I truly have become a big fan of social networks such as Facebook and Google+ for parishes. These systems allow for our faith communities to become connected and a part of everyday lives like never before. One of the things I love about them is event sharing and keeping photos of events for everyone to see now and in the future. There’s been real challenges to actually doing this though. If you’ve ever tried gathering up photos from an event or effectively communicating an event online you know what I’m talking about. I’ve never been truly happy with Facebook’s event system, but it’s there and we use it. But it really doesn’t have any wow-factor to it.
This past week Google launched Google+ Events, and I have to say that they have provided an awesome solution for online social groups. This system is designed just perfectly and takes into account what an online event system should be. Once you click on the tab and “unfold” your first event invitation I think you’ll be hooked. Here’s some key features and how they can benefit parishes.
- Detailed event information including directions that are integrated with Google Maps. Along with all of the other event information and any hyperlinks, add the location and a directions button is added to the event for anyone wishing to attend.
- Invite the world or just a few people. If you have circles for ministries, groups, or clergy you can easily choose who to invite by using circles just like you do in posts. Likewise, if it’s a parish event then just make it ‘Public’ and everyone will see. You will also be able to see who accepted your invitation and who didn’t. So it makes it easy to follow up with those who might have missed the message and reach out to them to remind them.
- Integration with Google Calendars. This part I really love, because it reduces any entry I need to do. When someone accepts the invitation, it automatically gets added to their Google Calendar with all the information. No additional entry needed.
- Photos photos photos! This part is pure genius. Photos are handled in a couple of awesome ways:
- Live photo streaming in ‘Party Mode’ – If you are a mobile user this part will knock your socks off. At the start time of the event you and other guests will be able to turn on ‘Party Mode’ and as you click pictures on your phone they are automatically uploaded to a live stream for others to see. The photos also become a part of the event for viewing later.
- Photos can be added later and become a part of the event for later viewing. You and others can add their photos later to the event and become a part of the event for viewing by everyone. Likewise, photos are viewable by contributor giving a real face to contributions. This also solves that daunting task of figuring out how to gather up photos from various people to post them. If your parish is primarily on Facebook, that’s ok because now you have all the photos you wanted and can easily download them from Google+ and upload them to your Facebook account.
- If someone can’t be there, they can still participate. If someone can’t attend they can view the event on their computer, tablet, or smartphone through the Google+ App. They can interact with the event just like any post by commenting, ‘+1′ ing, sharing, etc.
The thing to keep in mind is that Google+ is social, but it is very different than Facebook. It is a powerhouse of a group communications and collaboration system. Google+ Events really rounds out the functionality and power of many of the collaboration and communications challenges parish media teams tend to face.
I had the fun experience the other night of putting this service to the test. It went live a few days before a local Social Media Day event so I figured what a great time to try it out. I added the info and invited others. Unfortunately, they weren’t fully in tune to the functionality yet but I was clicking pictures all through Google+ and they were streaming away as the event was going on. The photos were also stored in my phone’s photo gallery to use on other sharing applications as well.
If you haven’t checked out this addition to Google+, I highly recommend it. It is a great solution to many of the parish event and collaboration challenges you face every day. If you have checked it out, what do you think?