When Google Plus was first announced I, like many others, was ambivalent about the platform.  On the one hand, it often feels as if there is a new website/tool/platform popping up daily, making me feel overwhelmed and a bit annoyed.  Yet another website for the job fairies to watch me?  A new shiney object to look at?  And this one a bit more difficult to escape as it’s embedded in my Google account!

On the other hand, I generally welcome new ways to connect with people while learning and sharing information.  After all, while there are a variety of ways to share and connect, the manner in which we are allowed to share can affect with whom we connect and what we share (for example relationships built using facebook vs twitter). In fact, I think the lens of “just another social network” ignores the uniqueness of the company launching the network (Google is not “just another company”), what it offers to users, and the ease of access to the platform.

While many folks are mulling the impact of Google+ on nonprofits and social change activists, playing around with it, I can see the potential it has for networking and professional development.  Specifically, what makes Google Plus interesting to me is the ability to have more intimate conversations. I’ve noticed the following benefits that have made Google+ interesting:

  • Building stronger relationships with fellow nonprofiteers: Through circles you can control what you share and see, allowing for more personalization and cutting through noise.
    • Drawback: I would like it more if folks could create circles together so that it felt less one-way or asymmetrical. I may put someone in a circle, but they may not have me in a circle or communicate with me based on the type of circle I put them in.  Additionally, it’s hard to find like minded people to add to my circles through a regular search.
  • Staying on top of your cause: Again, with circles you can create new streams of content based on your interests.  Additionally, sparks brings you new content—you just type in what you’d like to learn more about.
    • Drawback: Sparks is pretty weak in terms of the type of content it comes up with.  I would much rather have my Google reader integrated into Google+.  Additionally, since many of the people who are on Google+ are already active in social networking, there is a great deal of repeated content from other social networks.
  • Testing new ideas and having discussions: Through hangouts you can collectively share resources and have conversations.  I’m most intrigued by the possibility of having webinars as well as opportunities for experts and organizations to have virtual “office hours” for the public.
    • Drawback: The people with whom we may most want to connect are not on Google+, at least not at this phase.  Again, the lack of diversity of users makes the execution of these ideas a bit trickier.
  • Real time learning by using: Personally, this is what makes Google+ a bit more fun for me.  Because Google+ came out during a time where social media is not an entirely new idea and there is lots of competition, people seem more willing to experiment and share what they are learning.  Rather than seeing  “Gosh, what am I supposed to do here?” type of posts that were all too common when, say, Twitter, came out (and yes, I am guilty of saying this!) folks seem to be jumping in with questions, ideas, and articles.  In other words, it seems to be growing organically through a desire to learn and share.  Why not jump in and try it out for yourself?
    • Drawback: Obvious—people on Google+ seem to love talking about, well, Google+.  Of course, this is not always true and you can adjust what you see by changing your circles, however, this seems to be a dominant topic.

Because Google+ is so new, there is obviously room for growth. I’m curious as to how you are using Google+ and your reactions to it.  Is it something worth trying?  What are the pros and cons for professional development and networking?

Resources:

Google+ for Nonprofits

Google+ Collaborative How-To Document

Twitter vs. Facebook vs. Google+

Feedback Friday on Google+ with Natalie Villalobos