Google +. Many of you use it everyday, but maybe don't know all the bells and whistles that go along with it. This article is information-heavy; I will warn you right now! And even this doesn't cover every nook of information that is the behemoth that is Google +. Because of that fact, I have decided to give you an overview of each section of Google +. I am planning on follow-up blog posts to highlight each of these sections of Google + a little deeper. Treat this as a starting point to grow your knowledge and use of Google +. One fact should resonate with you now and at the end: if you blog, you need to be actively using this must have blog resource, Google + Home. Just what it implies, it is your home "feed" where you will see everything shared by people you have added to your profile and communities you are a member of. Profile. This is very similar to the home page in Facebook. It's your profile, your photos, who you follow, and all the posts you have added to Google +.
Explore. This is a great section if you are desire to find out about a particular subject, famous person, or topic. You will see trends (similar to trends on Twitter), suggested communities based on your activity and people in your circles, as well as a general search function. This is where the importance of using hash tags in your posts becomes important. I think users forget about hash tags in Google +. Don't! These are important, especially if you are posting publicly or want people to find the topic you are posting about.
Circles. What are circles? Think of them as lists that you organize into categories. When you first create your Google Plus profile, you will create what are called "Circles". Google has some pre-set circle titles, such as "Friends" and "Public". You can, of course, use these or not use these. You can also create your own circles. You may have business contacts, for example. So, as a blogger, it would be a good idea to have ones like "Bloggers", "Sponsors", and similar ones catered to how you want to share.
A lot of users wonder this: Once you share a post or article on Google+, it does get posted to your home page in Google +. So, if anyone were to visit your profile page, they would see what you have shared. It also gets posted to the feed of others that have you in their circles. If you've posted something to the "Public" circle, it may show up in search engines.
But what about when you share to circles you have created? What does it mean exactly when you share something via Google + with specific circles? As stated above, if you share to circles where those people have you in their circles, then they will see the post in their home feed. But, if you have added people to your circles that don't have you in their circles, they will simply get a notification that you have shared something with them. This used to come via the magical red box next to your profile picture in the top right corner when you are in any Google program (i.e., Gmail, Picasa, etc.). Recently, Google has added an email notification, where you will get a "this person is sharing with you, add them to your circles" email.
Furthermore, there is the option to include an email notification when you share something via Google +. It's a small box that you check below the comments box and circles box. This is a great option, although Google will limit the number of recipients that can receive such an email.
Once you add someone to an existing circle, all of the content that you previously shared with that circle (before the new person was a member) will now be visible to them. If they add you to their circles, posts you've shared with them will also appear on their Home page.
When you add someone who's already using Google+ to one of your circles for the first time, that person may receive a notification that you've added them. If you add them to additional circles, they won't receive additional notifications.
Photos. Similar to your home feed, this section focused on your photos. I haven't played around with this section very much, but I like the idea of it being a "storage ground" for all your photos. I also like the app option, as I take almost all of my photos exclusively on my phone.
Communities. Ahh, this is fast becoming my favorite part of Google +! I first found out about communities from one of my favorite blogging friends, Krystal. She writes both for Krystal's Kitsch and Sunny Soirees. She started an incredible community called "Blog Billion". This was my first taste of the power of communities. Think of a community as a place for your to hangout, share ideas, and network with other users in a given topic or area of interest. This section will display any communities you are a member of at the top, followed by suggestions and themes of communities you might want to get involved in. I like to think of these as an "ongoing, active blog hop". I am constantly posting with others, sharing my latest blog posts, and chatting with the members of the communities I am active in. One word of advice: be active!
p.s. Look for a follow-up article next week profiling communities more in-depth, with an extensive profile on Krystal!
Events. This works very similar to creating an event on Facebook. But if you are a blogger, don't neglect the power of this section. If you are hosting a giveaway or other standout event on your blog, be sure to share it here!
Overwhelmed yet? I know, it's a lot of information. My recommendation is to explore each section slowly and carefully. And look for my upcoming follow-up posts that hone in on these subcategories of Google+ and really explain all that they have to offer.
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