I’ve been playing with Google+, Google’s new social networking platform, for the past few days. At first glimpse, I thought it was just like Facebook minus all of my Facebook connections. The more I play with the site, however, the more I like it. I’ve outlined three features important for lawyers and law students, how I plan to use Google+, and resources that may help you get started with Google+.
Three Google+ Features for Lawyers/Law Students to Note
1. Search Results. Prior to having a Google+ profile, my business website was the first result that appeared in a search for my name (Amanda Ellis or “Amanda Ellis”). My LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles followed. Now that I have a Google+ profile, my Google+ profile appears first and my business website is second, followed by my LinkedIn profile.
Significance: Once I saw where my Google+ profile ranked, I was intrigued by the social networking platform but not sold. The profile rank is significant enough that every lawyer/law student should maintain a professional profile on Google+ so they can be found in search results. Watch the video in the resources section below to see how you can create a profile. And, read about the sparks feature to see how you can bolster your profile.
2. Sparks. Discovering the sparks feature on Google+ is what made me see the potential. The sparks feature is like a built-in RSS. You can select topics of interest to you, click on the topic and Google+ displays recent articles about the topic. Then, you can share the link to the article to your Google+ connections (your circles). For example, I selected “legal jobs” as one of my sparks, topics of interest. The first article displayed is from yesterday about the decline in law school enrollment in Missouri because of fewer legal jobs in that market.
Lawyers can set up sparks for certain practice areas or industries. For example, I created a spark for “Chapter 11 bankruptcy” and learned of the recent bankruptcy filings of Lambuth University and a former UGA football coach.
Significance: The sparks feature makes it easy to find information to share – information you would normally share with your professional networks via email, Twitter or LinkedIn. Moreover, the sparks feature makes it easy to maintain a professional profile on Google+ (see #1 above for the significance of maintaining a professional profile on Google+).
3. Circles. You group your Google+ connections by circles (watch the video in the resources section for more information about circles). Anyone can add you to a circle and they don’t need your permission. At first, I was alarmed when someone named “Shabooty” added me to a circle (I didn’t know the person and the person did not have a picture of himself/herself so I assumed spam). But, I saw the potential when a lawyer from Google added me to a circle. Think about the professional connections you can make on Google+ … while the interface of the platform resembles Facebook, Google+ resembles Twitter when you consider your ability to connect with anyone. I don’t know how the Google lawyer classified me; I suspect he placed me in a “professional acquaintances” circle rather than a “friends” circle since we’ve never met. But, that’s okay – we can still interact on a professional level like we would on Twitter or LinkedIn. He can share personal information with his “friends” circle that I won’t see.
Significance: The circles concept is huge because it allows Google+ to take advantage of the benefits of Facebook (sharing with friends), Twitter (sharing with people you don’t know but want to get to know) and LinkedIn (sharing with professional contacts).
How I Plan to Use Google+
For now, Google+ is another professional platform for me. Most of my high school and college friends are on Facebook, and I can’t imagine many of them migrating to Google+ anytime soon unless it’s for professional purposes (FYI most of my Google+ connections so far are professional contacts from Twitter). So, I can’t imagine sharing old pictures, reminiscing about dance recitals, or planning a girls weekend with close friends on Google+. But, I can imagine using Google+ to expand my professional network by interacting and sharing articles and information with professional contacts. I don’t see Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter disappearing anytime soon, but I do see potential in Google+.
Resources for Getting Started with Google+
Watch the video in this post to set up and navigate your Google+ profile.
If you are curious about the potential of Google+, read Chris Brogan’s list of 50 things to think about with regards to Google+.