Google+ is still in its very early days and it will inevitably evolve. Some fundamental things are still missing (like search!). But there are some features of the service, even at this early stage, that look like they’ll present some promising opportunities for photographers.
One way to look at Google+ is as Facebook with a different logo and with a lot fewer people you know using it (for now). Which is true enough. But there are some things about even this very early incarnation of Google+ that have a lot of potential.
One of the key features of Google+, and one that solves for me one of my biggest complaints about Facebook, is that I can very easily control what I share with whom. To be sure, Facebook has its groups feature that’s designed to do this, but frankly I’ve never quite gotten comfortable with the way they work.
In Google+ you do it by assigning your contacts to one or more social circles. Obvious circles are family, friends, and colleagues–there’s a good chance you don’t want to always share the same things with all of those people. I’m really not inclined to share my weekend plans with most of my colleagues for example, and my family isn’t much interested in work-related links.
I can well imagine building a circle for clients where I just share latest shoots and any special promotions. And I’d have another for photographer friends, where I can share things related to cameras, imaging, and photos. I might have another for friends in Central America and another for random acquaintances I run into on the road. You get the idea. I think it has a lot of potential for connecting with targeted groups.
And one thing I can see circles being useful for is as a kind of basic project management tool. It’s nowhere near as robust as something like Basecamp from 37Signals or as flexible as Google Wave is/was, but it would seemingly be easy to create a temporary circle with people working on a project that would have its own post feed and image upload. I haven’t yet had a chance to put it through its paces in a real-world project just yet, but it seems promising.
Hangouts are for group video chat for up to 10 people at once. They’re not as rigid or as powerful as a full-blown service like GoToWebinar and less structured even than Skype, which I use a lot. But then, that fluidity and informality could be very useful–the point here is less about scheduling a meeting and more about dropping by. I can imagine photographers using this not just as a way to connect with each other but also a way to connect with customers, students of photography seminars, and so on. And it’d be fun to do this from the road providing an opportunity for customers to check in while I’m overseas on a shoot.
It’s a safe bet that Google+ will somehow be relevant to the SEO of the links you share, the +1 buttons you click, and your online “authority.” There are some very early signs already implemented, things like the +1 clicks being integrated into Google Webmaster Tools analytics. But it’s still far to early to see what Google has in store with this. You can be sure, though, that people who make their living as SEO consultants will be watching this exceptionally closely. And, lucky for us, SEO experts are very, very likely to write about what they find out–it’s an occupational trait.
Google+ for Businesses
Google+ is currently open only to individuals, but features for businesses are expected before the end of the year.
Not surprisingly, the sharing of photos and videos is baked right into Google+, as it is with Facebook. And with the planned retirement of the Google-owned Picasa name and merging of the service into Google+, it’s likely that the imaging features will be beefed up quite a lot in coming months.
Currently, the mechanics of uploading and sharing photos are implemented stylishly and elegantly. But the thing that I really like is how easy it is to control who sees what. If I don’t want the whole world seeing my family vacation shots–and I assuredly don’t–I simply specify that only my family circle can see them in the upload box. If I have new photos to share with clients, I can specify just the clients circle. The ability to control who sees what isn’t necessarily unique to Google+ — Flickr and Facebook also have the feature — but the thing that makes Google+ stand out is how easy it is to do and how easy it is to check that it’s behaving as you want it to behave.
And even more intriguing, Google seems to have a couple of other mysterious photo sharing initiatives in the works: Photovine and Pool Party. We’ll just have to wait and see what they do, but there’s an excellent chance that somehow they’ll be designed to play with the social aspect of Google+.
If you’re looking to move your photos from Facebook to Google+ there’s an extension for the Chrome browser to streamline the process. And if you’re looking to upload pictures directly from your iPhone, here’s a handy guide from the folks at Mashable.
Google+ Terms of Service: Content License from Users
But before going wild and uploading all of your images to Google+, you should definitely read the terms of service closely.
Every major social network and online sharing tool includes terms of service provisions that require you to agree to granting a license to use the content to perform the service. Without it, they wouldn’t be able to do what they do.
I am most definitely not a lawyer and can’t provide myself legal advice, let alone anyone else, but it doesn’t appear to me that Google+’s terms of service when it comes to images are any more remarkable than anyone else’s. And because of that, I do not plan, for now, to upload any of my professional images to Google+. (I also choose not to upload images to Facebook for the same reason.)
That may change. Once Google+ gets an enormous collection of images that its users have uploaded, it’s entirely conceivable that images on Google+ might rise to the top of Google Image Search, for example. Again, it’s way too early to say, but it wouldn’t shock me if something like that happened eventually. So I can’t say I will never, ever upload images to Google+, but I can say that I don’t currently plan to. You might well see things differently–and probably do–when it comes to sharing your images.
As of July 2011, here’s the section relevant to photos and content you post. (And, of course, terms of service are always subject to change, so it’s worth checking the very latest version on Google’s own site. You can find them here.)
11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.
11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.
11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.
11.4 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above license.
As you can tell, I’m intrigued by the possibilities of Google+ for photographers and am looking forward to delving deeper.