Google + and Hashtags

A richer hashtag experience in Google Search

google plus logoAn interesting update from Google on the growing importance and use of the now ubiquitous # or hashtag. From a post yesterday by Google researcher Zaheed Sabur on enhancements to the search engine rules.

The #hashtags you see in Google+ posts are a useful way to discover conversations around a particular topic. In May we added related hashtags to the Google+ stream, turning any post into an opportunity to go deeper and explore what’s interesting to you.

Today we’re bringing a richer hashtag experience to Google Search. Here’s how it works:

– When you search on Google for a hashtag, say [#AmericasCup] or [#WaterfallWednesday], a set of relevant Google+ posts may appear to the right of regular results.
– You’ll only be able to see posts that have been shared publicly or shared with you.
– If you click on any of these posts you’ll go to Google+, where you’ll see the full set of relevant posts.
– You’ll also see links to search for these hashtags on other social sites.

Today’s update will be available (initially) to English language users in the US and Canada on google.com and google.ca. It’ll be live within the next few hours, so give it a go and let us know what you think.

So what does this mean to you and what, if anything you should do? But first what is Google +?

Google+ – or Google Plus – is a social network from Google.

Some of its tools and features come from existing services and platforms, such as the Picasa photo storing and sharing platform. Some of the features are similar to other popular social networks and micro-blogging platforms.

Google+ was opened to a small number of users to test in June 2011. Google then gave some of those initial users invitations to invite a small number of their contacts. The service has since been opened up to everyone. It was given an overhaul in April, 2012 and now over a 500 million registered users, (April 2013) of whom 235 million are active in a given month. Google has described Google+ as a “social layer” that enhances many of its online properties, unlike conventional social networks generally accessed through a single website.

google plus logo

Google+’s key benefits and features

  • You can find Google+ at plus.google.com.
  • To join Google+ you need a Google account (such as for accessing Gmail).
  • The main page that appears when you sign in consists of a ‘stream’ of updates, conversations and shared content – similar in many respects to the Facebook news feed or Twitter stream.
  • When you add a contact to your Google+ account, you assign them to one or more ‘circles’, which is a way of categorising and organising people.
  • When you first sign up, you’ll see some ‘circles’ that have already been set up by Google, including ‘Friends’ and ‘Acquaintances’. You can also add your own.
  • You can share messages or links with everyone or with only those within designated circles. This gives you more flexibility than Twitter and is a similar concept to ‘groups’ on Facebook.
  • Your circles are private – that is, no one can see how you’ve named your circles or which circles they or anyone else has been put in.
  • ‘Sparks’ is an area of content based around specific interests, although the topics are often American in focus.
  • The ‘Notifications’ section will let you know when someone adds you to one of their circles (though not which circle) and when someone has commented on or reacted to content that you’ve shared or commented on.
  • You can make comments underneath content shared by other users that you follow, and you can also ‘+1’ it. The latter is similar to ‘liking’ on Facebook.
  • You can also share that content, if the original poster allows it. This is similar to ‘retweeting’ on Twitter.
  • If the original poster allows it, after you interact with a post, Google+ threads responses and informs you of any updates. If this starts to get annoying, you can ‘mute’ these updates.
  • The ‘Hang Out’ application allows users to video chat.
  • You can upload and organise photos using Google Photos (previously called Picasa).
  • There is a Google + app available for smartphones.

From a social media experience Google + is another and growing service that you need to embrace along with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. From a high level this is another component of your marketing activities and depending on your focus, B2B or B2C, can assist with spreading your brand and increasing your awareness. More and more companies are designating a spokesperson or people to represent the business on a topic of a area of excellence where they operate. Google + is another tool in the box to use.

The fact the Google is now including the # in searches only indicates the growing importance that Google + has and that Google intends to continue to challenge Twitter and Facebook. Join me on Google +.

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