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After a year of rumors, teasers and hype, on June 28, 2011, Google launched its own social network to rival Facebook: Google+. While it’s hard to imagine that any social networking platform can rival the depth and breadth of Facebook, it’s wise to understand what Google+ is all about and stay apprised of its further development and influence.

Google+ comes with various features that, while similar to Facebook, have their own style.

Most experts agree that on the surface, Google+ appears to be a more user-friendly social network. For example, its major features are designed to enhance the user’s opportunity for building and maintaining more personal relationships by viewing notifications and instantly sharing content.

Early adopters are first introduced to the “Streaming” feature, similar to Facebook’s “News Feeds,” which allows users to share photos, video links or their current location with friends.

The Google+ “Circle” feature is Google’s answer to the friend list on Facebook and/or Twitter. Circle improves one’s level and degree of connections, by making it easier to organize people by dragging them into individual groups/circles. They enable users to share certain parts of their profile with various groups.

At a time when most people are so busy that almost everything has to be planned in advance, Google+’s spontaneous “Hangout” feature is designed to get people together in real-time with face-to-face video chats, regardless of where any of the participants are physically located.

Most people enjoy sharing things they are passionate about with friends. Exploring and leveraging one’s interests is empowered through Google+’s “Sparks” feature. Sparks attempts to make it easier for users to share more content. It provides recommended content based on keywords or topics. With more relevant content, more opportunities are created to stay connected on personal levels.

The Google+ group texting feature is called “Huddle.” This feature gets people to come together, with a lot less effort, to facilitate the sharing of information for group activities, such as business or school projects, teams, social clubs, and/or events.

The “Instant Upload” feature from Google+ was designed to ensure that life’s special moments are shared instantly before they get lost in the future. Instant Upload allows the user to transfer photos and video from their mobile devices. All media is uploaded to a private album that can be shared later from a desktop computer.

At a time when maintaining and enhancing more significant relationships is critical to the real estate industry, it will be interesting to watch what effect Google+ might have on the worlds of social media. At press time, the jury was still out on whether or not Google+ poses a serious competitive risk to the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn, however, as a real estate professional, any new medium should be considered and evaluated. Google+ may turn out to be the favored form of communication among some or many of your clients, so keep an eye on where this platform is heading.

George “Gee” Dunsten, president of Gee Dunsten Seminars, Inc., has been a real estate agent and broker/owner for almost 40 years. Dunsten has been a senior instructor with the Council of Residential Specialists for more than 20 years.