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Family Fun
Family Fun

What's new in Google Plus?

If I had a dollar for every time someone referred to Google Plus as the other Facebook, I'd be writing this column on a beach.

While that is something I would greatly enjoy, I'm here to tell you that you'd be wrong to describe it that way. Google Plus is its own unique platform that's not only growing in terms of users, it's growing in terms of features.

But before we get to that, let's talk about what makes Google Plus different than Facebook. If Facebook is where you go to talk to friends and reconnect with people you haven't connected with in a while, Google Plus is where you go to meet new people with similar interests.

Here are some things you should know about Google Plus.

•The stream is redesigned: If this isn't your first visit to Google Plus, you'll notice it looks different now. Depending on your settings and the resolution of your monitor, you could have as many as three columns to showcase content. And now, photos and graphics take up the whole column, making for a much more visual experience.

•Smart hashtags: I know, I know. You hate hashtags because they are overused and everywhere. Maybe, but Google is doing it differently, automatically adding hashtags based on the content you post. And they're actually pretty accurate. Of course, you can override a suggested hashtag and enter your own. And like hashtags on any other social media platform, you can use them to find related content.

•Just hanging out. Google Hangouts used to just refer to a video chat featuring up to nine participants. Now, Hangouts is Google's all-encompassing term for messaging, whether it's video or otherwise.

•Photo filters are so early 2013: Google's trying to add the word "auto" to everything photo related to show how hands off you can really be when you go to share your creations. Two you'll want to look at are Auto Highlight and Auto Awesome. Auto Highlight looks at everything you upload, gets rid of duplicates and focuses on the shots that are least blurry. Auto Awesome will attempt to create a stitch together similar photos in a set as a panorama or animate them like a GIF file.

The best way to see the power of Google Plus is to explore the section called Communities, which you'll find in the navigation rail. Search for a topic that interests you and notice how passionate the people talking about it are. Depending on the community, you can test drive hashtags and photos. Just be sure to abide by that community's rules before posting.

For a quick example, have a look at the community about social media I founded. We can continue this conversation there.

What questions do you have about social media? Tweet them to @scottkleinberg or @amyguth. We might select yours for use in a future column.

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
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