It’s no secret by now that I’ve been in love with Google+ (Google Plus) since I gained admittance on the third day of its existence. Sure it’s not perfect, and there are a number of improvements and features I’d like to see, but it’s taken off for me like no other social network I’ve participated in. (Follow author Mark Traphagen on Google+)
Still, I’ve seen a number of my friends get in to Google+, have a quick look around, and =say, “Meh,” or “This is too complicated,” or “none of my friends are here,” and then just stop using it after one or two posts and/or interactions.
I really don’t think Google+ is all that hard to “get,” but I realize that any new social network can seem intimidating at first. In this particular case, it’s a good demonstration that those who are saying Google+ is “just a Facebook copy” are wrong. While it might look that way at first glance, Google+ has some significant differences from Facebook that may not be obvious to the new user right away.
This past weekend I crowd-sourced to those in my Google+ circles the following question: “What do you wish you knew when you first signed on to Google+,” or put another way, “What things should a newbie to Google+ know so they don’t freak out and run away?” I wasn’t looking for a collection of “tips and tricks” (there are plenty of those out there, and you can search for them on Google+), but rather for the major areas of potential misunderstanding that might keep a new user from enjoying and benefiting from Google+.
Here, in no particular order, is what we came up with:
- Try to leave behind your Facebook and Twitter mentalities (while keeping in mind that some things you learned in using those services will be helpful in Google+). Unlike Facebook, you can follow (in Google+ “circle”) people without them following you, and vice versa. But unlike Twitter, you can fine tune which groups (circles) will see any given post.
- If your stream is too quiet, go find new people to follow. Many new Google+ users get discouraged early because their friends from other social networks haven’t shown up yet, or are too quiet. But Google+ gives you the opportunity to go out and find new, interesting people, without the Facebook limitation of requiring them to friend you back. Use Google+’s internal search to look for people posting about your topics. If you see someone make an interesting post or comment in your stream, click their name to go to their profile. Look at their “About” and “Posts” to see if they will sustain your interest, then use the “Add to Circles” button to follow them. Another resource for finding interesting people to follow is Find People on Plus. Search by topics you’re interested in and that service will find plussers who have those terms in their Google+ profile.
- Don’t be intimidated by Circles. Experiment! Fiddle! Retune! The most important thing to know about Circles (Google+’s way of organizing the people you follow) is no one else can see your circles. That means you are free to set them up any way you like (and name them as devilishly as you want) without fear of anyone being offended. The drag and drop interface makes it easy to reshuffle your circles, so don’t feel locked in to your original setup. (If you really want to geek out on Google+’s asymmetric sharing paradigm, watch this Visual Guide to Circles in Google+ slideshow.)
- Circles are for both posting and reading. Keep this in mind when setting up circles. You can use circles to target to whom you want your posts to go (yes to my best friends, no to my boss), but also use them to filter your stream, especially once you have circled a lot of people and the noise builds up. You may want to build both posting and reading circles, since you can put people in more than one.
- Don’t freak when people you don’t know circle you. It’s a good thing! Again, this is part of leaving your Facebook mentality behind. Facebook relationships are symmetrical. I only follow you if you follow me, and vice versa. Circling on Google+ is more like following on Twitter…but better (I’ll explain). Similar to Twitter, anyone can follow you by placing you in one or more of their circles. Don’t freak when this happens. Take it as a compliment; you were interesting enough for a stranger to want to read more of what you say! Now here’s where circles are different from Twitter follows, and why you shouldn’t worry about being circled by strangers: Like Twitter, you don’t have to follow back (i.e., add them to one of your circles), but unlike Twitter, if you don’t circle them back, they don’t see anything you post to your circles (i.e. not to “Public”). So with Google+ it’s very easy to keep more private posts away from strangers even if they are following you. Just don’t post them to public.
- Get to know the default circles. Right out of the box Google+ gives you several circles you can use when posting or sharing (and one just for reading). Understanding the subtle differences between these is a little challenging at first, but crucial. (Good news: after you’ve inserted one of these into the “add more people” box, just hover your mouse over it and a tooltip will appear with a quick definition.)
- Public: Posts to anyone who has added you to their circles, and is also visible on your profile Posts page and to anyone on the Internet (either by them receiving a link to the post or finding it in a web search). You should be aware that posting to Public does not mean everyone who has circled you sees the post in their Stream, only those you’ve also added to a circle (i.e., you follow each other). Everyone else who has circled you (but you haven’t circled back) will get the post in their Incoming feed (see below).
- Extended circles: Posts to anyone you’ve circled, plus to people they’ve circled (so friends, and friends of friends). Same rule applies as in Public above, though: if they’ve circled you it will appear in their Stream (and the stream of whichever circle(s) they’ve added you to); if they haven’t circled you, it goes to Incoming.
- Your circles: Just like the name implies, these posts go to anyone you’ve added to a circle. This could also be called All my circles or The one circle to rule them all. These posts are not public (unless you add Public in also) and thus will not appear on your profile or in Google search for anyone not in your circles. (Pro Tip: You can customize which circles appear in “Your Circles” in your settings. It’s truly Your Circles.).
Can I put a person in several circles?
Are there any really good simple videos about Gplus yet?
Am I the first to use the expression Gplus? Will it catch on? If everyone who uses it will just pay me a penny each year….
Yes! Part of the magic of Circles in Gplus (now I owe you a penny) is the ability to add a person to as many circles as you like, which makes the ways to use Circles very flexible.
For example, I’ve taken to creating both reading and posting circles. Reading circles I use to filter my now very noisy Stream. Posting circles I use to target posts or shares to certain groups. Since the two purposes can involve slightly different groups, being able to arrange people according to those functions is really useful.
I haven’t run across Gplus instructional videos yet, but if I do I’ll be sure to share them here.
I’d envisioned circles somewhat differently. I thought, if i put the same person in two circles, say politics and photography and shared only those interests in each,I’d see them discussing those topics as I clicked each circle separately on the Google+ column. Instead, I see their every post, public or limited, relevant to my other circles or not, repeated from my overall stream, in every circle into which I’ve added them. i.e. same noise, different channels. I don’t see this with the default “Family” circle, just with the ones I’ve created. Clear as mud?
I’ve just looked more closely and realized the same is true of anyone I’ve added to more than once circle. This makes circles a lesser means of noise reduction than I’d hoped. Unless I’m missing something huge in reading your article
If I add people to my circle, but forget to invite them to use google plus or they just do not sign up. When I post a comment for the circle they are in, do they get an email anyway or do they have to join?
I added my work email to my circles, but never saw any emails so assume you cant get any updates unless you join google plus correct?
The system claims updates to my “invites” who’ve not yet joined are emailed to them. If they have but not added you to any circles they go in their “incoming” stream instead
JL, forgot to specifically ask if you had sent an official invite to your work email? If so, you should be seeing what I mentioned above and receiving emails.
Great question. It’s important to remember circles represent people, not topics. So yes, if you put someone in a circle for tech geeks because that seems to be his chief interest, you are still going to see his funny cat pictures if he posts those as well.
A lot of us early adopters have been asking Google for content filters, so that we could build topic-based circles. With Google’s expertise in search and algorithms, I’d be surprised if something like that isn’t coming. Two hopeful signs: Google engineers have said that some creative use of tagging is being developed, and Google last week acquired Fridge, a company which has been innovating in technology to form ad hoc groups around common interests.
People in a circle to which you post who are not on Google+ only get an email if you have the “Notify about this post” checkbox checked. To see it, insert a circle in a post, then hover over the circle tag.
The circle DO show for other people. I can see “public” and “my guys” circles on people’s posts !!
You’ll have to be a little more specific about what you mean that you can “see” circles on people’s posts.
I mean when i see the word “Limited” besides someone’s post, i click it and i see who else this post is shared with. I don’t want that to happen to me
Yes, that is true. I’m guessing Google’s presumption was that if you feel comfortable about putting those people in the same circle(s), it’s ok to let them see each other. But I agree that’s a bad presumption. I’ve seen a number of other people complain about that. If enough sent it to Feedback, perhaps Google will reconsider.
Created my Google+ profile last week and I was just having fun with its features. Thanks, for this post….It helped me to understand Google+ .
You’re very welcome! Please be sure to share it with others you meet who are just getting started on Google+.
I’m still a bit confused on some basics of google+ after reading this. How exactly do you find “interesting” people, other than by topic? Because I noticed that google+ displays seemingly random posts from other people on my front page, that I don’t know, about something particularly interesting or eye-catching. Is this displayed by popularity, and if so, how do the people find this result to begin with? (I presume by searching for interesting topics).
I posted something particularly interesting and noticed that Google+ alerted me that someone I don’t know shared it (“from” me?), and someone else that I don’t know commented on it (on my wall), and added me to their circles. I’m just confused about how people started finding me from that post.
Thanks for the article, I think I can really get into google+ if I understand it.
Good questions, Ellen!
What is displayed on your “front page” is anything shared (either publicly or “limited” – shared to a circle someone has you in) by anyone you’ve added to your circles. It appears mostly in reverse chronological order (i.e., latest posts at the top) much like a Twitter stream, except that new comments on a post you’ve previously commented on or +1ed can make it pop back to the top.
To find interesting people in topics you like, I suggest you first try the search built-in to Google+. You’ll find it right at the top of your page. Enter a topic and press enter. Use the “Everything” and “From Everyone” dropdown menus to narrow your search. Browse the results, and if you see a post that looks interesting to you, click the poster’s name to go to their profile. Scan through their recent posts and “About” tab to get an idea whether they are someone you’d like to follow. If so, use the “Add to Circles” button at upper right to follow them.
As to your other question (why “strangers” shared and commented on your post): Remember that anything that you post publicly (i.e., you don’t limit to only certain of your circles or to individual users) can be seen potentially by anyone on Google+. If you include “Extended Circles” when you post, it will show up in the “Incoming” stream of friends of your friends (i.e., people who have been circled by people you’ve circled). Some people peruse that incoming stream every so often looking for interesting posts or people they might not know about. In addition, your public posts can be found in Google+ (and even regular Google) searches.
Hope that helps! Shoot me more questions if you need more clarification.
hey cant i share pix or anything on the pgs i’m following… plz reply cuz i really wanna share some pix
I’m assuming you mean that you want to share photos on business/brand pages you follow? It is true that at least at present you cannot post anything to a business page that you don’t manage (unlike Facebook, where you can post to a business page’s “wall”). I haven’t heard anything from Google as to whether this will change eventually.
You could, however, send your content to the page’s managers by making it a message to them. Just type + and the Page’s name in your post and it will appear in their notifications. (Be sure to remove any other circles from the post if you don’t intend it to be public.) Hope that helps!
Hi Pros: I have a question.
There are 112 people who have me in their circles in G+. (I can confirm that in My Profile). Still, when someone pulls up the “View all” option there are only 80-82 people. Any idea? Thanks.
Hmmm…I don’t have an immediate answer. I checked some other profiles with small followings and saw the same thing. The only thing I can guess is that there may be some privacy setting by some of your followers that doesn’t allow their profile to be displayed as a follower of yours. Don’t know what that would be though.
Google plus will for sure over take facebook one day