Do you ‘get’ Google+? A lot of people I’ve spoken to really don’t. And don’t get why they have to be on there. We have enough social profiles already, right? If you’ve read Grace Dent’s brilliant How to Leave Twitter, you’ll notice that people are going through the same stages with Google+ as they did with Twitter. Denial, curiosity, envy (all their friends are now on there) and then acceptance. Possibly followed by obsession.

Let’s be honest, starting on a new social network is a confusing time. “Oooh it’s shiny! Look at that new feature! Erm, what’s that? I don’t understand that! Why is no one +1ing my status? WHAT AM I DOING HERE?”

The thing is, we don’t get the instant gratification of Facebook, where you can find friends and family pretty much instantly. But Google+, like Twitter, is about creating a community. It requires you to put a certain amount of effort in, both in making contacts and sharing content, to get the most out of it.

If you’re new to Google+ and don’t really know why you’ve signed up, here are some of the benefits;

  • Circles: You can put people into circles on Google+, which means you can put your family in one circle, real-life friends in another, group together your Twitter friends and put all those random people in the ‘acquaintances’ circle. So if you want to share those photos from Friday night’s cocktail crawl with your friends, you can do so by using that circle, without the fear of an elderly aunt leaving a comment.
  • Hangout: Got family or friends all over the country, or even the world, and want to video chat with a bunch of them at once? Hangout allows you to do just that. Great for organising events, catching up with family or speaking to all your flatmates without ever leaving your room. Hermitville, here we come.
  • Huddle: A text-based hangout where you can talk to multiple people in your Circles on your mobile. Handy if you want to chat to everyone, but don’t fancy doing your hair for video.
  • +1: A lot of sites have a +1 button, next to the Tweet and Facebook like buttons. This button adds the page or link you’ve chosen to your +1 column in your Google+ profile. So it’s basically like a recommendations/public bookmarking section. I do wish they’d show this in the main stream though, as I suspect most of these recommendations will go unseen. However, it’s worth noting that Google Analytics now tracks +1, so it’ll let you know if someone has +1’d one of your links.
  • Photos/Videos: Like Facebook, you can add your favourite photos and videos to your profile. At the moment, the media being uploaded is more about business, food and fashion, and less about last night’s boozy night out in Walkabout.
So it’s basically a mix of Facebook (profiles, photos and chat), Twitter (Regular updates, finger on the pulse of latest news) and LinkedIn (a large amount of the current discussions are business/social media-related at the moment).
If you’re not sure what to do on Google+, here are some suggestions:
  • Fill in your profile. It’s public so you may as well take advantage of that. Fill it with your business details, website links and bragging rights.
  • Connect your email accounts so you can find people you know. Then pop them into Circles
  • Try out the Circles function, by sending something you know only some of your Circles will like. For example, send a video of Slow Loris to the ‘We Heart Cute Stuff’ Circle, or a link to your latest blog post to your ‘Blogger’ Circle.
  • Organise your next night out over Huddle, or if everyone has video cams, Hangout.
  • Share blog post links, funny videos, clever infographics and anything you can imagine other people giving a +1 to or sharing in their own stream.
  • Download the Google Desktop Client, iPhone app or Android App.
  • +1 stuff. Share stuff. Get involved with discussions.
  • If you’ve got a blog, add the Google+ widget/plugin.
Are you on Google+? How are you using it?