There’s been quite a bit of “Buzz” lately (sorry, bad joke at Google’s expense) about Google+, their new social networking platform. Well, the hype is pretty much true. After using it for almost a week now, I can tell you that it’s a very exciting service with lots of possibilities. People have asked me what Google+ is and what it’s like, and it can be difficult to explain–it’s much easier to experience it for yourself. Perhaps the best way to describe it is a blend of Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s preexisting services (Picasa, Gmail, etc.) all rolled into one, which is a pretty amazing prospect. It’s in an early testing phase (invite only), so if you’d like to try it yourself, go ahead and contact me with your email address – don’t worry, I won’t sell it or spam you, it’s required to send the invite.
Many people and businesses have been clamoring to get in on the excitement it has generated, but for now Google has said that businesses will have to wait a couple weeks before creating a Brand Page (similar to a Facebook fan page). So now’s the time to starting thinking about how your church, nonprofit, or business can use Google+.
Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:
- Create a page. Depending on how many users end up adopting it, Google+ may become the new “place to be” for online community, so you’ll definitely want to have a Page there just as you would on Facebook. Whether or not it’s a “Facebook Killer” as some have suggested remains to be seen, so for right now you’ll definitely want to maintain pages on both services. The same rules apply: you’ll want to post timely and relevant updates so that people who add your page to their “circles” are in the know about you and your organization.
- Hangout. No, I don’t mean just sit around and play on the internet all day (wait, that’s what you do for a living? My bad:). I’m referring to a really exciting aspect of Google+. Hangouts is a feature that allows you to video chat very easily with one or many people who choose to Hangout with you. The applications of this for ministry are practically endless. Need to organize a staff meeting or a meeting of your church’s governing board quickly even when people are in different places? Start a hangout (and restrict it to one or more of your “circles”) and you’ll have everyone together in one video chat room discussing whatever business you need to take care of. Want to easily broadcast your worship service online? Start a hangout (which sounds a little informal for worship, I know) and no matter where people are, they can view your service. The list of possible applications is long – play with it and see how you can use it!
- Huddle. Luckily, you don’t have to join a football team to be a part of this great feature. Huddle is basically group chat (text based) on the go – simplified. Right now it’s limited to Android Smartphone users with the Google+ App, but hopefully iPhone and other smartphone users will be added as the service expands. This could be great for organizing youth outings and on mission trips, where people may be spread out at different sites across a city. This could also be great for keeping church staff in contact with each other easier than just texting or email, because everyone can quickly and easily see the conversation and be a part of it.