I wrote a post a few weeks back about my expectations for Google +. I talked about some pretty standard things; privacy, functionality, and adoption. While those things were important to me then, I’ve discovered a whole new way to use the service.
Sparks is a great little way to explore things that interest you. Basically, when you first look at the Sparks section, Google will throw a couple interests at you to see if there’s anything you like. If not, no worries—just search for your own. Seems simple enough, right?
Here’s how I use it. I love photography, and believe it or not there is a lot of it on the web. Whenever I need inspiration, or just want to do some research to see what kind of pictures are being taken, how different lenses are being used, or tips and tricks from professionals, I just click on the photography Spark in the left hand column of my home page. Google then delivers me summarized content that I browse through at my leisure. This was a huge bonus for me once I learned how to use it right.
Have you tried one yet? I tried my first one the other day. If you’ve ever used any sort of video conferencing, that’s pretty much the extent of it, no need to hype it up any more than that.
Here’s how photographers can use it. One of the key things to becoming a great photographer is to have a group of other photographers who give you open and helpful critiques of your work. You may think what you’ve done is awesome, but speaking from experience, adjusting minor things that others have pointed out has drastically changed my images, and my approach. Recently, I came across a guy who was hosting weekly hangouts for photo critiquing. You upload your images to your preferred site, and during the hangout, shoot out the link for everyone to take a look and comment on. Brilliant.
With Google + you have the ability to separate people into different groups (Circles). Not only does that help with privacy (in deciding who gets to see your post), but it also gives you the ability to track different groups in your main stream. For example, I created a “Photographers” circle. I searched Google + for my favorite photographer, Jeremy Cowart. After I added him to that circle, I checked out who else had added him to their circles and sure enough, it was other photographers. So I added them too. If you’re familiar with Twitter, and Twitter lists at that, you probably see what I’ve done here. A stream is essentially a filter. You decide what gets through that filter by developing circles. Again, brilliant.
I hope you’re still with me folks, because this is a good one too. Since Google already had its own picture service, Picasa, it really just used that to drive the back-end of the Google + photo system. You may have noticed that your Picasa albums showed up in there when you checked that section out and that’s really why. If you’re like me and have only used Flickr, Picasa doesn’t really sound all that great. This is where I changed my mind. Try not to think of Google + as your image hosting service, but rather as your image sharing service. For one, the images look a million times better than they do on Facebook, plus you get a nice little lightbox to show them off. Try uploading a few images and you’ll immediately notice the difference.
I hope this gives you a pretty good idea of how to really dive into Google + and use it for all it’s worth. I’d love to know how you are specifically using for your own personal/business uses and any tips or tricks you can offer. Let us know in the comments. Also, to read about everything Google + has to offer with its photo functionality, try this link.
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