Google+ Gets Big, New Upgrades for Hangouts and Photos

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Business owners who count Google+ among their top social networks for marketing purposes have some new goodies to play with. At an event today, Google unveiled several updated features for Google+ that are meant to improve Hangouts as well as photos and videos.

Hangouts, which are used to privately or publicly video chat between friends or colleagues, are getting a number of upgrades:

  • Location sharing and SMS support for Android. Users can now send a map of their current location instead of having to find and type an address. Also new is the ability to send and receive SMS (text messages) instead of having to switching between apps.
  • Ability to schedule Hangouts On Air. These are the video conversations that are broadcast publicly. Now users can schedule a Hangout On Air, then promote it with a dedicated watch page.
  • Full-screen video. Conversations now happen full screen across mobile and desktop devices. Additionally, Hangouts can automatically fix and enhance webcam lighting. So, no more looking like you're broadcasting from a dark cave.

The Android app and video calling features will be available in a few days, Google says. The On Air improvements should roll out over the next few weeks.

Related: How You Can Win at Social Media Right Now (Hint: Silly Cat Pics Don't Cut It)

Photo editing functions on Google+ are also getting an upgrade with enhanced auto enhancement features as well as new filters. What's more, users can take advantage of smart searching, meaning Google+ can better recognize search terms for different objects within images. Search for that crazy awesome "snowman" you made last winter and, voilà, it should appear.

Apple iOS users can now back up and sync full-size pictures. So, you can save and back up images on-the-go as you take them.

Google+ is also rolling out new features for its "Auto Awesome" photo editing tool, including:

  • Action, which creates images with a strobe effect.
  • Eraser, which can take a sequence of photos and erase blurry objects, creating a cleaner image.
  • Movie, which automatically produces highlight reels from your photos and videos -- complete with effects, transitions and an audio soundtrack.

The photo and video improvements will be available this week, Google says. The Auto Awesome features work on certain devices with Android 4.3.

Related: Social Media for Small Business: Choose Wisely, Then Execute

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