Last Tuesday, July 5, Internet search engine giant, Google, threw a veritable lightening bolt onto the online landscape – one that, at least initially, has rocked social media to its core. The new project, Google+ has sparked an onslaught of consumer sign-ups and resulting feedback. Online experts speculate that as Google+ gears up to enter its second week, it already totes somewhere between 9 and 10 million registered users. The most remarkable thing about Google+’s exponential growth? The fact that the social networking service is still in the test stage.

The new fad on the block

Google+ is the fastest growing social network to date. During this initial launch phase, Google+ sent invitations to only a select number of users. However, its already rampant popularity is testament to the service’s desirability. Google+ hopes that its new features will change the way people interact over social media. It takes well-known advantages from both Facebook and Twitter and gives them a Google spin, tweaking them here and there to come up with something altogether new and different:

  • Circles – Let’s say you want to invite only your board to a financial seminar, share a photo with just your family or organize a meet up of your book club. Circles encourage you to categorize your contacts so that what you want seen and known gets seen and known only by those you wish.
  • Huddles – This feature takes the hassle out of planning group activities. Think of how when you send a group email you can also send a group reply. Google+ allows you to text like this from their Google+ app, on the Android smartphone.
  • Hangouts – Who remembers the days when talking to someone face-to-face across long distances seemed an exclusively Jetsonian concept? Skype brought the video-chat filled future to the masses and now Google+ is taking things one step further. When one individual decides to “hangout” they auto alert certain circles that they are ready to video chat, then leaves open the option to engage or not. Hangout video chats may include up to 10 different people, all visible in a neat, organized visual interface that switches focus depending on who is talking.
  • Sparks – Whatever you’re into, there’s a spark for that. While Facebook allows you to “Like” a topic or interest such as music, Sparks generate a unique feed for users, populated with exclusively topic specific information.

Get ready to take the plunge

Any trend with this much initial star power stands a great chance of cultivating long-term momentum. Although Google+ currently doesn’t allow commercial accounts, businesses would nevertheless do well to sit up and take notice of the opportunities it does afford. Google+ promises commercial entities a whole new store of features in the future that will help them more effectively reach and market to their target customers. They plan to enact these new updates once initial testing and development phases reach completion.

Take advantage of this development gap to explore the consumer side of Google+. Rather than attempting to manipulate a personal account into a commercial account as some businesses are doing, encourage your business’ employees and company leaders to take advantage of any Google+ evites they may have received or to solicit invitations from willing social media gurus to better learn how and why consumers are and will be using Google+.

Put Google+ to work for you now as an inter-corporate communication tool to streamline conversation and instill cross department platform familiarity:

  • Circles – Separate your contacts by client, department, vendor or whatever works for you. You can keep your social media experts alerted on the latest in online network news, your accounting department aware of the newest government regulations and share your clients’ achievements with everyone!
  • Huddles – When it comes to project collaboration, Huddles are the thing. Get your whole project team in on the conversation, whether you’re in the office or across the country at a major meeting.
  • Hangouts – Put an end to the conference calls of yesteryear and get visual. Hangouts simplify the video conference experience and allow even more parties than ever before to easily join the dialogue.
  • Sparks – Does your company focus on fashion? What about politics or fitness? Whatever you business interests, get all the 4-1-1 brought directly to your Google+ feed by the Sparks feature.

Be engaging

Although we do not yet know the extent of Google+’s impact upon the way the business world operates, we can almost certainly assume it will involve Google AdWords and Analytics.

As you move to embrace this new tool, the key to success, as with any other social media tool, remains to be engaging – have something to say, say it well and maintain the conversation. Follow these basics, and using Google+ will become an adventure, a joy and then a meaningful source of increased market share.