So I finally got into Google+…. YAY! Now what? Here are my thoughts after 24 hours of using this new service.

Due to great timing and luck, I FINALLY was able to get in and start using Google +, the newest social media platform from Google. Since I’ve been clamoring for an invite to the exclusive social networking site, you can imagine how excited I am that I actually got in! Now I am the envy of all my peers, also clamoring for an invite, while I get to bask in Google+ elite glory…..

I obviously did a lot of research before joining this service so the process of signing up was no surprise to me. When you first start in Google + you are prompted to create “Circles” to organize your friends and contacts. If you are not familiar, the concept of “Circles” is actually pretty cool- Google understands that how we interact with each social circle of our lives can differ greatly. For example, the language and actions you use with your close friends is very different from how you behave in a professional work environment.

To me, Google Circles is the biggest and coolest feature of Google+. As someone who uses Facebook Lists to manage my friends, I am familiar with how this concept works and the benefits of using it. Yet, I still felt a little confused about how to use circles and who to add to what circle. Google provides suggestions on who to add to what circle, but I was still pretty confused at first. And, I wasn’t really clear on what adding these people to my Circle would do for me- does that make us friends? Does that mean that I am added to their circles? It had my head going in circles! Hopefully this part will become clearer as more people start using the product and providing feedback on the usability.

After spending a little bit of time, I got the hang of it and was adding people to the various Circles I set up (and Google set up for me). What I found the most interesting (and weird) was the pre-set by Google “followers” Circle. Google describes this as: “People you don’t know personally, but whose posts you find interesting.” Like a Twitter “follow” concept, these people can be added and you are able to see their content without them approving your friendship. I immediately added my favorites- Pete Cashmore, Scott Monty, David Meerman Scott, and couldn’t resist Tom Anderson (remember him from MySpace?!?!). Of course, I’m counting on them to have their content shared with everyone- and not limiting it to their Circles, which most likely does not include me.

The hard part about Google Circles, to me, is knowing which Circle to place people in. I have the same struggle with my Facebook lists- I ended up creating WAY too many lists and find that it’s difficult to manage. If you read pbrand’s post about The Google Plus Project, you’d already know that there is no such thing as privacy on the web anymore. While I agree with that statement, I do think that having some control over what you share with specific people still exists. Google Circles (and Facebook lists) do just that- it allows you to place more distant contacts in one group and limit what type of info they can see. I’m not saying you should post things you want to stay private, because everything that happens in Vegas stays on Facebook, but I do enjoy thinking I have a small amount of control over it. I wouldn’t “get in trouble” if my dad saw the bachelorette party pictures I posted on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean I think he needs to see them. Get the difference?

Phew- okay, so I finally moved past Circles and started in with the rest of the features. The picture gallery is very cool and extremely user friendly. You can import your current albums from Picasa, easily (and quickly) change your profile picture and uploading new pictures from your computer is as simple as drag and drop. Very easy, very quick, and very cool! The hard part is that all my pictures are already on Facebook. Sure, I’ll upload a few to the new service, and probably start with new ones, but I’m not about to load 300+ pictures to a new service.

As far as the rest of the features: There is a news stream, similar to Facebook, but it’s confusing as to the order the posts are displayed. Naturally, instead of a “like’ button, it features a +1 button and gives you the ability to comment. I haven’t used any “hangouts” yet, mostly because the people I’d want to hang out with are not on there yet. Although this concept could be cool, I wonder how much it will be utilized. I’m not big on video chat, mostly because I usually am doing 50 other things at the same time as chatting. Plus, one of the best features of the phone or IM is NOT having to do your hair and makeup before talking.

My initial feeling, 24 hours into using the product, is that this is a mix of Facebook and Twitter, with the search power of Google. You have the new stream functionality of Facebook, but the ability to follow people you find influential and important like Twitter, and the ability to share and promote quality content with Google +1. But, like I said earlier, this is after only 24 hours. When I first started on Twitter, I HATED it. I barely used it for the first few months but found my way back eventually. I’m sure this will be the case with Google+.

The bigger question that still resonates in my mind is: Will the average person start using Google+? Honestly, I have no idea. Initially, I think not, but only time will tell. Let’s face it- people “LIKE” Facebook! I think a lot of users may be wary to try a new network out, especially if it’s complicated and does not make sense to them. Most people outside the “industry” don’t even use Twitter because they don’t get it. But- after all- it’s GOOGLE! The benefits and impacts that this has on SEO are way too big to overlook, but depend on user adaptation and integration. Honestly, I’m interested to see how this will play out over time, and what Google+ will look like in 6 months to a year from now. Something tells me that new features are on their way

Christina Torri works with Social Media and Internet Marketing clients for Mindscape at Hanon McKendry