For the past week, the interwebs have been buzzing about Google Plus. While it’s still too early to tell whether it will really kill Facebook (I doubt it) or Twitter (ditto), it’s certainly gained a lot of traction, and very quickly.
But what does Google Plus (or Google+ or G+) do for expats?
First, let me say if you haven’t joined yet and want an invitation, let me know. I’ll be happy to send you one. Just note on the form that you’d like to join Google+.
There’s tons of information available now about what Google+ is, how to get started, and what you can do with it. If you need a basic guide, this one from the Social Media Examiner is very good. (Just keep in mind that Google+ is being updated pretty constantly as users provide feedback, so things may have changed since this article was written. . .) Here’s another good, basic guide.
ProBlogger Darren Rowse talked about the birth of G+ alongside the birth of his new baby here.
But what about G+ for expats? What can it do specifically for us?
And the answer is, a lot!.
The Google Plus Community — Different from the Others
On Facebook you have lists of friends and on Twitter you have followers and those you follow. On G+, though, you have circles. You can add someone — it’s as simple as dragging and dropping — to more than one circle. They give you four basic circles to start with, but you can create more.
And, unlike Facebook where you and someone else agree to be “friends,” you can have all sorts of relationships on G+. There are people who’ve added me to their circles who aren’t in mine, and vice versa.
I quickly created an “Expats” circle. Then, since I’m interested in moving to Panama, I created a “Panama Expats” circle. To see what they’re talking about, I just select that circle from the list in my stream and my feed shows me all sorts of interesting expats talking about interesting things.
On Facebook, when I ask my friends a question, the only answers I get back are from those friends. On G+, I can ask my friends a question and get answers from a wider group of folks. So if I want to know where the best widget store is in Panama City, I can ask my Panama Expat circle and get a response from those people as well as people they know.
Google is telling us they will have integration for business users coming soon, and I’m eager to see what they come up with.
On Facebook, you can “like” a business or organization like Future Expats, and their postings show up in your newsfeed.
On G+, you select “Sparks” from the left-hand navigation bar to find things you’re interested in. Instead of getting info from a specific company, you get a newsfeed about your topic. In my “Panama expat” sparks feed right now I’m seeing a video about the Panama Canal, a VW driving endurance team, the opening of the Trump Ocean Club in Panama, and an article about what to take with you when moving to Panama.
When I find something interesting, I can share it with any or all of my circles.
Real-time Communication: Hang Out with your Buds
Off to the right of the home screen in G+ is a little button labeled “Start a hangout.” I have to admit, I haven’t had much chance to play with this yet, but it is a seamless, effortless way to get a live video chat going with lots of people. The potential for expats here is huge.
For example: Thanksgiving is a big family day in the US. A lot of American expats find creative ways to celebrate overseas, and that’s terrific. But wouldn’t it be great to be able to participate in your family’s Thanksgiving celebration remotely? G+ lets you do it, without complicated setup or special programs.
Want to get to know a few expats before moving to your new location? Hang out with them on G+.
Planning to start a business or run a blog overseas? You’ll find lots of ways to use the G+ hangout.
Seamless Integration with Google Tools
Expats rely on cloud technology to get things done. G+ integrates seamlessly with the Google tools you’re already using — Calendar, GMail, Maps, Documents and more.
These are just a few of the ways I’m already using Google Plus to help me learn more about expatriation and get in touch with expats and other future expats.
Have you found some ways to use it to enhance your life overseas? Share a comment below, or let other expats know on Google Plus!