A GeekMom Guide to Google+ Part Four

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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.

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11 thoughts on “A GeekMom Guide to Google+ Part Four

  1. So, when will Google+ get it’s own button on all the ‘share’ widgets?!!! It’s about time, already. I’m tired of cutting-and-pasting, lol.

    1. The ‘limited’ link seems to only show you individuals who were shared with, not what circle they’re in (well, it shows you if they’re in YOUR circles) nor how many/which of the OP’s circles it was shared with.

      So, you don’t really know if you’re in a circle with those ppl, or if they are in another circle the poster shared with. It may not be the privacy issue you first thought it would be.

  2. I guess I’m not really an “early adopter”. Right now I have my Facebook and Twitter streams and updates to manage and my blog and my feed reader for others’ blogs. I’m not sure very many of my Facebook friends or the people I’m following on Twitter have moved to Google+, so right it just seems like another social networking tool to manage and waste time on that won’t give me back much.

    Although, knowing that you’re there, Melissa, makes it tempting. What am I missing?

    1. Sherry, for me the most appealing factors are convenience, privacy, and no character limit on posts. I’m always looking for ways to streamline my online experience—reducing the time I spent communicating while maintaining the relationships and conversations I value! If the rest of my friends and conversation-partners were on Google+, I could save a tremendous amount of time.

      It’s easy and fast to toggle between public conversations (think blog posts with lively combox discussions) and private ones (think yahoogroups, discussion boards, emails). That’s the main thing. It’s hard to emphasize what a big deal it is. Instead of clicking around to various sites, you can have those conversations all in one place. Public, semi-private, totally private.

      At this point I am still checking in at FB to see what my friends & family are up to, but it feels ponderous. I’ll be there as long as THEY are there, but as a reader primarily.

      Twitter is an amazing tool and I don’t see G+ replacing it, especially in mobile situations. A tweet’s character limit is, after all, based on the maximum length of a cellphone text. For quick bursts of info-sharing, Twitter is fantastic. And I’ve enjoyed the confinement of the character limit; writing a tweet can be like writing a poem.

      But the thing is, I’m a novelist. 😉

      Twitter is like telegrams. Facebook is a lot like the family letters people put in Christmas cards: newsy, fun, full of info you are genuinely happy to read. But to me, the format of Google+ allows for both the telegrams AND the holiday letters—and also well-developed essays with immediate and lively feedback from a peer group. I can engage in all the kinds of discourse I enjoy online *in one place*.

      Or I WOULD be able to, if people like you were there!

      1. OK so if I do the Google+ thing now I’ll have SIX places at least to check and read daily (hourly?:): Google+, Facebook, Twitter, my email, my blog comments, and my blog feed reader. I think what I want is somethng that will take all of those and consolidate them like TweeDeck does now for my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Is there any possibility of “importing” the Tweets from people I follow on Twitter and the updates from my already-friends on Facebook into Google+ —or some other one-stop app?

  3. Can you explain a bit more in detail what you mean by reading circles and sharing circles and how to define them?

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