So what can Google+ do for journalists? Good question...

Thursday 21 July 2011, 17:16

Ramaa Sharma Ramaa Sharma is a multimedia journalism and production trainer for the BBC College of Journalism International. Twitter: @ramaamultimedia

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I think, to be frank, it's probably too soon to say (but when has that ever stopped a blogger).

I've been on Google+ since the day it was launched and it feels like we (the extra keen ones) are all still taking the temperature and having a good ol' play.

The difference however is that, unlike with some of Google's previous social networking efforts, the enthusiasm around Google+ appears to be growing not fading. For once, people are asking me for invites and I don't have to convince them why they ought to get involved!

If this spreads beyond social media enthusiasts and techies, it will turn into a very valuable tool for us, the journalists, but potentially anyone else who enjoys social networking.

So, with that caveat firmly in place, here are some thoughts and ideas sourced from blogs, which I've curated here, some great feedback on this subject from my Google+ account (most conversations about Google+ are happening on Google+, incidentally!) and of course my personal grey matter.

So, firstly for journalists themselves:

Google+, if populated, will be able to help journos manage their various relationships from one space very easily and efficiently. The ability to subdivide contacts and create circles around geography, campaigns, politics etc is a real plus. Yes, it is similar to Twitter lists, but you can have conversations more neatly within these distinct circles. In addition, it's possible to share a Google doc within a circle, thus opening up opportunities to collaborate.

I can't emphasise enough the merits of this level of engagement. Not being restricted to the 140-character limit of Twitter, and having a real sense of who you are addressing in a circle, has so far facilitated some very worthwhile contributions.

For example, I found out about a nifty Google Chrome extension that allows me to integrate my Twitter and Facebook feeds into Google+. (Thanks, Tom Cranstoun.) With the extension, you can see your Twitter and Facebook feeds in separate streams and update/reply from them too. I've noticed that Twitter is a bit slow to update, which is a real shame, but it's worth a play.

For news teams wanting to run programme pages on Google+:

Firstly, don't do it yet. Google will be rolling out pages for businesses shortly and it appears it is also policing this instruction. NBC affiliate KOMU News has been carrying out some interesting experiments with Google+, which I'll come to below, but, as Google has just closed down its page, it doesn't appear worth investing the time and energy to set up a profile for your organisation just yet.

However, that said, here are some potential benefits to look forward to:

* The ability to edit your status is a great little feature - helping journos to update stories quickly and easily; potentially brilliant during a breaking news event. The status also shows a time stamp - useful.

* You can mute a post/question after you have moved on to another story - very useful function that helps reduce the time needed to moderate a page.

* Photographs get more pride of place on Google+. They appear larger and more prominent in your stream than in Facebook, making your update far more attractive (and we know how much users like good photographs/picture galleries). The same applies to video, incidentally.

* Potentially labour-intensive idea, but you could post different stories to different circles or reword them according to who you are targeting. BBC News Washington is giving this idea a go. (Although, even as I write, I'm wondering how long it's going to take before Google closes down this profile too.)

BBC News Washington screen grab.

* The 'hangout' concept or video chat function, which allows for up to ten people to chat to one another, could allow for a debate feature prior to or during a broadcast. KOMU News presenter Sarah Hill tried this out by sharing what went on behind the scenes in the newsroom before she went on air. I believe the Huffington Post has tried a similar experiment too.

Of course, more ideas will emerge and it will be interesting to see what additional functionality Google+ provides on its new business pages.

I'll leave you with two quotes I came across that may tickle you.

On whether Google+ will become bigger than Facebook:

"Overall FB will remain the prettiest girl at the dance for the hoi polloi. G+ is more thinking man's crumpet."

- Lawrence Merritt


"If Facebook and Twitter had a baby, they'd call it Google+."

- Olaf Wempe

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