Google Ripple CirclesRipples is a Google+ feature unparalleled in any other social network.

If you’re not familiar, Ripples allows you to play a timeline that shows you the spread of a viral post across Google+. You access it by clicking the little down arrow to the right of a post.

Aside from its amusement aspects, Ripples has real value for marketing intelligence. Many have pointed out that it is a great way of identifying who your “champions” are, the people who consistently share your material with their own followings. The larger a circle in the ripple chart, the more influence that person had in spreading the post.

But I see another, more social value, one that Twitter has taught us. On Twitter, it is considered good etiquette to thank someone for “RTing” (re-tweeting) your tweet. Not only is this a polite thing to do, it is a good social reinforcement to the person who bothered to share your stuff, perhaps making it more likely that she or he will do it again int the future.

How to Use Ripples to Say Thanks
Should you be so fortunate as to have one of your Google+ posts be reshared enough for it to generate a Ripple, pay attention to the list of people who have publicly shared it that shows up in the right column of the Ripple page (see illustration). Take a moment to click the “view post” link after each one and leave a brief “Thanks for re-sharing this!” comment.

Google Ripples Sharing Column

This morning I had a post that has had 21 reshares in less than 50 minutes. While that’s barely a small “r” ripple to mega-users like+Linda Lawrey, +Jesse Stay, or +Louis Gray, it was pretty exciting for me. I had a great time following my re-sharers as my Ripple spread. My “thank yous” even got a few nice compliments back (it’s great to hear something like “quality content deserves to be shared” about one’s work), and I think I made some new friends. Several of them circled me right after I left my thank you comment.

By the way, the right-hand box in Ripples shown above shows only publicly posted re-shares. This makes it a time-saver over just clicking the “shares” link on the original post. If some of the re-shares are to private circles, you won’t be able to see them, and clicking through to them is just a waste of time.

If you’re on Google+, be sure to explore what Ripples says to you when your next post goes viral.

BONUS TIP: Over the weekend I had two more Google+ posts go viral with lots of re-shares. Following my advice above uncovered another benefit of doing so: the opportunity to join in on conversations about my original post wherever they occur across Google+. Because I left a comment on those re-shares, I get notifications when others comment there. By entering into those “satellite” conversations, I help reinforce my brand (i.e., my name) as an authority in the area of the original post across a far wider reach of readers than the original post would ever get to.