Google+ is more than just Google's answer to Facebook. It's also an all-in-one communication tool and office taskmaster. From filtering email to collaborating with colleagues to hosting video conferences, the search giant's budding social network offers features some business owners might not be aware of.
Here's a look at four ways to use Google+ for everyday business tasks:
1. Filter and organize your Gmail with Google+ Circles. Digging up important messages from a constant barrage of emails can be daunting. But Google+ Circles -- the tool that allows you to group people by relationship or category -- can help you filter and prioritize your inbox. You can quickly find emails from people you've grouped together in Circles based on their roles in your work or personal life.
To begin filtering your Gmail messages via Google+ Circles, log in to your Gmail and click the down arrow adjacent to your Circles. Click on one of the Circles you created to view all of the Gmail messages you've received from individuals in that particular group. You can then filter emails from individual members of that Circle.
2. Make Hangouts interactive with virtual sticky notes and whiteboards. Google+ Hangouts are essentially online video chats for up to 10 people. They can make it easy to streamline group projects and meetings. But you might not know they can improve collaboration with the addition of a digital whiteboard and sticky notes to visualize and track your team's progress. You can do this by adding the Symphonical app. The free app lets you and your colleagues create, move and comment on virtual sticky notes on a virtual whiteboard, all while a video chat is in progress. Symphonical sticky notes can help you organize brainstorming sessions, group tasks, individual action items and more.
If you haven't hosted a Google+ Hangout before, you'll need an account linked to Google+. Next, install the Hangout plugin from Google. Log in to Google+ and launch a Hangout with your Google contacts, or anyone else you invite by email who is also on Google+ and has installed the Hangout plugin. You can also stream a Hangout publicly through Google Hangout On Air.
3. Group edit Google Docs. Editing documents and presentations with your co-workers doesn't have to involve a lot of emails back-and-forth if you use Google+ Hangouts' new Google Docs feature. It lets you create, comment on and revise multiple documents in real-time with your colleagues, while you simultaneously do a video chat.
To begin, log in to your Google+ account and choose "Start a Hangout." Next, access Google Docs by clicking the Docs button. You'll see a list of Google Docs and a list of video chat participants below. Select the documents you'd like to group edit. You can add an existing document to your Hangout, or click Add to create a new one. Use the list on the left-hand side of your Hangout to toggle between the documents you're group editing.
4. Plan and organize events. Whether you're throwing an office party or planning a networking event, make sure everyone is invited by using a tool called Google+ Events, which was launched this summer.
To create an event, open your Google+ account and select Events. Next, click on the Create Event button and add your details such as event title, a start time and an invite list. From there, choose a background design and add a map and directions using Google Maps. You can send the invitation to people in your Google+ Circles, as well as individual email addresses from your Gmail contacts list.