Google silently launched its new social networking platform, Google Plus (or Google+), a few weeks ago with a lucky bunch bagging exclusive invites. Now those invites are spreading like wildfire and the user base for Google Plus is expanding rapidly.
There’s just one problem: nobody knows what to use it for.
The difference is, where those platforms are fairly well established and have carved out their purpose and ability to fill user needs, Google Plus is still exploring what it is and how it’s going to be used.
But there’s huge potential.
I’ve been using Google Plus for a little over a week now and I’ve gotten a chance to get used to the features and dive into the interface. If Google can find the soul in this thing, it seems very promising.
Many of the features Google Plus has built in remain dormant or underutilized right now, but Google could flick a switch to turn these on and transform their Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn copy-cat into its own.
Below are some of these capabilities in which I see stunning potential for filmmakers to take advantage of if Google uses them in the right way.
Google Places Will Help Others Find You for Jobs
When I first setup my Google Plus profile, I was surprised to see a map to add places where I’ve lived and where I live currently.
While signaling where you live is an important part for many in social networks, the addition of a map seemed like a gimmick and one of those egotistical pats on the back for those who will have a large global map of homes.
But then I realized this user profile tie-in with Google Maps and its geographical data is one small, but potentially powerful feature, especially for freelancers.
Just imagine production coordinators who need to hire a crew in an unfamiliar town or city being able to search Google Plus for “camera assistants near Anytown, USA” and a list of relevant people appearing.
Using a search function with user data, you could find more work as a local and production companies could find more locals to hire.
Further, while this would seem to decrease a need for word-of-mouth recommendation, it could strengthen it. If that same Production Coordinator searches for a crew member, finds you, and views your profile to see you are in so-and-so’s circle, there’s a connection and potential recommendation.
Of course there is the other side to this if you need to look for local crew yourself. Say you need a 2nd AC to dayplay for you on a shoot and your go-to guy is out of town, you could turn to Google Plus to find it.
Sites like Mandy, Craigslist, and Production Directories already attempt to fill this need, but they don’t have the same reach as Google does. If Google can grow to a Facebook-like level, then there could be a smaller gap between production companies and freelance crew.
For those living gig to gig, being able to be found is a major benefit and Google Plus, combined with Google’s strong Search and Maps abilities, could help.
Circles Will Increase Your Visibility and Save Your Privacy
The single most talked about feature on Google Plus is Circles. For those unaware, Circles are Google’s way of seperating your contacts on Google Plus. You can segment who sees what status updates, photos, profile info, etc. on a case-by-case basis. People can be added into multiple circles and never know which ones you place them in.
It’s a wildly popular feature for those who crave the public privacy of Facebook, but also want the outward persona of Twitter. With Google Plus, circles allows you to to be as public as you want without sacrificing privacy on the things that matter to you.
So what does that mean for filmmakers?
It means you can upload your demo reel, production stills of yourself, contact information, and relay certain status updates to stay relevant to the industry without giving away those photos of you breaking it down on the dance floor in a drunken stupor.
Facebook has a feature like this — lists — but it isn’t executed nearly as well. And there is one fundamental difference. Facebook’s privacy settings focus on letting you hide things, opting to not show certain pieces of your profile, and in effect, making yourself more private.
But Google’s circles encourage the opposite.
They encourage you to share most things, while hiding the most important stuff and that difference is spurred on by the ability for people to add you in their circles without your approval — though they only see “Public” items.
With your public items, your Google Plus profile could be a great contact point for finding more work and making industry contacts. It can serve the purpose of a portfolio or resume by showcasing what you want to represent you professionally and keeping private that which matters to you.
Everyone on Google Plus right now loves circles, but many, including myself, have a gut feeling this feature isn’t fully fleshed out. As time goes on, it will morph into something more powerful.
Google Plus Will Tap Into All of Your Google Products
Google has been adamant that Google Plus is a project and not a product. As Vic Gundorta, Senior Vice President of all things social at google, elaborates, “It’s ‘Plus’ because it takes products from Google and makes them better and ‘project’ because it’s an ongoing set of products.”
If you’re confused, I don’t blame you.
It’s hard to imagine what some of Google’s products will be like with Google Plus attached (ahem, Google Buzz?). It’s easy, however, to imagine how this social layer could increase the draw for many of Google’s products.
Let’s take a look at two of them:
Calendars by Google is a fairly boring product because it’s, well, a calendar. It has a pleasing design and its cloud accessibility is nice, but let’s be real — there’s only so much innovation that can be done to the calendar.
So why not innovate around the calendar?
For filmmakers, I’m imagining Google Plus letting you freely share calendars with varying degrees of your circles. Google Calendars already support sharing, but let’s remember, this requires you to have made prior contact with somebody to initiate it via e-mail.
With Google Plus, you put your information out there and let others find it. Here might be some uses:
- You keep a public calendar to show your availability with projects you’re working on
- You share production schedules with a circle that contains only those on a shoot
- You use calendars to share important dates with investors such as fundraising events
Combined with circles and the potential user-base of Google Plus, calendars could transform from an event tracker to a project planning device.
If you’re reading this site, then I know you love YouTube and have probably uploaded videos to it.
But I’ll say it now: YouTube social features suck. I have tried experimenting with subscribing to videos or interacting with users there, but it doesn’t feel right. It feels disjointed and is a hassle.
Now imagine stronger social features and having the ability to link your YouTube videos directly to your Google Plus profile and your contact information.
If you host a demo reel on the site, you could get a job from a producer on YouTube. If you run a web series, you could find your fans and interact with them in a more intimate way that builds community. If you place short films on YouTube, you could leverage those who enjoy the video to come to your profile and help you raise money for your next project.
Hopefully Google Plus will allow its users to leverage YouTube to their benefit.
(And perhaps force commenters to use a real name and cut down on drunk racist YouTube comment rants with accountability.)
Hangouts Will Bring Your Crew Together
Filmmaking is intensely collaborative. It requires the dilligence and creative energy of hundreds of people all working towards a single goal — a finished film.
Hours of pre-production time is spent discussing and kneading out the creative and logistical problems of a project in meetings. These group discussions are necessary, important, and a vital piece of the filmmaking puzzle.
But life always makes these meetings difficult.
With crew usually on a variety of projects, nailing down a time for everyone to meet can be cumbersome and difficult. Why can’t it be a little bit easier?
It’s not just the film industry that experiences these interaction problems and Google understands that. Ever since it allowed the sharing of documents in Google Docs, it has made a push towards intense group collaboration in real-time (remember Google Wave anyone?).
I’ve already used Google Docs to share expendables lists, gear lists, and other pre-pro documents, but having the ability to make these available in an easier fashion — without emails and merely names — will be great. I say “will be” because I have no doubt this feature is going to be integrated into Google Plus. It’s too obvious not to.
What isn’t so obvious is where Google is taking its “Hangouts” feature built into Google Plus. Hangouts is an online video conference call part of Google Plus that allows you to video chat with up to 10 people — for now.
Hangouts has the ability to take meetings difficult to organize in person and make them available online.
Imagine hosting a pre-production meeting with the director and assistant director in one room, the director of photography on location in another country, and a producer who is on vacation in a different state.
Hangouts, if utilized and scaled correctly, could obliterate the coffee shop meet-up mentality of many pre-production gatherings. Now most of us will still choose face to face interaction over virtualization, but with this feature, you could call for a pre-production meeting in the morning and have one in the afternoon without terribly destorying anyones schedule.
And if Google adds the capabilities to have more than 10 people, the results could be astounding.
Roads? Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads
Only a few weeks old, Google Plus is growing at a rapid rate. When Google officially launches, the flood gates will open and things will truly get interesting.
Nobody really knows what they’re doing at this point in the site’s lifecycle, but Google has laid a framework with Google Plus that has tons of potential to grow.
For filmmakers and freelancers, some of those features have the potential to dramatically change the way we find work, do work, and interact with other crew. And not just in a way online, but in real-life practical scenarios.
It’s true what some are saying — that Google Plus could be a massive failure — but with users sending out invites rapidly, Plus is already off to a better start than Wave and Buzz.
What Google does with its tools and how it transforms the social project across all of its products could have a profound effect on how we approach interactions online. Where Facebook and Twitter could be costing you gigs, Google Plus has a real chance to help you gain some.
Take the plunge and add me to your Google Plus circles. And if you liked this article, give some +1 love on the left!