everyone. Google+’s circles are a better fit for how most people want to disseminate information (e.g. vacation pictures to some, interesting developments on certain topics to others; some things to just one person and occasionally something to everyone). Google+ lets you share posts to an audience of one, or everyone, with the middle ground being a circle tailored to that purpose. The circles are visual and intuitive which makes them easy to set up and use. Interestingly, Facebook has recently tried to fix the generality of its sharing with all friends problem with Lists.
3. Privacy: Making sure the right information reaches the right people, and only those people, is important to lawyers. Google+ manifests this sentiment throughout. Circles let you easily share with limited groups, and recipients are reminded to “be thoughtful about who [they] share information with,” should they wish to do so. Common sense and user-respectful privacy considerations are present at all levels. You control who can tag you in a photo, see elements of your profile, or notify you of something they’d like you to see. You also control whether people can see your email address, or contact you directly via the service without knowing your email.
While Google+ is well-suited to a lawyer’s sharing of information and thought processes with clients and colleagues, it’s worth remembering the data there will be just as secure as a third-party service permits. Recognize this places some of the confidentiality of that information beyond users’ direct control.
4. Noise Control: Privacy and confidentiality aside, friends and family don’t want to see your work posts. In turn, professional colleagues can be put off by your enthusiasm for leisure activities, be they cooking or LARPing (Live Action Role Playing). One person’s passion is another’s spam. Circles let you fine-tune what you see, and who sees what from you. You choose what to see based on what you want to know at that moment. And Google+’s real names policy helps keep spam to a minimum.
5. Post Length and Comments: Google+ is closer to a blogging tool than its social networking counterparts. Posts can be any length (contrasted with Twitter’s 140 and Facebook’s 420 characters), and include formatting and graphics. Comments are easily enabled, disabled and moderated. They stay with the post, and don’t require you to hunt around elsewhere on the service.
6. Photos and Links: Google+ is a graphical wonder. Photos display beautifully and incorporate Google+’s fine-grained sharing controls. Links to articles, videos and pictures elsewhere on the Web display in line as part of each post, meaning fewer clicks and more pleasant, efficient reading.
7. Greater audience engagement: I find people are more interested and engaged in the sharing and conversations that go on within Google+. There is also more substance in the comments as compared to other social media tools. Google’s "+1" button (“plus one”) gives you similar functionality to Facebook’s "Like" button. It lets people recommend your content on Google Search and share it on Google+. You should add a +1 to your pages to help your site stand out.
8. Mobility and Features: Google+ has specialized apps for Android phones, iPhones and the iPod Touch, and a Web app for Blackberry, Nokia/Symbian and Windows Mobile devices. Hangouts are a form of instant group video chats. Huddle (essentially group SMS), Sparks (themed, saved searches), and a game center (which can be completely ignored if you have no interest) enhance the service.
9. Context Neutrality: Google+’s features are useful to anyone, regardless of what’s being communicated. Hangouts work as well for a rock star’s impromptu jam session as a lawyer’s impromptu webinar.
10. Iteration: People sometimes scoff at Google’s earlier forays into social services (Orkut, Buzz, and Wave failed to take off). But don’t underestimate Google. Community managers are listening to the feedback of 40 million Google+ users. Just as this article was finalized, Google+ business pages were rolled out, allowing law firms and other business entities to have a major presence in Google+. Lawyers should pay attention to it, and perhaps our paths will cross in a Google+ circle.