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Congress’ Early Adopters Circle Up on Google Plus

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Mark Udall was one of the first Members to set up his Google Plus profile.

Every day, the offices of Members of Congress are flooded with various forms of communications from constituents. There are the old-school phone calls and faxes. Add to that emails, Facebook wall posts and tweets.

Now, Members are being circled on Google Plus.

Although Google’s newest attempt at creating a social network is only a few months old — it was introduced in late June — it hit
25 million users in the middle of the summer. Currently, at least 14 Members of Congress are on Google Plus.

They are: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Ron Paul (R-Texas), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), as well as Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

On Google Plus, a platform that attempts to combine the best of Twitter and Facebook, users can organize each other into “circles.” For instance, a Member might place constituents in one circle, members of the media in another and fellow lawmakers in a third, and then target posts to specific circles. Unlike Twitter, which is typically used for broadcasting to “followers,” and Facebook, which is generally used for engaging with “friends,” Google Plus allows users to combine both approaches to best interact with certain users.

“Google Plus aims to make sharing on the Web more like sharing in the real world,” a Google spokesman said. “You share different things with different people.”

Although some Members were quick to create Google Plus profiles, many are waiting for it to replicate successful characteristics of other social networks before fully engaging with the medium. Among those desired features is something along the lines of Twitter’s “verified account” designation, which allows Members of Congress and other notable users to prove that they are who they claim to be.

In an online statement in July, Google Plus’ product manager Christian Oestlien asked “non-user entities,” such as businesses and organizations, to wait until Google released new features specifically for users who are not private individuals.

“The business experience we are creating should far exceed the consumer profile in terms of its usefulness to businesses,” Oestlien said in the statement. “We have a great team of engineers actively building an amazing Google+ experience for businesses, and we will have something to show the world later this year.”

A Google spokesman, who would not give his name per company policy, was unable to provide a timeline for the introduction of new features.

“We are, however, anticipating rolling out brand/profile pages and we expect elected officials and candidates to fully utilize those when they launch in the near future,” he said. 

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