The web is buzzing right now about Google+ and Facebook’s new video calling feature. Both offer different features and draw backs. Some people are raving fans, others can’t stand one platform or another. One way or another, it’s my opinion that video chat will become much more prevalent and common so I’m excited to see the big guys innovating. I’ve put together a brief comparison below so you can see what each platform offers and if it will suit your needs.
Last night, I received my coveted invite to join Google + and I immediately started playing with it while Dexter played in the background. Like so many social media nerds, I was excited to finally get my hands dirty with what some are calling a ‘Facebook killer.â€
So what is Google +?
Google + is Google’s new social network service and is currently in limited field trial. Unlike Google Wave and Buzz, Google + immediately seems more promising due to its slick design which users will love.
At first glance, the minimalist interface is very similar to Facebook.
However unlike the debacle with Buzz, Google + puts privacy in the forefront, making the service innovative and fun to use. Here at Schipul, everyone has been geeking out over it and Google + is truly, as PC Mag’s Mark Hachman states, ‘a social network for geeks.â€
The new social network service is ripped with some really cool features as well which I will discuss next.
So What about these Google + Features?
So it seems Google really thought about these features and realized that life is a little more dynamic than just the Public / Private dichotomy that Facebook and Twitter has created. Instead Google + provides a granular and exciting way to share our lives with the people we know.
This will be a basic overview of Google + features. In the coming days we will blog more in-depth reviews of each feature but for now, let’s see what’s inside Google +.
Social networking is about connecting with people and sharing information. With Google Circles, it’s really easy to do this. Google Circles is basically like Facebook friends lists and groups or Twitter lists but with more control and visualization.
Here’s an example of how they look:
Basically, you can drag-and-drop people in the circles you create. For example, I created a Schipulites circle for my coworkers. With Google +, you now have more control with who you share with at a granular level.
Google + Stream
The stream is very similar to the Facebook home feed which users will appreciate. Here is the Facebook home feed:
Here is the stream for Google +:
This is where you will enter a status update, share photos and videos, etc. As you can see the design is slick and sexy, typical of Google.
Google Sparks is a great feature that helps you find things to share. Think of it like Google Alerts that allows you to follow topics you’re interested in. Here’s an example of how it looks when I search for topics on SEO.
Google Sparks makes it easy to browse suggested topics or you can set your interests using keyword-based searches. Most importantly, it’s really easy to share content.
Hangouts: Group Video Chat
This feature is pretty neat. With Hangouts, you can video chat up to 10 people at a time. Here’s an example of how it looks from Search Engine Land.
This feature looks like it’s going to be useful especially for business meetings. The way it works is when someone initiates a Hangout, it shows up on your feed and notifies your friends. There is however a 10 person limit.
Huddle: Mass Texting and Group Chat
This is the feature, besides Google Circles, I’m most excited about. Huddles is a mass texting and group chat service that turns your different conversations into one simple group chat. Can you imagine? Bar hopping with friends will no longer be an ordeal. It will be simple and painless to get everyone on the same page or update people on where to meet for another crazy night of Red Stripes and darts.
Like Facebook’s ‘Likeâ€ button, the +1 share button makes it easy to identify content that you approve or think is cool. It’s a great way to recommend awesome content to your friends, coworkers and family. This is how it looks in the search results when I do a search for ‘Houston Coffee Spotsâ€ and +1’d the result.
The content you +1 will show up on your Google Profile. Just like in the way that anything you like on Facebook can be liked with Facebook ‘Likeâ€ buttons.
So, you might have also noticed Google +1 buttons starting to appear in search results and publishers adding the button to their sites. If you want to install the Google +1 button on your site be sure to check out our ‘HOWTO: Install Google +1 Share Button on Your Siteâ€ blog post on our SEM blog.
Currently however, the content you +1’d does not feed into Google +. It doesn’t really make sense but I suspect Google will fix this before the service becomes available to everyone. The only way you can see what people have +1’d is if you remember to go to a person’s Google profile. For example:
So that is Google + in a nutshell. In the coming days, we will post more in-depth articles on how to use Google + for your business, so be sure to keep a lookout.
If you got an invite to join Google +, we would love to hear what you think about it. Let us know in the comments below. For now, I’m going to continue getting my Google + on.
Need help getting Google+ on your website?
Check out our handy how to install Google+ button help file’HOWTO: Install Google +1 Share Button on Your Siteâ€ blog post and if you’re brain is still hungry, we’ve got some great social media and online technology help files to help you take it to the next level.
I’ve been working here at Schipul for almost a year now. I came here after 4+ years of working for the Society for the Performing Arts in Houston, TX. During this time, my mind has not strayed far from trying to find better ways for performing arts organizations to harness the power of the Internet to enhance audience development and, more importantly, sell more tickets.
This post is a first step in helping performing arts institutions to better understand and use the Internet for their organizations and their artists. I welcome your feeback, and hope you forward this on to anyone you know that works for a performing arts organization if you find it useful.
A Reality: Performing Arts needs SEO
You probably think an organization like Lincoln Center wouldn’t need Search Engine Optimization. You’re wrong.
Despite being quite familiar with their site, I had to Google them first to find their site. Today’s web user is very reluctant to start slapping .com on anything you want on the web. For instance, try typing whitehouse.com into your browser. You will not find our President.
Need more proof? Take a look at this report from Google Insights about searches including the words lincoln and center. NOTE: These results are from New York state.
I don’t know about you, but I know Lincoln Center is in New York City. Yet above you can see that many people actually search for “lincoln center nyc” or “lincoln center ny”. Again, these are searched from the state of New York. The point here is that regardless of how strong your brand or position is in a patron’s mind, they will more likely be Googling you or the performer first.
Wait! Don’t go optimizing your performances just yet. You need to develop your strategy first. You’re probably thinking you’ll succeed if you start optimizing around the same time you start marketing the performances through your other outlets. That’s not going to work. You need at least three months of continuous optimization to start getting attention of the great and powerful Google. This means your online marketing should not, in any way, be tied to your other marketing plans. Why?
Newspapers are dying because they thought reprinting their paper on the web was all they needed to do. They were wrong. You must market to an online audience (i.e. Google) if you want people to find your web site. This means you need to start treating Google like your oldest subscriber and donor.
A Challenge: Performing Arts needs Video
Do you remember when we all thought how crazy it was to have a camera on a cell phone? Now we have phones offering HD video! But there’s a HUGE drawback as it’s not so easy to transmit video via today’s web. However, as the Internet continues to become more mobile, and the transmission lines get faster and more widespread, sharing video is going to become as ubiquitous as photo sharing is today.
Today, many performing artists rely on photos to tell their story. Take this image from Diavolo’sTrajectoire.
But doesn’t this video do a better job of telling their story?
Of course, it’s not just about presenting it, it’s HOW you share the video. Take this video I’ve embedded from Alvin Ailey Dance Company. NOTE: Alvin Ailey has restricted our ability to share their videos to this format.
Not very impressive, is it? If you do decide to click on it, you will bear witness to one of the greatest displays of American choreography the world has ever seen. But if you’re like most web users, you are more likely to trust the Diavolo video link (32K+ hits) over the link from Alvin Ailey (26K+ hits).
Proving a picture is worth 6,000 clicks.
Artists and presenting organizations have to work together to provide better opportunities for patron video consumption. It’s not about showing entire pieces or performances, it’s about whetting the appetite of an audience that is starved for good content. And like we’ve seen above, how you allow your patrons and fans to present is important as well.
An Adventure: Check in, Experience the Performing Arts
Do you remember your reaction when you first heard someone talk about Twitter? It was probably the same reaction you have had listening to someone talk about Foursquare, Gowalla or SCVNGR. I must admit, I long fought against the location-based check in services. However, the more I learn about them, the more I begin to see the dawning of a new level of personal interaction.
The purpose behind these services isn’t to alert people of your location, it’s to tell a story about a location. Every time you walk into a special place, like a performing arts venue, a memory is made. You are not the person you were after you’ve walked into one of your special locations.
For a performing arts organization’s patrons, this is a regular experience every time they walk into your performance hall. The hall is your sandbox, and you now have some pretty amazing toys to play with in it. Whether you create photo contests with Instagram or Hipstamatic, or offer discounts to patrons who check in via Gowalla or SCVNGR, you now have the ability, generally for FREE, to create memories and expand your patrons’ experiences beyond the stage and performance.
Performing Arts Online
I want to explore these and other ways the Internet can be used to tell the story of performing arts over the course of this year. I can tell you now, the performing arts groups are not fully utilizing the power of the web to further their mission and vision. My goal, my New Year’s resolution, is to help change that.
I hope this is a first step in the right direction.
When I started blogging several years back, it was considered a cardinal sin to devote an entire post to nothing but pictures of your cats. It was a standard bored blogger fallback. Nothing interesting to say, but still want to put up a post so your readers will check in? HEY GUYS, LOOK AT THIS CUTE THING MY CAT DID! Perhaps understandably, to many people those posts signaled a blogger who had just lost all street cred. [Blogger “street” cred being so very important of course.]
Funny how times have changed. Now it’s not only acceptable to post pictures of your cats, if you slap a silly saying on top of it you have the potential of becoming an internet sensation overnight. If you’ve ever visited the Schipul office, you know that we have a fondness for these four-legged furry creatures. Some of us have cats that are so talented theytweet! LOLCat images find themselves in just about every office-wide email thread, and some of us [not saying who] might have a small collection of the images prepared for any occasion that might arise.
We’re also big fans of (client) IKEA. From delicious lunches to roaming the aisles looking for that new great thing we just have. to. have. So naturally, when we got wind yesterday of a marketing experiment from IKEA UK that involved dropping 100 cats in a store overnight, just to see what would happen, we fell in love. It’s a very creative campaign and as you’ll see, resulted in some lovely images. We can’t wait to see what the final product looks like.
UPDATED: Here’s the final product! Thanks @McTello for the link!
Another big event in Schipul-land this week was the introduction of Google’s new instant search. Now that we’ve all gotten a chance to play with it, it’s interesting to look at how this new move from Google will change the way we search, and as a result, the way we build websites.
But you didn’t want to hear about any of that stuff right now. This is FRIDAY FUN time! So instead, check out the fun application of the instant search from Urlesque.
Now that we’ve killed your afternoon workplace productivity… Have a great weekend everyone!
Parts of the interwebz are buzzing today because the NBA’s Free Agency season kicked off at midnight this morning. Lebron James and Dwayne Wade head what is being hailed as the most talented free agent class in NBA history. To give you a sense of how HUGE this really is, I’m going to explain it in terms of technology and social media.
Lebron James is Steve Jobs and the Cleveland Cavaliers are Apple. You cannot (and fans of both don’t want to) think of one without thinking of the other. The separation of the two is just too painful to think about.
The Chicago Bulls are Microsoft, a once great and powerful force looking to regain past glory. Imagine Steve Jobs going to work at Microsoft. Imagine how that would feel to Apple employees and fans. That is what it would feel like if Lebron signs with Chicago, and it would replace this as the worst moment in Cavaliers franchise history:
The Miami Heat is Google and Dwayne Wade, who is likely to stay in Miami, is CEO Eric Schmidt. Imagine the Olympics are an iPhone keynote where Schmidt’s cameo is a Dwayne Wade assist leading to a Lebron James monster jam. Heat General Manager Pat Riley is the mysterious search algorithm, the source of Google’s power.
The New Jersey Nets (Brooklyn) are Facebook. Strategically well positioned with star power, Jay-Z, and a new owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, with limitless cash reserves.
The New York Knicks are MySpace. Once one of the coolest places in the NBA, now mostly pathetic and lame.
With the rising popularity of smart phones and tablet devices, the business world is undoubtedly moving towards a mobile driven workforce. Since we are now constantly connected to the internet, the idea of “cloud based” computing is becoming more practical. Google capitalized on this by creating Google Docs – a word processor accessed through the internet, rather than the traditional local program found on your computer, like Microsoft Word. Google Docs was the first web based word processor that allowed users to create and edit documents from any computer across any network. Naturally, Microsoft and other companies followed suit in order to keep their software relevant (and affordable) because of the fact, Google Docs is free. This led me to ask, Which one is best?
Google Docs– A free web based processor, presentation, and spreadsheet application. Users can create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users (meaning multiple people can edit a document at the same time). Includes a simple web interface that allows users to either save the file to a local computer, email it, or save it online. A downside is that there are limitations to the size of a file you create.
Open Office– A completely free and open source offline office application. While Open Office doesn’t have the advantage of a web based application like Google Docs, it includes advanced features that compete with Microsoft Office. Open Office includes support for the .doc format allowing users to create and edit Microsoft Word files.
ZoHo– A web based application, similar to Google Docs. Features a richer interface than the other two and like Open Office, can import many different file types like Microsoft Word. ZoHo doesn’t include as many features like Footnotes and Headers, which can be a big drawback for academics. Still, ZoHo is an adequate web based alternative for people looking to manipulate Microsoft Word files, something Google Docs can’t do.
The next version of Microsoft Office 2010, competes directly with Google by including cloud-based web apps that supplement the standard apps, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The biggest drawback however is that Microsoft Office costs over $100 while the word processors listed above are completely free. Users must decide between the unquestioned advanced features of Microsoft Office and the convenience and price of web-based apps.
If you would like to explore this topic further, please read Mashable’s article on Microsoft Office
We love seeing well though out updates to tools we use regularly. Google’s latest search page re-design makes finding the content online you want even even easier. While many of these features are not exactly new, it’s nice to see them placed a bit more in the forefront so many might be new to you!
Here are a few Google search options to know about – you can click on the image above to blow up our labeled screenshot or watch this handy video to learn from the mouths of Google all-stars themselves:
Universal Search options – the Web is an enormous place and narrowing down what you’d like to search through can make it easier for you to find relevant content. Search through the entire Web, news items, blogs, images and more. Your time is valuable and Google is helping you reclaim some of that 🙂
Set your preferred timeframe – if you only want content added recently or want to take a step back in time and look up Web site results from 2009, Google helps you make it happen.
Location location location – given how important location-based marketing is these days, Google lets you select where your information is coming from and that doesn’t just mean geographically speaking either. You can also select to search your ‘social circle’ on Google for content, which will pull in links from you Google chat pals and contacts, direct connections linked from your Google profile and even content from your Google Reader feeds. Learn more about Google Social Search here.
New or re-visited sites, you decide – sometimes you’re hungry for something new and refreshing. If you don’t want to go back and visit sites Google knows you’ve already visited, you don’t have to. Here’s to new adventures!
Pick your view, any view– Google even lets you customize your own search results page view:
The Google Wonder Wheel breaks down your search term into different categories or clusters, giving you some more search ideas
Google timeline gives you a different view of search results, for the more linear-minded
Related search gives you extra search ideas that may help you find the information that you need (hey, we could all use a little help now and then)
Something different – Google is pretty darn smart and these ‘something different’ search options might help give you an extra boost into other search possibilities in a similar category of your original search.
Unless you are a huge, die-hard fan of our favorite search engine, you probably had no idea Google was creating a new software product. And that it would take over our inboxes and (inadvertently) share our lives with everyone. Welcome to Google Buzz.
WTF is this Buzz thing?
Google Buzz is a new product from Google that lets you share things. If you use Google Reader, then you will likely recognize the interface. The two both include a list of posts with information like who it’s from, when it was shared, and a list of comments below each item. It is strikingly familiar in design to FriendFeed, your Facebook Newsfeed, and in some ways, Twitter. All include shared updates from friends with the option for additional feeds and pictures/video.
Buzz is almost identical to Friendfeed in the way it allows you to merge outside services like Blog Feeds, Twitter updates, and Google Reader shared items into one constant stream of sharing. To add these settings in Buzz, you must first have configured a Google Profile (you have that setup, right?). Then, after your feeds are added there, Google Buzz will allow you to add them to Buzz by selecting them from the Connected Sites link in Buzz. While allowing you to share things and see your friends’ shared things, you can also add comments on anything. You can follow along with the conversation and even have new comments show up in your Gmail inbox.
The big difference in the Google service is that you already start out following everyone in your Google Contacts, which often includes people you may have emailed once or twice in the past few years. For most of us, this is a huge concern because we are now sharing things with people we never intended to share with.
If you have a phone like the iPhone or an Android phone, then Google Buzz will also share your location. This has been done by other services, but it is a major privacy concern for this opt-out service.
The Opt-Out and Privacy Concerns
Opt-out services, where you are automatically signed up, are usually not great for you (with the exception of 401ks). You get hooked into something that you never chose to use. Instead of giving Buzz it’s own URL and special place on the web, Google just stuck it in your Gmail inbox. Everyone was signed up without a great explanation of Buzz. You have to manually go in a either remove people from your contacts or block them.
Lets use an analogy. Imagine if, when you first signed up for Facebook and entered in your high school and class year, you automatically became friends with everyone else from your class. Except Facebook didn’t tell you or give you an option to opt-out of this. Facebook wants to get you started building friends so it adds some for you. They think they are helping. And now, you have to un-friend hundreds of people that you don’t care to share your life with anymore.
Google thinks they are doing us a favor, but I don’t feel helped very much. The privacy settings on Google Buzz are granular, meaning everything can be set to private, but you have to hunt and search to find out where. Harriet at Fungitivus ran into this problem. All of her Google Reader shared items were instantly exposed to anyone in her “recent contacts”, which contained many old email addresses from random past emails. Google Reader is public by default, but no one may have been viewing it if you were using it on a private email account. Buzz now exposes this to all of your recent contacts.
The privacy settings are all available to be turned off or configured specifically, but the notion of being set to public by default is not cool. Facebook has run into troublelike this before and has had to scramble to fix things. I have faith that Google is already working on a better all-out admin interface for settings, but nothing like that has been released yet.
Getting rid of the Buzz
You can set all of your Connected sites to be private by setting them as such when adding them. To update your Google Reader settings, you have to open the sidebar, click the + on the People you follow list, and click sharing settings. Chances are your shared items are set to Public (the default). You can view a list of people following you and Block them by default if you wish. But, you must do this individually. Business Insider has a nice walk-through to make some things private.
You can also set anything you do to private, and select a group of people to share with. These groups come from Google Contacts, which many people may not use unless they sync them with a mobile device. They are editable within Gmail. By not connecting any sites, blocking all of your “followers”, and unfollowing everyone, you can effectively get off of Google Buzz. But it will still exist right next to your inbox in Gmail, at least for the time being. UPDATE: Mark from the comments tell us that you can simply turn off Buzz in the Gmail footer. Thanks for the tip!
Implications of Buzz
With Buzz, I see Google trying to be the central hub for online human interaction. It’s the place you email, chat, use documents, share pictures and links, and now bring in some of your outside services. Google is very late to the party, as many of these kinds of services have been done by other companies. The idea of having everything in one place is wonderful, but even that has been done before to limited success.
Google is a bit different, though. They already have many of us hooked into their services. If you were on Twitter two years ago, or joined facebook three years ago, then I’d bet money you are using Gmail. If you know how to subscribe to RSS feeds, then you are likely using Google Reader. Google already has us using their services, and they are betting with Buzz that we will choose to use Google for even more.
However, not everything can be done with Buzz, which is the beginning of the problem. I recently moved to Tumblr for sharing things online, and I can’t find a way to bring that feed into Buzz. You also can’t bring in Facebook updates, but that is due to Facebook’s sharing policies and not Buzz. People that are already using other sites like Friendfeed will not come over willingly, since Buzz only replicates that service and doesn’t add much visible value. The hidden change is in using the data power of Google to decide what is Signal and what is Noise, and how that distinction is different for everyone. That will take some time to come through, which is why I’m not yet buying into Buzz.
Final Thoughts on Buzz
One of the reasons that Facebook is successful is that it connects you with Real People, not just with online personas. Almost all other services allow people to create personas and hide behind them. Facebook strips most of that away, so that who you are on Facebook is closely related to who you are offline. By tying users to their email address, Google has the opportunity to do the same with Buzz. I can “follow” celebrities and such in Buzz, but seeing the enormous string of comments will be overwhelming and unhelpful. Instead, I will follow people that I know in the real world.
This online persona/offline Real Person is a big distinction. You may be a fan of a teeny-bopper pop singer, but you probably don’t want to send them pictures of you grandkids. The privacy settings in Buzz can be used to share different things with different people, which is a great feature once you setup your groups. And after some time of seeing what your Buzz friends share, you can parse your list into a readable stream of interesting information.
I am generally a big fan of Google, but Buzz may take some time to get used to.
Ever clicked on the top link in Google only to find a page that takes For-ev-er to load? Well, that page may not be a top site for long. Google is changing up how they are ranking websites and one of their new pieces of criteria is speed.
Google has recently released an entire sub-site to improve on website speed. The site includes a tools page which highlights among others Page Speed which is Firefox plugin for developers. The also showcase a new report in Webmaster Tools to show how quickly your site loads. Many of these tools give you stats about your site speed as well as suggestions on how to improve it. These suggestions include:
*This website embeds our Twitter feed, which requires an extra DNS lookup and can increase the load time. You will have to decide the importance of similar widgets for your site. We like our Twitter feed and Flickr pics, so we’ll take the small performance hit to keep those. But, we don’t include other widgets from most of our other social media profiles so we can speed up our blog. Finding the right balance for your site may take some testing and tough decisions, but speed is definitely something to keep in mind.
Social Search and Authority
Speed is very important to Google themselves. As the real-time web continues to change minute by minute, Google is beginning to bring some of that data into its results. You may have noticed that Google now displays twitter results at the top of some searches.
The first part of the ranking system is the time of the tweet. Google generally displays the most recent tweets first so searchers will have up-to-the minute results to their queries. This speed combined with link authority shapes how searchers can get the latest Glee news (or other important things of course).
As you can see, this search result shows twitter responses. While the exact science behind choosing tweets is not know, we do know that Google follows a similar model to their search results. Incoming links to a website can raise its ranking, and similarly more followers and incoming links to a Twitter profile can give that Twitterer more authority. There are similar theories out there, but we know that Google is ranking authority somehow.
The Facebook Factor
Google also has agreements with Facebook to bring your status updates and Facebook info to the Search Results as well. Before you freak out, yes, you can keep these things from the search engines using the Privacy features in Facebook. They have a dedicated page for Search Privacy Settings. I have mine set to Everyone, but I understand that may not work for you. Other options include Friends and Networks, Friends of Friends, and Friends Only. From the Search Privacy Settings you can preview your public profile, which will give you an idea of what information Google will see about you (see below).
Google can also use this public Facebook profile to show authority. If you do not have your own website, doing a vanity search may show your Facebook profile as the top result for your name. I have my personal website (JMO), but my Twitter feed and Facebook profile both rank above it because of the authority those sites carry. I urge you to search for your name to see where your social profiles rank.
Tips for you
What steps can you take to insure people find you fast?
For those of us that can’t physically be in California for SMX West head on over the Schipul’s SEM Blog for up to the minute coverage from our very own Jonti Bolles. On top of being our very own nerdy cub reporter she has recently taken over the reigns of our SEM department. I hear the last guy who had that job was a real Canadian if you know what I mean. OK, it was me and yes I hail from the Great White North.