It’s been about 9 months since Google+ has launched, and many of us have gotten a good idea of what it’s all about and how it can best be used. The biggest misconception I’ve found is the tendency to try and understand the service through a simple “apples to apples” comparison with Facebook. The truth is that, although the two services are social networks, they are very different and add in benefits in unique ways for parish communities.
The Parish At Large
For the general community, the Facebook Page will probably be more successful as a public communication avenue. Depending upon your particular community, you’ll probably find more of a parish user base in Facebook and a better comfort level with the service. A well-designed Parish Facebook Page should serve as an additional avenue for information. It can also serve as a great way communication avenue for your parishioners to get answers and discuss faith topics.
Connecting Internally and With Other Catholics World-Wide
The design and features of Google+ make it far superior in terms of collaborating which Facebook lacks. Here’s some of the features and how they can be used this way:
- Organizing in circles. Circles were one of my immediate likes because it provided a very easy way to organize contacts and choosing who I want to share certain items with. This just makes sense and is how we normally want to share things socially. I can also share a circle out to others. For parishes and/or ministries this is a great feature because you can easily create a circle for your office, clergy, and ministries. Adding a new person and keeping everyone on board with the same set of contacts is as simple as sharing the circle.
- Hangouts. This feature allows for video chatting with up to 10 people at once. Use the “Hangouts with Extras” and you can even share and collaborate on documents shared within Google Docs, or share screens to easily walk others through something. The other great thing about hangouts is they can be started at anytime. So if you’re in the middle of something and need to speak to a team member or colleague, you can start a hangout which they can access on their PC or smartphone and you can have a short meeting even sharing documents you may need to share. So if I see that John just added a post about something we need to speak further on, I can simply click the Hangout icon and we can begin chatting. Or I can schedule a hangout for a meeting with people that are in different geographic places (i.e. parishes within a Diocese, other Diocese people, other parishes, etc.) which would have typically been a barrier to getting together.
- Tie-in with other great Google Products. Google+ shows up in all of Google products such as Docs (which is an amazing suite of products if you haven’t checked it out already), YouTube, Search, etc. I can use that ‘+1′ button to share out relevant items with people. I can start a hangout for a video I am watching on YouTube. I can share out a document I need others to contribute to and have added them in to work on. If your parish is using Google Apps for Business, the great thing is that everyone gets a Google+ profile for their parish provided account and every user is can be connected and collaborate much easier.
- Sharing individually. Rather than sending someone an email or share something out into a stream, I can simply share to one person or a few people individually. This takes messaging to a whole new level because typically we do this through email or a separate messenger program. Now I can use the same platform and simply send that message out through Google+.
- Organization Pages. Like Facebook, you can create separate pages for your parish or particular minsitries to connect with people. What’s nice about this in comparison to Facebook pages is that it functions a lot like the personal accounts in terms of Circles and whatnot. So you may have certain sets of people (i.e. parishioners) in one circle and your ministry leaders in another. This way you can choose who you want getting what. Maybe you want to send out a post that applies to ministry leaders only and is not really relevant to your general parishioners. Again, one platform for multiple internal and external uses.
There’s quite a bit more great features that goes beyond what Facebook was and is designed for. Have you checked out Google+ yet? What are your thoughts?