On September 20th 2011 Google+ became open to the public after a two month invite only period. Now that there are a lot of new people joining Google+ I thought I’d put together a guide with some useful tips to get the most out of your Google Plus experience.
Circles work similar to lists on twitter or Facebook.
The stream is where all the action happens. All your friends posts, photos and shares appear here.
Hangouts allow you to video chat with up to 10 friends at a time. Live broadcasting was just added so you can share your hangouts with the world!
Use search to find friends, search posts in your stream and find articles.
Sparks are your source for instant news access. You can setup a spark for any topic you are interested in and you can view it at any time to see the latest updates on your interests.
Use Huddles to setup a group texting session with a circle of friends.
How to make Google Plus work for you!
Making Friends / Networking
To get the most out of your Google+ experience the first thing you need to do is setup your circles. You aren’t restricted to just the people you know, there is no waiting for a friend request to be accepted. If you want to follow someone just add them to a circle and you will see all the posts which they share to the public. If you need help finding people to follow you can check out some of the many Google Plus user lists which are now available. Recommendedusers.com, Google+ Counter and Group.as are all good places to find people you like and if you want others to find you just add yourself to a list.
The new search feature is another great way to find new people to interact with. See who’s posting the subjects you’re interested in and follow them if you like what you see.
If you want people to follow you the best thing to do is contribute to the social community. If you see an interesting post offer your thoughts, if someone likes what they see you just might gain a follower. Making public posts is another great way to meet new people, Google+ isn’t limited to 500 characters like Facebook. You can currently post 10,000 characters so don’t hold back. If you want to catch people’s attention use a bold heading (by putting * before and after the sentence) and attach a photo to your post. You can also add italics by using the underscore character (_) or dash (-) to strikeout text. If you made a mistake you can even go back and edit the post later.
If you find someone who is spamming posts or making offensive comments use the block feature on their profile to prevent them from commenting on your posts or joining your hangouts.
A common complaint I see from Google+ users is that when people circle them they will check out that person’s profile to see if they want to circle that person back but there is no profile information or profile photo so they won’t follow back. If you want to gain followers be sure to fill out your profile to let them know a little about yourself. Adding suggested circle categories to put your profile under would be a big help. Also, no profile and no posts when they see your profile might make you look like a potential spammer so take a few minutes to fill out your info for the best experience.
Hangout is one of the coolest features on Google Plus. If you want to start a video hangout with up to 10 friends of your choosing or even the public all you have to do is click the green “Start a hangout” button on the right side of the screen. Some new features were just added which allow you to share your screen, share documents and even broadcast your hangout to the world on YouTube. You can even hangout from your mobile phone now. If you want to talk to a couple friends or start your own TV show it’s all right there to explore.
Managing your Stream
If you’re like me and you have a lot of people in your circles you will find that the stream is constantly updating so fast that you can’t keep up with it. If you reach that point it’s a good idea to have a circle setup that has the most important people in it. Perhaps bloggers or news journalists that you want to follow closely or close friends. Once it’s setup you can just select that circle to view only their updates and you won’t have a seizure watching the stream update.
Chat on Google Plus
If you don’t want to utilize Hangouts to chat with friends you can utilize Google Talk for chat directly through Google+. Since Google+ has such a dynamic circles system for following users it wouldn’t make sense to allow anyone on the network to chat with everyone without some level of control. To request permission to chat with a friend you need to enter their email address in the search box on the chat section. Once you do that it will send a request to your friend which they can accept to make you visible on each others chat screen.
You may have also noticed that there is no wall on Google+. Now you don’t have to deal with people spamming your section of the universe with junk. If you want to have a private communication with a friend all you need to do is create a new post and +mention them, then simply remove Public from the post and it will only be visible to you and the person you are talking to. They will receive a notification that you mentioned them and will have the option to reply to your post.
Things to Avoid
If you want to make an impact on the Google+ community and build a base of loyal followers there are things you should avoid.
Google+ has a developing game community which has been intentionally separate from the regular stream. Feel free to share high scores, ask for mafia members all you want but do it within the games section. There is really no point to copying those items and pasting them into the normal conversation streams. If you leave those updates where they are generated then people who are playing the games will see them and the non gaming community won’t be distracted by those updates.
Copy/paste status messages are a thing of the past. On Google+ when a post is share credit is given to the original author of that post. If you copy/paste a message into your status they won’t get credit. Also if it’s a copy/paste message along the lines of “if you don’t copy/paste this you will have bad luck / Jesus will be mad etc” you might find people blocking you just because that sort of thing is seen as spam on Google+.
Solicitations/Spam links will get you instantly blocked by most members of the Google+ community and it’s likely the profile will be reported for abuse. No one is going to click the get rich quick scheme that was added as a comment to Guy Kawasaki’s latest enchanting post and when that type of thing is found I know a lot of people who will block the spammer and post their profile to alert other members to block them as well to keep the community free of spam.
People to follow on Google+
There are hundreds of people I would like to suggest you circle on Google+ to get the most out of your experience but I haven’t had time to put together those lists. The people I’m listing here will help you enjoy your Google Plus experience.
Google Community Managers
The Google CMs are here to help Google+ users so if you have an issue feel free to +mention them for help. I’m sure they are busy right now with all the new users so just be patient. It’s also a good idea to follow them to keep up to date on the latest features as they get added to the service.
Great Active Posters
Linda Lawrey - Tech blogger
Alida Brandenberg – Pandora / Table for Ten
Daria Musk – Musical Artist / Hangout Performance Pioneer
Michael Mozart – Fail Toys / YouTube Broadcaster
Michael van der Galien – Journalist
Colin Lovett – Journalist / Voice of America
Leo Laporte - TV Host / TWiT.tv
Jeff Jarvis – Author
Trey Ratclif - Photographer
Thomas Hawk – Photographer
Keith Barrett – Disney / Vidcast Producer
Also see Celebrities on Google+ for more to pick from!