A GeekMom Guide to Google+ Part Four

In Part One, we talked about circles.
In Part Two, we tackled profiles and privacy.
In Part Three, we discussed finding friends and people to follow.

Today I want to share an assortment of Google+ tips I hope you’ll find useful. Like everyone else at this brand-spanking-new social network, I’m learning as I go. The more I settle in at G+, the more I love it.

1. Fill in the “Occupation” field on your profile.

I talked about this in the profiles post, but it’s such an important tip I’m going to mention it again. The text you enter in that box will pop up whenever a Google+ user hovers the cursor over your name. Think “bio note,” not “occupation.” A descriptive entry will help the people you follow decide whether to follow you back, and what circle to put you in.

2. Use email notifications as a searchable archive.

When you first sign up for Google+, you may find that your email inbox is quickly flooded with notifications of comments and followers. If you’re like me, your first impulse may be to turn off email notifications (which you can do easily in your G+ account settings). But I’ve found a better tack is to filter these notifications into their own folder in my email account. This way, I can search my Gmail any time I want to find a specific post.

3. Don’t put people in more than one “reading” circle.

In Part One of this series, I talked about the difference between “reading” circles and “sharing” circles. Reading circles are the people you want to read (I know, it sounds obvious). Sharing circles are groups of people you want to send certain kinds of posts to. These grouping may certainly overlap—some of your friends might fit into many of your sharing circles. For example, my friend Phoebe is in my Homeschoolers circle, my Special Needs Parenting circle, my Meta circle (where I yak at length about G+ itself), and my Pix Recipients circle, where I might share photos of my kids that I don’t necessarily want on my public profile web. All of those are sharing circles.

But Phoebe—like everyone else I follow—is in only one of my reading circles.  This is my time management strategy. I’ve created four main reading circles with no overlap between them. When I want to read posts at Google+, I don’t click on my Stream—it’s too overwhelming. I check my reading circles one at a time, responding to posts as I go.

My reading circles are grouped by relationship: what context I know someone in, and how well we know each other. But here’s another way of grouping you might want to consider:

4. Try arranging your “reading” circles according to how often you want to read people.

This tip comes from my friend Amy Carney, who has created circles for people she wants to read “Always,” “Often,” “Sometimes,” and “Never.” That sounds like a great method of time management on a social network that has the potential to be a massive time suck. (I mean that lovingly. I may have to enter a Google+ 12-Step program in order to meet my next book deadline.)

5. Remember that “public” is really public.

Any post you send to “public” will be visible to anyone on the web, whether they are G+ users or not. Every post (public and private) gets its own permalink—click the gray timestamp to see it.

It helps to think of public posts as blog posts; essentially, they’re the same thing—just as Twitter updates are (very short) blog posts. You’re writing something and sharing it openly on the internet. Google+, with its lack of character limits, G+ allows for both thoughtful long-form posting and short notes. That’s one of its best features: its versatility.

6. Leave comments, answer comments, and get engaged!

On G+, you can follow anyone (just like on Twitter). If someone you follow has shared a post publicly and has kept comments enabled, feel free to jump in with a comment—just as you would on someone’s blog. Don’t feel awkward if you don’t know the writer. By choosing to post publicly, that person is inviting a response. Although I do have the various sharing circles I mentioned, 90% of my Google+ posts are public. I love the dialogue, the lively exchange of ideas.

7. Mute a post that gets too noisy.

If a post is getting a lot of comments and keeps popping up in your stream, click the gray arrow (top right of post) and select “mute this post.” That’ll make it go invisible.

8. Label private posts “private.”

I picked up this tip from my aforementioned friend Phoebe. Like me, she has a couple of circles for writing to small groups of friends—but like me, most of her G+ posts are public. When she writes to a small circle, she puts a little label on top—”private,” perhaps, or the name of the circle—so you know that what you’re reading is aimed at a more intimate group.

Here’s an example:

I mean, I wouldn’t want my husband to think I was hinting for just anyone to come shower me with candy.

9. Click the word “limited” to see who a post has been sent to.

To be honest, this feature wigs me out a little bit. Circle privacy is one of Google+’s most lauded features: no one will ever see the names of your circles, or who’s in what circle. Except…if a post says “limited” at the top, that means it was sent to one or more circles, and you’re in one of those circles. If you click on the word “limited,” you’ll see the avatars of up to 21 of the people in the circle(s) that post is visible to. If you hover the mouse over an avatar, the person’s name will pop up.

Basically this means you can see who is in a circle with you—just not the name of the circle. I think this is a really important privacy issue to know. (I didn’t know about it when I wrote my privacy post last week!) Which brings me to:

10. Click the “user feedback” button in the lower right of your G+ screen and let the Google team know how you feel!

The network is still in beta, and there are buggy bits, for sure. But the Google crew has been wonderfully responsive to user feedback, and corrections and improvements have already begun to roll out. Visit the “known issues” page for a look at kinks the Google crew is trying to work out. The platform is getting better all the time. I can’t wait to see what new features they have in store for us.

A GeekMom Guide to Google+ Part Three

In Part One of this series, we took a look at Google+ circles. In Part Two, we tackled privacy and profiles. Today let’s talk about the first thing most people want to know when they join a social network: how do I find my friends?

Finding people to follow on Google+

• If you click on your Circles tab, you’ll see a “Find and Invite” tab. I’ve heard varying reports of how useful this feature is at present. For me, it’s been great. The suggested users seem to be a combination of people I know and we have mutual friends who’ve put us both in circles, and names that are new to me but are in fields related to those of people I already follow.

Tip: I created a “New to me” circle which I fill with about 10-12 people at a time. I check in on this circle at least once a day, and if a voice grabs me, I may move that person to a circle I keep up with more often—Following, or Acquaintances (until I know the person better), or one of my topic-themed circles. This has been a fun way to encounter some interesting new writers.

• If you use Gmail, your contacts will be automatically imported to Google+. My Gmail contacts show up at the bottom of that “Find and Invite” window. Yahoo and Hotmail users may import their contacts as well. (You can even import your Facebook contacts via a roundabout route: Facebook to Yahoo to Gmail to Google+. This YouTube clip shows you how.)

Tip: Remember that you can include non-Google+ users in anything you post on G+. Add an email address in the Share window. (This is a great way to include, say, grandparents who’ve been missing out on the photos and hilarious kid quotes you post on Facebook.)

• Search by name, location, or keyword in the new Google Plus Directory.

Tip: Make it easy for friends to find you by filling in your profile page with lots of details! The more you share there, the easier you’ll be to connect with.

• Explore your friends’ circles. Not everyone chooses to display the “who’s in your circles” widget on his or her profile page, but plenty of people do. Visit your friends’ profiles and (if they display the widget) take a gander at whom they’re following. (Don’t worry—no one will ever see the names of anyone else’s circles.)

Tip: Many G+ users are helping other people connect by posting directories on their “About” pages.  For example, on my About page, I share the link of my Kidlitosphere directory: Google+ users who are children’s book & YA writers/illustrators/bloggers/librarians/etc. I’ve also included a list of other people’s G+ directories for homeschoolers, poets, steampunk enthusiasts, and more. Add your name to one of these directories and have fun exploring them for new folks to follow.

• Don’t forget to invite friends the old-fashioned way—drag them along! Look for the little red invitation button in the right-hand sidebar.

While I’m at it, here’s a list of GeekMom writers on Google+:
+Brigid Ashwood, +Natania Barron, +Judy Berna, +Kris Bordessa, +Sophie Brown, +Kathy Ceceri, +Ellen Henderson, +Kay Holt, +“Chaos” Mandy Horetski, +Amy Kraft, +Helene McLaughlin, +Cindy Ortiz, +Sarah Pinault, +Cathe Post, +Kristen Rutherford, +Andrea Schwalm, +Julia Sherred, +Ruth Suehle, +Nicole Wakelin, +Laura Grace Weldon, +Melissa Wiley, +Jenny Williams, +Patricia Vollmer, and don’t forget GeekDad +Ken Denmead!

What other questions do you have about Google+? Click here to read Part Four.

A GeekMom Guide to Google+ Part One

I was lucky enough to land an invite to Google+ right away, thanks to fellow GeekMom Jules, and within minutes of my first exploration of Google’s new social networking platform, I was completely smitten. For me, Google+ combines the best things about Twitter and Facebook, and offers more besides. (Jules gave us a great post about her Google+ first impressions last week.)

But like any new platform, there’s a learning curve. Here are a few tips for finding your sea legs on Google+.

Part 1: Don’t let circles make your head spin

Google+ is built around the idea that we all have different “circles” of friends and acquaintances. On G+, these circles are literal. You create groups of friends—your circles—to help you filter the people you read and the people you share your own thoughts with.

This distinction between reading and sharing is the key to understanding circles. On Twitter, you “follow” people—this puts their public tweets in your stream. They may or may not follow you back. On Facebook, “friending” has to be reciprocal—when you friend someone, your status updates appear in your friend’s news feed, and hers appear in your news feed.

On Google+, you “put someone in a circle.” That means two things: you can read that person’s posts, and you can share posts with that person.

You read posts by clicking on a circle—or click “Stream” to see all your circles at once.

You share by sending posts either to Public, or to one or more of your circles. You can even send a post to individual people—including people who aren’t on Google+ at all, via email.

Let’s walk through it with an example: say I put fellow GeekMom Kristen Rutherford in my Friends circle. Now I will see all Kristen’s PUBLIC posts in my Stream. And also, if I click on my Friends circle, I’ll see her public posts there. This is a lot like following someone on Twitter. In this example, Kristen isn’t following me back—that is, she hasn’t put me in any of her own circles. She won’t see my posts unless she clicks on her “Incoming” stream.

• “Incoming” is where you can view the posts of people who’ve put you in their circles, but they aren’t in yours.

• “Following” is the opposite: people in your circles who haven’t put you in theirs. I use my Following circle for people I don’t know personally but I find their posts compelling—celebs, for example, and a bunch of Google+ insiders who post helpful techie content.

But wait! Kristen has put me in one of her circles. (She’d darn well better have, considering I’m the godmother of her child.) Now the dynamic is similar to Facebook-friends. My public posts show up in her stream, and hers show up in mine.

Also, she can see any posts I send to my Friends circle, and I can see any posts to whatever circle she has put me in. (“People I Love Even Though They Talk Too Much,” possibly.)

So: I can READ Kristen’s posts in my Friends circle (or my Stream), and I can SHARE posts with her by sending them to my Friends circle (or making them public). Reading vs. sharing, get it?

With Kristen, my reading and sharing wishes totally overlap. I want to read all her posts, and I want to inflict all of mine upon her. But there are other people I want to filter differently. Not all of my publishing-industry friends are going to want to hear every cute kid story I tell, and not all my relatives are going to want to hear me opine at length about Why Firefly Is the Best Show of All Time. So I create circles of people who share similar interests. That way I can target certain posts for the right set of friends and colleagues. Interest-based circles may also help you on the reading end. For example, I created a GeekMoms circle so I can easily keep up with what the awesome women here are posting on Google+.

• A handy circle tip: create an empty circle called “Notes” or “Links” for saving items you want to come back to later. Click on that circle to see all your notes. (I added my Evernote account’s email address to mine, which means anything I send to my Links & Notes circle goes directly to my Evernote as well. Very convenient!)

How are you using your circles on Google+?

In Part 2 of this series we’ll tackle Google+ Privacy and Profiles.