How to get the most out of Google Plus Circles

Okay, so now that you’ve completed your Google plus profile it’s time to begin adding people to your circles. On Facebook you “friend” people, on Twitter you “follow” others and on Google plus (g+) you “circle” them.

Add to Circles

You can begin adding people to your circles right away. Google has even helped you get started by naming some circles for you including a family circle, friend circle, and following circle. You can use these circles as-is, rename them, or add new circles that better reflect the categories you’d like to place your contacts in.

Rename a Circle

  1. Click the circle
  2. Click “edit”
  3. Hover over name of circle
  4. Type in new name
  5. Hit “save”

Creating a New Circle

  1. Click on the light grey circle “Drop Here to Create a Circle”
  2. Click “Create Circle”
  3. Type in circle name
  4. Click “Create Empty Circle” (saves the circle)

Some people create specific circles for each of their passions. For example you might have these three circles:

  • Beer drinking buddies
  • Sports fanatics
  • Favorite teams

Or, you may simply have one circle called Sports Fun which would include the teams you’re following, your beer drinking buddies and those friends who are just as wild about sports as you are.

Here’s the thing though: What do you do if your beer drinking buddies aren’t on Google+ yet? Well there’s a fan page for just about every major sports team out there. There are even pages for many of the sports world’s favorite players. Start there. Add those pages to your circles. Participate in the conversations and make new friends who share your passion for sports.

Unofficial Google+s Recommended Circles

You can also add shared circles. There are a lot of publicly shared circles on the Web, but a great place to begin is the Unofficial Google+s Recommended Users list. Here you’ll find categories ranging from music bands to filmmakers to scientists to gammers and many more.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Click on a category of interest
  2. Browse through the list of people in that category
  3. Click their profile – or simply click the red “add to circle button.” I prefer to read their profile first to see if they are good fit for me, but some people skip that step. It’s up to you.

When you find people you want to follow, you can add them to as many circles as you want. For example, one of your beer drinking buddies might also be your cousin. You can add him to your family circle as well as your beer drinking buddies circle.

The next step is managing your circles.

Managing and Isolating Circles

Placing your Google+ contacts in the right circle and adjusting how frequently you receive posts from each of your various circles is a great way to manage what you see in your stream. It’s fun to visit your Google+ stream to see what others are up to, but if you’re like me then you’re going to have moments when you can’t possibly read all of the current posts from all of your circles. In which case, knowing how to isolate a circle can come in handy.

Isolating a Circle

Remember when we talked about adjusting the volume on each of your circles? Remember how you went to your Google+ stream and clicked on a circle before adjusting the volume? When you clicked on the circle you isolated that particular circle. You can do the same thing when you’re in a hurry – click on a particular circle to read just the posts from that circle.

Some people have a circle called must read, important posts, or don’t miss so that when they’re in a hurry they can click on this circle and read the information that is of greatest importance to them. I suggest you create a similar circle and place all of your important contacts in that circle. This circle can be a mix of close family, special friends, and important business contact, as well as bloggers, sports teams, and news sites you’re following. Include any contact whose posts you don’t want to miss. Then, whenever you’re in a hurry you can simply click that one circle and get caught up on the latest happenings.

Moving Quickly through Your Google+ Stream

There are a few keys which can help you move quickly through your stream. These keys come in handy when you’re in a hurry. These include:

  • Spacebar: Hit the space bar to scroll down your stream.
  • Spacebar, shift key: Hit both the spacebar and the shift key at the same time to scroll up your stream.
  • J: Hit the letter j to move down one post in your stream.
  • K: Hit the letter k to move up one post in your stream.
  • Return: When you’ve selected a post (clicked on it) you can hit the return/enter key to begin a comment on that post.
  • Return, tab: Hit the return/enter key and the tab key at the same time to end the comment.

Tip: After you’ve commented on a post, if you don’t want to receive notifications about any additional comments on that post you can mute the post. In the upper right hand corner you’ll see a gray arrow. Click the arrow and select mute.

Effectively controlling what you see in your stream will dramatically increase your enjoyment of participating in the Google+ community. Placing your fellow g-plusser friends in the appropriate circles and adjusting the volume on those circles means your stream will be filled with posts from the people you’re most interested in.

Who to Circle Back

Remember when you created your Google+ profile and began searching for people to follow? Other people are doing the same thing. They’re looking for people with shared interests and values that they can circle. They may have “seen” you when you commented on a post, clicked your name and read your Google+ profile. Or perhaps they did a Google search and found you that way. (See Google Search Plus Your World)

Regardless of how they found you, you now have a notification that they’ve begun circling you, but you don’t know who they are. For some this is a non-issue. They simply circle back because they believe this is the polite thing to do. Although I tend to fall into this category – of folks who circle back, I do take time to learn a little about them first.

Here’s what I do when I receive notification that someone has begun circling me:

  1. I click their name, read their profile and scan their posts.
  2. Determine if their interests are a good match for any of my circles.
  3. If not, then I place them in one of two circles: mute or potential.

My Mute Circle

Sometimes it’s pretty obvious that I have little in common with a person who’s circling me. It might also be apparent that I’m unlikely to enjoy their posts. In this case I place them in my mute circle. This circle is just what it sounds like. I’ve turned the volume completely down so that I don’t see posts from those in this circle. Some people would simply not circle these folks back and that’s perfectly okay. You get to decide how you want to manage those g-plussers you don’t relate to.

My Potential Circle

I read somewhere of one g-plusser who has a purgatory circle in which he places people he’s uncertain about in a sort of holding pattern. After a couple of weeks or so he’s better able to determine which circle best suits those in his purgatory circle. I do something similar by placing people in my potential circle. In this circle I have folks who seem interesting, but who haven’t yet posted enough on Google+ for me to determine which circle to place them in.

Google has made it really easy to view the messages posted of those in specific circles. I’ll show you how by explaining how to isolate circles.

Sharing Circles

Now that you’ve had some time to play around with Google+ and all of the various settings and controls you may be interested in adding a few more people to your circles. There are a number of ways to do just that.

Look Who’s Talking

When you’re reading a post read the comments too – especially if the post is interesting to you. Sometimes those comments will make you laugh or spark ideas. They may even get you thinking deeper on a subject that is important to you. When reading an interesting comment, click on the name of the person who wrote it. This will take you to their stream of public posts where you can decide if they’re someone you want to circle. Do this by:

  • Reading their public posts
  • Reading “about” them
  • Clicking on links they’ve shared

Some people prefer if you send them a personal message before you circle them; however most people are okay with you circling them without sending a message. They may or may not circle you back. Either way, their public posts will begin to show up in your stream.

Add Shared Circles

From time to time you’ll see a shared circle show up in your stream. This is a circle that one of your Google+ contacts has decided to share with you. Often the one sharing the circle will give it a name like photography circle or book lovers circle and the number of people the circle holds. This name and any additional information given may help you decide if it’s a circle you’d like to add. Or, you can click the circle and then click on each person in the circle, one at a time, to determine if they’re someone you want to add to your circles.

When I choose to add a shared circle I call it shared photography circle or shared book lovers circle. This helps me remember how I ended up with this particular grouping of individuals.

Public Lists of Shared Circles

Google offers suggestions of those who you might be interested in following in the right sidebar. You can also search for people by topic in the Google+ search bar. Another option is to browse one of several public shared circles lists. Here are a few to get your started:

  • Best Google+ Shared Circles: Gabriel Vasile created this huge list of great Google+ circles. He rightly points out that in order to get the most out of your Google+ experience you need to add interesting people to your circles. Check out Vasile’s extensive shared circles list.
  • Shared Google+ Circles Spreadsheet: This public spreadsheet is managed by Chris Porter and lists Google+ cirlces that have been shared by category like photography, religion, politics, gaming, and many more. Browse the shared circles spreadsheet.
  • Women of g+: This is a list of women on g+. The group has quickly grown into a vibrant community of women who share with and learn from one another. Visit http://www.womenofgplus.com/

The more people with shared interests, values, and passions that you add to your Google+ circles, the more fun you’re going to have. And though you may not be able to meet your new Google+ friends in person, you can meet them face-to-face via Google Hangouts.

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