Question – What is Google+ and do I need it?

Google+ (pronounced and sometimes written as Google Plus, sometimes abbreviated as G+) is one of the newest social networking sites. Launched as a test in June 2011, the site became available to all in September. The New York Times declared it Google’s attempt to rival Facebook, which has over 800 million users.

In January 2012, Google+ had surpassed 90 million users. However, these users are reportedly only spending 3.3 minutes a month on Google+ compared to Facebook users who spend 7.5 hours a month using Facebook.

Google+ integrates previous social services such as Google Profiles and Google Buzz and introduces new services such as the Stream, Circles, Hangouts and Games. Circles enable users to organize people into groups (Friends, Family, Acquaintances, Following) for sharing across various Google products like Gmail. Hangouts are used for group video chat. In the Stream, users see updates from those in their Circles.

I have trialed Google+ on a few attorney websites with mixed results. Although it offers more flexibility in terms of grouping contacts, both the attorney and his or her contacts need to be Google users to engage with the service. It’s a cool feature, but the verdict is still out whether it will have practical use for business development.