Google+ is a ghost town. No one uses it. It’s only for nerds.
Or at least, that’s what most people who have never tried it think. However, Google+ is a thriving and robust hub of social interaction that many people, including myself, use as their primary social media platform. It’s the social layer that ties all of Google’s various services, such as Gmail, YouTube, Photos, Drive, and Maps, together. In addition, connecting your website to your Google+ profile gives you authorship credibility and can boost your SEO scores.
In this post, I will show you how to set up your Google+ account and begin using it. If you don’t have a Google account at all, start at Step 1; otherwise, you can jump straight to Step 2.
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1. Create a Google Account
Go to plus.google.com and click “Create An Account” on the top right.
Fill in your info and click “Next Step.”
At this point, you can add a profile photo. Choosing a great profile photo is extremely important, as this will be how you will be recognized and remembered across the web. We highly recommend using the same profile photo across platforms (your website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Once you’ve selected and adjusted your profile photo, click “Next Step.”
You now have a Google+ account!
2. Learn The Layout
Go to plus.google.com again. You should see something like this:
This is your Stream, where you can see all the incoming posts from others. The gray bar at the top allows you to switch between feeds from your circles (more on that later).
On the right is Google+ Hangouts, where you can text, voice, or video chat with your friends. Hover your mouse over the word “Home” on the top left to reveal the navigation panel, from which you can access Home, Profile, People, Photos, and more.
3. Set Up Your Profile
On the top right of the next page, you’ll see something similar to this:
This is your notification bar; it’ll be present on top of almost every Google service you use. The bell with the red number icon tells you how many notifications you have pending; clicking on the bell will expand it so you can check your notifications. To navigate to your Google+ profile, click on your picture in the notification bar, and then click “View profile” on the dropdown.
On the top of your profile page, you’ll find a bar with the following buttons:
Select “About.” On the resulting page, fill in as much information as you can in the boxes labeled Story, Work, Education, Basic Information, Places, Links, and Contact Information. Within each of these categories, you can control exactly who is allowed to see your information. The more profile information you fill out, the better.
4. Build Your Circles
The most important and useful part of Google+ is your Circles; Circles allow you to categorize your friends in the most appropriate ways. For instance, when you add a relative of yours on Google+, you can add them to your “Family” circle; add your coworkers to your “Work” circle, and so on.
Why set up circles? Let’s say you just posted some pictures from your family vacation on Google+. Your sports buddies and your co-workers don’t need to see those pictures, so you can share them with only your “Family” circle. Your family doesn’t want to see your massive collection of Lolcatz videos? Share them with only your “Cat Lovers” circle. The possibilities are endless.
To add people to your circles, select “People” in the left navigation panel. Right off the bat, you can connect your address book from other email accounts to Google+ to see if any of your friends already have G+ profiles. You can also search for friends by entering your company or school name.
You can also just type someone’s name into the search bar. For example, I searched for “Mike Elgan.” In the search results page, I found his profile, then clicked the button “Add.”
I then selected the circle labeled “Following”.
If you’ve filled out your profile info well, clicking “Suggestions” on the left will show you a list of people that Google+ thinks you will likely add as friends, based on common interests. There’s a significant difference between adding friends on Google+ and adding friends on Facebook: on Facebook, both parties must confirm a friend request. Google+, on the other hand, allows for one-sided following, similar to Twitter. When you add someone to your circles, they don’t have to add you back.
Now, let’s jump over to “Your Circles” on the top navigation bar. Here, you can control your circles. You can make new circles (like “Geeky Friends,” “Cat Lovers,” “Classmates,” etc.), or delete current circles. At the top, you’ll see all the people you’ve circled; you can click on their pictures and drag them to whatever circle you desire. People can be added to more than one circle.
5. Posting Content
Of course, an introduction to Google+ would be remiss without an explanation of how to post your own content! To write a post, click “Home” on the top left. Click on “Share what’s new…” to type whatever you’d like to post.
Unlike Twitter, there is no character limit to what you type; you can type as much as you want! In addition, you can add some basic formatting to your text, as per the picture below. Once you click “Share,” the formatting will be applied.
In the share box, you can share text, photos, links, videos, and events. Play around with it to see everything it can do!
Once you’ve added whatever content you want to your post, it’s time to share it. Click the box next to the word “To:” to select which friends you’d like to share your post with. You can select individual circles or people, or you can share to friend in all your circles, or you can share publicly. It’s completely up to you. Extended circles are the equivalent of Facebook’s “friends of friends.”
Well, that’s it! You now have a basic grasp of how to use Google+. It’ll take time and effort to make friends and become active on G+; it’s not an overnight process. However, if you are willing to invest the time to become familiar with Google+, you will certainly have a fantastic time. I can’t even begin to count how many incredible things I’ve learned about through my friends on Google+.
Of course, I’ve only just barely scratched the surface of what G+ has to offer. You can start your G+ learning experience by circling me on Google+ and letting me know you read this post in a private message by @-mentioning me.