Now that Google+ has clearly passed the sniff test and people are locking down and looking for practical ways to put it to use for business, I thought it was time to veer from the obvious social networking and marketing uses and talk about a couple of useful ways to use the platform internally.
I think it’s helpful to look at any new tool in this light. If you can find ways to use a new tool that make your business run better or makes it easier to stay in touch with existing clients, then you’ll probably find long-term value in diving in.
Below are five ways that any business could use Google+ inside the walls of their immediate staff and partners. (And when Google+ adds support for brands, it’s likely more internal tools will surface.)
1. Circle Up
The feature that Google+ leads with is what it calls Circles. This is simply a way to create logical segments of connections with the ability to share privately with any or all Circles.
Every business could easily create a Circle of its staff members and, in effect, create its own private social network. In addition to sharing news, providing training, making announcements and asking for feedback, this is a place where important industry or department-related content could be shared as well. (You could even create smaller departmental Circles.)
You would need to lock down the privacy setting of each share so that content isn’t accidentally shared outside the Circle and set guidelines for what should and should not be shared. But this could be a powerful internal tool.
I borrowed this term from the software development folks because I like it better than the word "meeting." Essentially, it’s a process of gathering together to go over project progress, assign action steps and review tasks.
Using the group video chat feature called Hangouts, virtual teams, including contractors and suppliers, could easily meet virtually and go over progress and assign tasks.
One of the killer advantages that Google has with its platform is the ability to integrate all of the other assets it already has. Hangouts integrates with YouTube, so you can show video in a hangout and eventually stream video to a larger group of staff members outside of a Hangout.
3. Sparks of genius
Sparks is a tool that allows you input and save custom search terms to create a stream of content from Google+ and elsewhere that’s related to the search. (Think of it a bit like Google Alerts sent to Google Reader, coupled with the ability to easily and selectively share the content with your Circle.)
Teams could easily create and curate industry- and client-specific streams that would become required reading for sales teams and client support staff.
Okay, I’m jumping the gun here with a bit of a prediction, but I believe that Google Docs and other Google Apps are sure to make their way to Google+ and this could give teams a very strong collaboration platform.
Imagine meeting in a Hangout video chat while you edit or mark up a document in real time on Google Docs. You could do this today by screen-sharing a document, but one person would be in charge of the edits.
I think Google+ could change the way people conduct interviews, both of vendors and employment candidates.
Imagine creating a Circle with a prospective employee and then sharing that connection with everyone in the department. Resumes and portfolios could be shared with the team, virtual reams of information could be shared with the candidate and individual and group interviews could be conducted using Hangouts.
Make this tool work for your team and you’ll never question the obvious ROI it can produce for your external operations as well.
Still looking for a Google+ invite? Send an e-mail with Google Plus in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll make sure you get one.