By Francesca James

The latest addition to the Google empire is Google+. Google+ takes a giant leap into Facebook's territory but is it going to be able to rival the current king of social?

Google senior vice-president of Social Vic Gundotra told Wired magazine that:

"We're transforming Google itself into a social destination at a level and scale that we've never attempted - orders of magnitude more investment, in terms of people, than any previous project,"

Google+ is currently invite-only but if you weren't lucky enough to make the 'field trial' and can't wait to get in, here's a run down of the basics:

Circles: 'The idea behind this is that you can have mini networks within your social networks and only show content to them' says Mike Essex of Digital Marketing Agency Koozai.

The aim is to allow people to share different things in different ways with different groups of people. This is similar to the way your use of Facebook probably differs to the way you use Linkedin but with Google+ this can all be done under the rapidly expanding Google umbrella.

Hangouts: Hangouts is a video chat service — essentially it allows you to create large scale (up to 10 friends) video chats in virtual rooms with your friends from your networks in real time.

Huddle:is a group messaging application, Mike Essex describes it as 'probably the least interesting feature', he continues by likening the service to Facebook Chat and Skype, because of its similar nature to existing platforms, it's not really bringing anything new to the table or adding a huge amount of value. Huddle is just 'a long IM conversation that's recorded across a group'.

Sparks: 'The most interesting feature from a search perspective' says Mike. Sparks offers a search box (just like a traditional Google search) within Google+ that searches what people are talking about within your network and also suggests content elsewhere. Google have dubbed this the ‘sharing engine’ that 'applies the power of Google to a social setting'.

Mike Essex says that Google +1 is going to play a big part in the whole process, he says that 'amongst other ranking factors, the more +1's you've got, the more likely your contents going to be to show up'. Therefore from a Search Engine Optimisation perspective, keep getting those +1's on your content as it's clearly going to be important here.

How will Facebook react to Google's social gauntlet? Only time will tell.