Numbers can tell a story. As of December 2011, Facebook had 845 million monthly active users. As of September 2011, Twitter had 100 million active users. As of January 2012, Google+ had more than 90 million users.
Facebook and Twitter reached those numbers in years. Google+ reached the 90 million mark in less than 7 months despite accepting only invited members when it launched. These statistics give you a feel for how quickly Google+ has become a force in the social media sphere.
There are reasons that set Google+ apart from Facebook and Twitter. We'll look at 8 of them in this article.
I've picked up on only those points that seemed most important to me, your list may differ. Please leave a comment if there is a Google+ feature that excites you.
1. Your Google+ Activity Affects and Shows in Google's Search Results
Brian Clark says "Google+ is Google... period."
Gmail, Google docs, Google Chrome, Blogger – all came later. The idea that gave birth to Google was search. Google+ is designed to provide maximum advantage to the giant search engine Google. Google+ supplements Google.
Although it's true that your business's Facebook and Twitter activity will also count towards your Google's search rank (for example. Google's spiders consider the number of tweets and Facebook shares your articles receive) but some of your Google+ activity will actually be displayed in the search results.
For example, Darren Rowse's wonderful blog ProBlogger ranked fourth in search results when searching for the keyword "blogging". The search result included a link to his Google+ profile and also displayed the number of people (76,288) who have circled him (or follow him) on Google+.
I've scratched only the surface here. I strongly recommend the following article from Social Media Examiner – 5 Ways to Use Google+ to Improve Search Engine Optimization.
Every serious businessman who has been avoiding Google+ should read the above article.
You might have heard news that President Obama used Google+ hangout to answer people's questions live on YouTube.
Basically, Hangout is just a group video chat. Twitter does not support any video chat. Facebook does but whenever you wish to do a video chat there, you must notify people in advance and they must be added in your profile.
Hangout takes this technology a step ahead.
Suppose I find the above post in my stream. I like it so much that I don't want to discuss it in the comments below. Instead I want to do a live video chat with anyone who is interested in discussing the same thing. Clicking the "Hang out" link will take me to a special video chat room designed only for me and others like me who are interested in doing a video discussion on the same topic.
An automated message will be posted in the comments below the post, which will notify people that I'm hanging out and anybody can join me.
3. Watch YouTube Videos as You Surf Google+
The small YouTube icon at the top right of the page is given for a good enough reason. Hover on it and it spreads into a search bar. Punch in some keywords and the topmost video result from YouTube begins to play in a new window which opens on the same page of Google+.
For example, I punched in the word "writing" in the search bar and hit enter. Below is the screen shot of the result.
As you can see in the image above, the look of the YouTube content of this window is not exactly the same as the YouTube home page. This window has been specially designed for Google+. This is more or less analogous to a smart phone app.
This window can be resized, completely minimized (in case you want to hear only the audio), or placed anywhere on the screen as per your wishes.
Facebook and Twitter both do not have any such options.
4. You May Edit Published Posts
Suppose I make the following flawed post on my Google+ profile.
When a concerned follower informs me that I've made some errors in the post then I don't need to delete the complete thing and type over again.
I only need to click the options menu – the small arrow icon in the top right – and then choose "Edit this post".
This opens up the post for editing.
I can now make the necessary corrections and then click "Save".
My old post is now edited.
This option proves to be of great help when you have to edit a post with lots of characters and tons of media.
Facebook and Twitter both have no options to edit a published post or tweet. You'll have to delete it and write all the material again if you want to change even a comma into a full stop. Not only is it time consuming and frustrating, but it also changes the sequence of things.
I mean, suppose you find that a post (or a tweet) that you made two months ago is flawed. Deleting and re-writing it will make it appear in your latest feed. This can be very confusing for your followers.
5. Complete Control on Comments and Shares
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, posts on Google+ can be individually monitored. You can control individual posts as to which of them can receive comments and which of them cannot.
Click the options menu and then click "Disable comments" in the posts on which you do not wish to receive comments.
Similarly you are in total control as to which of your posts can be shared by others and which of them cannot.
Click options and then click "Lock this post". This will disable anyone from sharing that post with their circles.
Both these options can be undone later.
6. Unlimited Characters Allowed in Updates
Everybody knows about the 140 character limit of Twitter.
Few know about the 63,206 character limit of Facebook. Try to post anything larger than 63,206 characters in your status. You'll get an error message as shown below.
Google+ on the other hand has no character limit for status updates. So if you have a really long post you should choose to publish it on your Google+ profile.
7. Narrow Down Trends
Trends is a list of some of the most popular topics which people are discussing on the website.
Facebook has no such feature.
Twitter has this feature, but when you click on a Trend, you are taken to a list of all the related tweets. Also, those tweets are arranged with respect to the time when they were posted – newest first - and not with respect to quality. Searching for what you want there can be frustrating.
In Google+ Trends, you can narrow down the search results of Trending posts through several ways.
For example, when I was writing this post the keyword "Syria" was leading the Trends. I clicked on it and that lead me to a page, part of whose screenshot is shown below.
The options encompassed in red rectangles above, enable you to pinpoint your search results.
You can search only for the best results of Trends, search only for hangouts in Trends, search only for people and pages, search results from only your circles, or search via location.
8. Instagram like Software to Edit Images
Facebook and Twitter have almost no options to edit your uploaded images. At the most you may crop some edges and choose the size of the thumbnail visibility.
Google+ enables you to edit your images with far better capabilities.
Google+ has a full fledged photo editing software named Picnik which is not too different from Instagram. This software enables you to edit and get desired results on your images even if you don't have photo editing software installed on your PC.
Let me show you an example.
Go to Photos section and then click "Your albums". (Note - You can upload images by clicking on some other options too). Click on the "UPLOAD NEW PHOTOS" tab at the top-right of the screen and upload the required image/images.
Hover your arrow on the image and click the edit icon.
As shown above, the image is now opened for editing. As you can see, there are several options to change the look of your image.
I selected the "Effects" tab.
After selecting "Effects" the left sidebar changes as shown above. Then I selected the "Green Fade" and you can see how the image changed.
There are many more photo editing options contained inside, which you can explore further.
Google+, Facebook, Twitter, or All Three
Do note that whether Google+ is better than Facebook and Twitter will depend on your needs. Each of these popular social media apps have features that make it valuable to freelancers and small business owners. It's important to develop a social media strategy that fits your business.
There is no one correct answer to the question that "Out of Google+, Facebook and Twitter – which is the best?" The answer will vary from individual to individual depending upon his needs and requirements. And you'll likely use all three of them for various purposes.
In this article we've talked about 8 features that help Google+ score better marks in the above mentioned categories. There are surely other features where Facebook and Twitter will rank better than Google+.
I would love to know which is your favorite social media app? As well as your favorite features? Leave a comment below and participate in the discussion.