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.