Some basics for using Google+

Google+ with circlesBy now you’ve heard the buzz about Google+ and are ready to catch the wave. (In case you didn’t catch it, that’s my holler-out to two previous not-so-successful Google entrees into social media: Google Buzz and Google Wave.)

Here’s a short overview on a few Google+ basics.

Signing Up

Once you’ve got a Gmail account you can sign-up for Google+ at plus.google.com. Or you may already have an invitation to join from someone else on G+.

You’ll have to set-up your Google public profile in order to participate.

One challenge I’ve had is that I use several different Gmail accounts, including a Google Apps account for work. But Google+ doesn’t yet work with my Google Apps account.

The fact that Google+ connects directly to your email contacts makes G+ very seamless. You don’t have to search for your friends on the network because it already knows who you email and connects you if they’re on G+. You’ve just got to choose a Gmail profile for your Google+ account and stick with it.

Keep in mind that G+ is just for individuals for now. No business profiles are allowed . . . yet.

Creating Circles

Something G+ does well is allow you to categorize your connections into specific groups, which Google calls circles. Then you can share messages specifically with the contacts you’ve assigned to specific circles.

G+ circles do a great job of virtually creating the different social circles in which each of us operate.

Hangouts

You can create a hangout for your circles which opens a free webcam enabled virtual community where many folks can join in conversations, see and hear one another. Hangouts function like Skype with multiple participants.

Sharing Content

Like other social networks you can share just about any kind of content: text, photos, links, videos and locations. As expected, G+ easily connects to YouTube videos and Google Places.

Tip: A cool feature of G+ is the ability to bold and italicize text in your posts. Any text between two asterisks (*) is bolded and between underscores (_) is displayed in italics.

Keep in mind that, depending on your settings, content shared can be visible to the world on your Google profile, sent to circles of friends, or shared privately with individuals.

On Google+ you hyperlink to other users using +Their Name, just like the @Their Name nomenclature works on Facebook.

Also, similar to how the Facebook ‘like’ icon works, the ‘+1’ is Google’s way of saying, “Ditto that comment,” or “I really like this.”

So if you like this article, you could +1 it on Google+ or like it on Facebook.

Privacy

Be sure you understand how to configure your privacy settings on Google+. Visit that gear-icon in the top right for options, then select Google+ settings. This takes you to your Google account settings and a page just for Google+. A cool feature here is that you can control other Gmail account settings in the same section.

I elected to turn off all mobile phone and email notifications because I just can’t deal with all the noise. When I want to know what’s going on in Google+, I’ll login.

New Features

If you’re curious to find out the latest developments on G+, once you’re logged in to your account you can check out the recently launched “What’s new in Google+” from the options gear-icon in the top right of your account under Google+ help.

Observations

If you don’t use the Google Chrome browser, I highly recommend downloading and using it as you browse Google+.

While Google+ is certainly the shiny new tool in the social media toolbox, its application for PR and marketing communication is still limited. Once it grows up I suspect the platform will be home to many brands and conversations just like Facebook is now. Consider the future Google Search benefits of branded conversations on Google+.

Still, with existing platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s difficult to imagine just how many additional platforms we need.

If you have Google+ take-aways, tips or observations, please feel free to share in the comments.

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