Google has done it again. They’ve added a new “service” that looks like it might take the Internet by storm. While they tried it before with Google Buzz, Google+ has new features that bring them closer to success.

Google+ made its debut less than a month ago, and already are up to over 20 million users. And while that is the fastest on record within the social media industry, it remains to be seen if Google+ has what it takes to outdo the other social sites we’re used to, like Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr.

We’ve been playing around with Google+ for a couple of weeks now, and like what we see. While Google+ isn’t available yet to everyone, with the growth in place, I’m sure you’ll have access here in a few short weeks it you don’t already. Let’s take a look at what makes Google+ so powerful, and can help you build your photography business.

Start At The Beginning – What Is It?

Google+ is a social networking site taken to a whole new level. Like every other product, Google+ is integrated into the Google network. If you have a Google account, and use things like Gmail or Google Reader, you login once and have access to everything through the toolbar. Once you have access to Google+, it will appear in your toolbar when you’re in your Google account.

While Google+ appears overwhelming at first glance, that is also a part of its power. Instead of “lurking around” like is common in other social media sites, Google+ makes you jump headfirst into the system. Connect with a few friends, and you are instantly a part of an ever-growing network that’s easy to join and connect with. And because Google+ is under the Google umbrella, you can also combine with other functions, and bring it all together.

What about My Photography?

The first question most photographers ask is “What about the rights to my images?” And it’s a fair question. With many sites, the terms of service quickly start chipping away at your rights once you post an image online.

In Google’s Terms of Service, it clearly states:

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.

They do go on to say:

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.

The key here is

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.

Like many of the other online services, they need some type of policy in place in order to post and use your images – you have to give the rights to it. But you retain full copyrights of your images, and can do whatever you choose within your business. These laws may impact photographers dealing with “exclusive rights” to photos, but outside of this, you are covered to use your photography at your discretion. And to pull things when you choose.

How Do I Use Google+?

Let’s take a look at a few of the basics for setting up your account.

When you login to your Google account, everything is controlled from the nav bar. You have links to your Gmail, Calendar, Photos, Reader – everything including your Google+ account. By clicking your name, you will be taken to the home page of your Google+ account.

On the right hand side you will notice your name with a box with a number inside. This is your notification box where you will learn of actions – if someone circled you, interacted with a post, of mentioned you in comments. It will remain black until an action has occurred, at which point it will turn a bright red. Keep in mind that it will only go up to 9+, so you’ll have to click over to find out how many actions beyond that point.

The first thing you should do, as in any social site, is to set up your profile. In order to brand yourself effectively, make sure you are carrying over summaries and ideas from place to place. More is better in the social networking world; concentrate on using as much information as possible. Put in your introduction, occupation, photos and more that focus on photography. Because social is visual, make sure people can instantly see that you are a photographer.

You can also connect your account to other social sites as well. Make sure you put in your Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, etc pages and connections in – because we don’t know what will stick and what won’t, its important to use everything at this point.

Because your photo and occupation are your window to the world, make sure you use your keywords. This will make you more visible in Circles, and make you more likely to grow your “friend” base.

Once your profile is in place, its time to understand circles. Instead of following or friending someone, you simple add them to your circles. Google+ comes with a handful of premade circles, such as “family” and “friends”, but you can also create new circles that interest you. For example, you can have a “photographer” circle, or even niche it further to “Colorado Photographers”.

Placing someone in a circle allows you to categorize them, and be able to connect with them on different levels. You can publish things to select circles, meaning you can be more specific in what you release. What you would release to your family isn’t necessarily something you want the world to see. You can also filter out your “stream” so that you only see information from circles you choose, giving you access to avoid the rhetoric from groups you like to follow, yet can’t keep up with the constant chatter. And because there is no limit to the number of circles you create – the sky is the limit. You decide what is right for you, and how you want to build your social streams.

Once you have circles in place, its simply a matter of connecting – which you should be comfortable doing from your other social sites. Give it a try – we’ll be looking in on more Google+ tips in the future.

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