Understanding Google+

What is Google+

Google+ is the search giant’s latest attempt to create a social network that rivals Facebook.  The social network is a collection of different sociUnal products. These features include Stream (a newsfeed), Sparks (a recommendation engine), Hangouts (a video chat service), Circles (a friend management service), Games and Photos. We explain all of these features later in this guide. More features such as Questions are expected to launch in the near future.  It is an improvement to Google, explaining why the company decided to change the iconic Google navigation bar to include a link to each user’s Google+ profile, as well as a new icon that displays how many notifications a user has received, much like the Facebook notifications feature.

Getting Started

You must use a Gmail or Google Apps account to sign up for Google+ — no invites required. If you decide to sign up with a Google Apps account, there are a few things to remember.  The most important one is this: the administrator of your Google Apps account can potentially modify or delete your account.

Signing up is simple: just fill in information like your name and your birthday. Once done, you are taken directly to Google+.

While we go through every single one of Google+’s features step-by-step in this guide, it is always smart to know the basic commands and syntax of Google+.

Once you have your Google+ account set up, the first thing you should do is fill out your user profile. If you have already created a Google Profile before, that data will automatically be imported to your Google+ Profile — in fact, your Google+ Profile replaces it.  There are also privacy settings you may adjust in the profile. Options include allowing people to email you from a link on your profile and being public, private or somewhere in between using Google+ Circles.  Your profile also displays members of your circles and who has added you to theirs. You can change the privacy settings on the left side of your profile to make this data public or private

Understanding Circles

Understanding Circles is essential to mastering Google+. The search giant has opted not to simply let you “friend” people you know, as if you do on Facebook, or “follow” individuals on Twitter. Instead, Google+ gives you more control over who sees your content.

Circles allow users to drag-and-drop their friends into different friend groups, which categorize them. This allows you to put your mom in your “Family” circle, your boss in your “Business” circle and a friend from college in your “Friends” circle. You can create as many circles as you would like. However, making too many becomes cumbersome and may diminish the usefulness of Circles.

Why should you create circles in the first place? The answer is simple: You want to share different things with different friends. You may want to share a risqué photo with your close friends, but share a link about your company’s newest hire with just your business network. Google+ Circles gives you the ability to have this kind of control over both what you share and what content pops up in your stream.

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