Wednesday, 6 August 2014

5 tips for getting started with Google+

Google+ is an often-underrated social media tool that you can use to connect with an amazing community of like-minded people. The key to Google+ is putting time and effort into finding people and communities that share your interests and passions. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be rewarded with great opportunities to learn and share. Our five tips will help you get started with Google+ by building your identity and connecting with the right people.

Tip 1: Create an informative profile

The first thing you need to do when you join Google+ is to create a profile. While it can be tempting to skip through this step as quickly as possible, building your profile is essential to your ability to connect on Google+. The more informative and legitimate your profile is, the more likely people are to connect with you. The more people that you connect with, the more meaningful and useful your Google+ experience will be.

Here are four things you should always include in your profile:

  • A profile picture of you (not your dog/cat/favourite cartoon character)
    Having a real photo helps you appear the legitimate person that you are. It also helps people you know offline find the right ‘you’ as there may be many people with the same name on Google+.

  • A tagline
    Your tagline is shown when people hover over your name or photo. It is a short and catchy description of you and your interests/passions/motives. It helps people see at a glance what you’re all about.

  • Your occupation
    Your occupation is also shown if people hover over your name or photo. It is a quick way for others to identify why you might be valuable to connect with.

  • An introduction
    This is where you provide more detail about who you are, what you’re interested in and what you have to share. A good introduction enhances your legitimacy and gives an idea of the type of content you would look for and share on Google+.
None of these profile fields require private or very personal information. You simply need to give others a broad understanding of who you are.

So, now you know what you need to add to your profile, just follow the steps below to edit it:

1. Open Gmail or Google+.

2. Click your profile photo in the top right corner of the screen (or the blue head if you don’t have a photo).

3. Click the View profile button.

4. Click the About tab to view your profile.

5. 4. To change your profile photo, hover over it and click on the camera icon.

6. Click the Edit links in each section of the profile to change information and visibility settings.
Tip: For maximum effectiveness, set the visibility of your occupation and introduction to public (the tagline can only be public). You can then set other fields to be shown only to your circles, extended circles or kept private.

Tip 2: Join communities

Google+ Communities are a quick and easy place to find people that share your interests and access some great content. They should always be the first stop for anyone new to Google+! Communities can be public or private (invitation only). You will be able to join some public communities right away, while others may require you to ask to join. Once you have joined a community, you will begin to see content from that community on your Google+ home page.

Follow the steps below to find and join Google+ Communities:

1. Open Google+.

2. Hover your mouse over the Home button on the left. A pop-out menu will open. Select Communities.

3. Search for relevant communities using the search box on the top right. Try searching for ‘Google Apps’ or ‘Education’ as a starting point.

Search communities box

4. When you find a community you like, click the Join community button.
Note: If this is a moderated public community, the button will say Ask to join.

Tip 3: Build your circles

What are circles?
Circles are the way you categorise people you follow on Google+. In order to follow a person or page*, you need to add them to a circle. By default, Google+ creates four circles for you - Following, Friends, Family and Acquaintances. You can create extra circles with names that are meaningful to you. For example, ‘work colleagues’, ‘football team’, ‘edtech’, ‘cooking’. No-one else can see your circle names, or what circle you put them in. When you follow a person, you select the most relevant circle to put them in. This makes sharing content with the right people easier (more on that later).

Note: The default ‘following’ circle functions just like any other circle. It can be a good place to add people or pages who don’t fit into other circles.

*A page is a Google+ profile for an organisation, brand, cause or other non-person identity. You can find and follow pages just like you find and follow people.

How do you find people or pages to put in circles?You can search for people or pages using the search bar at the top of the Google+ screen. This is helpful if you know the person’s name, or want to search based on a particular topic. Another great way is to look at the profiles of people in the communities you have joined (click on their name to view their profile). If they sound interesting and relevant to you, add them to your circles!

Follow the steps below to create a circle and add a person to it:

To create a circle
1. Open Google+.

2. Hover your mouse over the Home button on the left. A pop-out menu will open. Select People.

3. Click the Your circles tab.

Your circles

4. Find the big circle on the far left with a giant + in it. Click on the circle.

Add circle

5. Give the circle a name. A description is optional.

6. Click Create empty circle.

To add a person or page to a circle
There are several ways to add a person or page to a circle. Here is just one way:

1. Find the person or page you want to add to your circles.

2. Click on the name of the person/page to open their profile.

3. Click the Add to circles button at the top left of their profile.

4. Select a circle to put them in by ticking the box next to the circle name.

Tip 4: Start interacting

Once you have found interesting content on Google+, it’s time to start interacting with the people who post it. There are three easy ways to engage:

  • +1 a post or comment
    A ‘+1’ is the Google+ equivalent of a ‘Like’ on Facebook. In other words, you think the content is useful, interesting or funny. A +1 is a quick way to show your appreciation to the person who posted the content.

  • Comment on a post
    You can use comments to add your thoughts, experience or feedback on a post. Use a comment when a +1 does not tell the whole story.

  • Re-share a post
    If you think another person’s post is really great, you can re-share it to your own followers. When re-sharing, it’s a good habit to add your thoughts or experience to the new re-shared post. This tells your followers why you thought the post was worth re-sharing.

See the screenshot below for the location of the above features.

Google plus post interaction buttons

Tip 5: Start sharing (and don't be afraid to share publicly)

When you’re ready to start sharing content on Google+, it’s good to know what you can share and who you can share it with.

What can be shared?Google+ posts can contain text, photos, links (to websites, blog posts etc.), videos and Google+ events.

Who can posts be shared with?
Posts can be shared with the following:

  • Individuals: The post is shared just with one or more specific people. Use this if the content is relevant only to those people.

  • Circles: The post is shared with a specific circle. Use this if the content is relevant only to people in that circle. For example, you might share photos of last weeks football match with just your football team circle.

  • Your circles: The post is shared with all your circles at once. Use this if the content has wide appeal and you’re happy for anyone in your circles to see it.

  • Extended circles: This shares the post with all your circles, and also makes it accessible to people who are connected to other people in your circles (ie. ‘friends of friends’). Note that people in extended circles are only likely to see the post if it is +1’d by someone in your circles, or they specifically look at your profile.

  • Communities: The post is shared with a specific community. You can also select which label the post should be given inside the community. Use this for information that is relevant to a specific community.
    Tip: You can’t share a post with both your circles/individuals and a community at the same time. If you want to share with both, you’ll need to re-share the first post to the other group or create two separate posts.

  • Your organisation: You’ll only see this option if your Google+ profile is part of a Google Apps account for your organisation. The post is accessible only by people who have an account in your organisation. Use this if the content is relevant to your organisation and you don’t mind if anyone who is part of the organisation sees it.

  • Public: The post can be seen by anyone in your circles and anyone who looks at your profile. Use it for content that is of broad interest, or will help build your profile and identity on Google+.

Although sharing a post publicly can seem daunting, it is a great way to add legitimacy and reputation to your Google+ profile, and build more connections. When a potential follower views your profile, they can also see all your public posts. If these posts have interesting and relevant content, they’re more likely to follow you. However, not all content is appropriate for sharing publicly, so always double-check what you’ve written before clicking the Share button!

Follow the steps below to create and share a post:

1. Open Google+.

2. Click inside the Share what’s new box.

3. Enter some text.

4. Add photos, links, videos and events using the buttons below the text box.

5. Click the arrow to the right of the To box. Select the audience for the post.
Tip: If there are already audiences (such as Public) in the To box, click the X next to their names to remove them.

6. Click Share.

Google Plus share box

Google+ really is a fantastic tool for building personal learning networks filled with great people from across the world. We hope these five tips help you get connected!


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