This post was originally written by Kerry Sugrue, former Social Media Specialist at Apartments.com.
Every day there are new social networking sites or tools being released that we don’t hear about. But when a giant like Google announces a social network, everyone pays attention. I was lucky enough to get an invite to join the Google+ Project and have had some time to play around in it. Here are some of the main features and how they can be used at your apartment community.
Similar to groups on Facebook, Circles allow you to make lists of people to share information. For instance, I have circles for Apartments.com coworkers, my sorority sisters from college, family members and softball teammates. Whenever I update my status I have the option to choose which of my Circles can see my post. The drag and drop functionality of Circles, as well as the option to add people into circles wherever their name appears, makes it very easy to put people into multiple groups with little effort. If you are a large property management company you could create a Circle for every apartment community, as well as past residents, potential renters and employees. This is a great way to manage all of your contacts from one location, while providing relevant information to each of them.
A Hangout is basically a video chat room for your Circles. You can let certain Circles or specific friends know you are available to “hang out” and then they can video chat with you. The coolest part is it’s a group chat! As you can see in the image below there is a large image on top of smaller images. Everyone in the Hangout shows up as a smaller image, including you. The person who is talking, or talking the loudest, shows up in the larger image. Hangouts are a great way to communicate with a whole group at once. For example, you can video chat with all of the residents of an apartment unit to discuss a maintenance issue, or an entire apartment community to review the details of a construction project and how it will affect them.
Sparks is a news resource within Google+. You can search for topics that you are interested in and create a stream, within Sparks, for news on that topic. I like the idea of this feature, but I think Google will need to make some enhancements before it becomes popular. I understand the desire to bring a search aspect into their social network, but for this feature to catch on Google will have to integrate the news into the users’ main stream so it’s easier to interact with it. However, the news that Sparks pulls is still helpful! As a property management company you could set up Sparks for your communities’ neighborhoods, cities, apartment associations and other multifamily news.
Within the mobile app, which is now available for both Android and iPhone operating systems, is the Huddle feature. For anyone who was at SXSW and experienced the flurry of group text messaging applications, this is the same idea. From your mobile device you can use Huddle to create instant group chats using your Circles, so everyone can see all of the responses. Socially, this is great for making plans with groups of friends. As a property manager, you could Huddle with all the residents in an apartment and quickly work through an issue together, instead of relying on one person to pass along messages. One of the downfalls of this feature is you cannot send URLs that actually link to websites. Your ‘huddlers’ would have to remember the URL and leave Google+ to type it in. So it is not quite ready for sending out links to property information.
If you are like me and find yourself being yelled at by friends for never posting pictures, this is the best thing that will ever happen to you. Instant Upload does exactly what it sounds like. Every time you take a photo with your phone it will instantly upload to your Google+ profile into a private album. Then, you can view the album and decide which photos to share. Currently, this feature does not seem to be available on the iPhone but you are still able to share individual photos to your profile.
Google has announced that they are launching a beta version of Google+ for businesses (like Facebook did with Pages). Please know that they have also made it clear that if they find unauthorized business profiles on Google+ today, they will be removed. Even though you can’t create a profile for your apartment community just yet, it is still important to understand the site and consider how it can affect your business.
Have you noticed any other cool features in Google+? Do you have questions about the functionality of the site? Make sure to comment below!