Google+ is a bit of a laughing stock in some circles. Launched in the summer of 2011, Google wanted G+ to be the social network that made Facebook, Twitter, and the other social giants sweat; three and a half years later, Google+ still has a long way to go before it catches up to Mark Zuckerberg and his big blue empire. At time of writing, 890 million people use Facebook on a daily basis, while Wikipedia puts Google+'s total user base at 540 million people - a solid 350,000,000 fewer than Facebook.

But does this mean that Google+ is a failure? You'd be forgiven for thinking so - most of us still use Facebook, not G+, to stay in touch with our friends, and even Google themselves tend to avoid talking about their social baby much these days. Having said that, there are plenty of good reasons to give Google+  a try...


Google+ is great if you want to find people with the same interests as you. There are hundreds of thousands of Google+ communities, and if you can't find one for your favourite thing, it's pretty easy to create your own and invite people to join it. G+ Communities are similar to Facebook Groups, but generally speaking, communities are far more active and far easier to find, join and use.


You've probably used hashtags on Twitter, but Google+ goes a step further than its laconic competitor by automatically adding relevant hashtags to your posts. Here's an example from our own G+ account:

Google+ post

Notice how the post itself doesn't contain any hashtags whatsoever. Instead, Google+ looked at the content of our post and decided that #Design#WebDesign and #Website would be suitable tags for it. This improves your content's chances of being seen by targeting trends that you may not even have known about; this feature is particularly useful if you are posting topical content about current news stories, which people may well be following using specific hashtags that you don't know about.


If you're a website owner and you're wondering how social media might help you to climb the search rankings, you absolutely need to take a look at Google+. Remember, this is Google's own social network, and any shares or +1s you receive are effectively a recommendation to the search engine itself. Here's an interesting quote from G+'s Wikipedia entry:

According to Business Insider and TastyPlacement, having "Google+ followers boosts the [Google search] ranking the most, while a "+1" still does way more for your search ranking than Facebook or Twitter."

If you use YouTube, Gmail, Blogger, Google My Business, or any of Google's other services, you probably already have a Google+ account. You may not have used it yet, but it's never too late to log in and give it a try. It may yet overtake Facebook one day...

Which social media site do you use?

It's a silly question, of course - modern internet users would never confine themselves to just one social platform. Each one excels at something different; for example, we use Facebook to stay in touch with our friends, while Twitter is the best way to keep track of your favourite celebrities. LinkedIn is strictly for business, while Google+ communities are a great way of finding people with the same hobbies as you.

This seems like a pretty good system to us, but the biggest names in social media have other ideas. Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus...each one wants to be the social network, and all of them have recently been attempting to expand their horizons and give us everything we could possibly need. Here's how social media moguls seem to be thinking right now:

"If I give them hashtags and trending topics," Mark Zuckerberg reasoned, "they won't need to leave my website to check Twitter! I'll be the King of the Internet!"

This attitude has resulted in a massive online arms race, with everyone plagiarising everyone else's features in a bid to be the one site that really does have everything. It's hard to say whether or not this is a good thing; we are getting some cool new features out of the ongoing social skirmish, but a lot of people liked Twitter (for example) the way it was, and a lot of these changes have gone down like lead balloons.

If you're not entirely sure what we're talking about, here are three features that social media sites have copied from each other recently:

Trends & Hashtags

Who did it first? Twitter, of course - the microblogging site has been utilising hashtags for years. They've been used for serious purposes (like tracking new stories as they develop) and silly purposes (adding a sarcastic bit of commentary to the end of a tweet), but no matter how you use 'em, they'll always be associated with Twitter first and foremost.

Who else is doing it? Pretty much everyone, although Facebook are the most notable plagiarists here. In fairness, everybody was using hashtags in their FB posts anyway, so it's hard to blame ol' Zuckers for appropriating Twitter's big idea; it's much easier to point the finger at him for Facebook's recently-introduced 'Trending' section, which actually goes one better than Twitter's 'Trends' by including a snippet of information about each trending topic.

Handy, although we can only imagine how many people had Game of Thrones spoiled for them by that little white box in the corner.


Cover/Header Photos

Who did it first? Google+ has allowed users to upload cover photos since it launched in 2011. Facebook weren't far behind, rolling out the cover photo in September of the same year. Either way, it certainly wasn't Twitter's idea.

Who else is doing it? Yep, that little blue bird and its evil overlords can take just as good as they give. Roughly one year after Facebook first allowed its users to add cover photos, Twitter starting doing more or less the exact same thing.

More recently, Twitter's layout was radically changed, putting a lot more focus on the cover photo (or 'header photo', as Twitter would have you call it). This was met with a lot of criticism - wasn't Twitter supposed to be about fitting everything into 140 characters? Why the sudden focus on adding images?


Dragging & Dropping

Who did it first? Again, we're pretty sure that Google+ can claim the bragging rights here. A lot of people were reluctant to embrace The Big G's social network when it first materialised online, but if there's one thing that won people over (including the Designer Websites team), it's the site's superbly sleek functionality, epitomised by the way in which you can simply drag images and other items straight into your posts.

Who else is doing it? Almost everybody, although we certainly aren't complaining about this one. You can now drag and drop images into tweets and Facebook updates, just as you can with G+ posts, and it's miles better for everyone (although the functionality is still a little clunky on FB). Now, if only LinkedIn would let us do this as well...

What do you think? Are all social networks too similar nowadays? Should they be sticking to what they each do best? Or are you enjoying all of these changes and new features?

Let us know on Twitter...or Facebook...or Google Plus.