Since its debut just over three months ago, Google Plus — Google’s latest attempt to gain a foothold in the social web — has simultaneously turned heads, raised questions and prompted shrugs of indifference. Yes, it’s too early to tell what the Google Plus legacy/killer app/purpose will ultimately be (remember Google Wave?), but we can make some educated (no pun intended) guesses.
For our purposes here at Tufts, there are two main angles from which we should consider Google Plus:
Right now, Google Plus is just for individuals. Only a few select brands, such as Ford, have been given trial permission to run brand accounts on Google Plus. Back in July, higher ed social media researcher Liz Gross shared several ideas for how we might use Google Plus for recruitment marketing, including Hangouts as virtual college fairs/infosessions and accepted student mixers. She also cautioned that since relevance is such a prime currency on Google Plus, it may be wise to create separate presences, each geared toward specific audiences (current students vs. prospective students vs. alumni, for example).
The challenge will be in figuring out who our audience is on Google Plus, and how we might use this differently than we use other social networks. Either way, it shouldn’t simply be a carbon copy repository of what we’re already doing on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere, just for the sake of saying “We’re on Google Plus!” It is its own channel, with unique functionality and a different audience. How do we account for this in our use of it, whenever that time comes?
The potential for education is a lot more apparent. The biggest draw for educators is Google Hangouts, the video chat function that easily allows for groups to get together in a video conference. Google acknowledged the power of Hangouts by recently announcing several significant upgrades to the feature, including the ability to air public broadcasts, create topic-based hangouts, use Google Docs and share screens. Hangouts could create great distance learning experiences, or a unique study hall opportunity for students (tying into the way they already study collaboratively). (The MindShift blog has more on the potential of Hangouts.)
Another Google Plus feature with potential for educators are creating circles for sharing information with specific classes or groups (as social media expert Chris Brogan explains). Webster University’s Patrick Powers adds that circles allow for targeted content sharing and easier maintenance of privacy.
(Check out some other educators’ perspectives on the potential of Google Plus in the classroom. Read Write Web also posted some downsides, including current lack of Google Apps integration. While we don’t use Google Apps institutionally at Tufts, many schools do.)
While early returns are not definitive, Google Plus is definitely worth our continued attention. Gross predicts that Google Plus will, in time, become as popular as Facebook, if not moreso, due to how integrated Google already is in our lives.
How do you think we might end up using Google Plus at Tufts? Any ideas? Share them in the comments!