Getting Started with Google+

by sjledet on July 7, 2011

If you are new to Google+, it helps to have a little help getting started. There’s already a few technical tutorials on the Google+ interface (The Best Google Plus Tutorials is a good blog post on a few), and Google does a great job in their tours of introducing you to basic functionality, so this article is not going to try to duplicate that content. Instead I’m going to try to take a little higher level view and talk about how to get started conceptually.

First, understand that Google+ is still a field trial and will be rapidly evolving. What Google is doing, and therefore what it makes sense for us users to be doing as well, is building a foundation.

Now is the time to start thinking about the structure of your circles. Take some time to examine your various lists, groups and categories from Facebook, your email system, and Twitter lists. List these out in writing. I tend to think Excel is the best tool for this, but the basic idea is to create a list of potential circle names that you can easily architect into a home on Google+ that you will be comfortable with. Remember, the profiles you add to your circles can be (and usually will be) in more than one circle so you are looking to establish circle names that you can use to quickly see people in different views.

As you continue to flesh out your circles, try to think of circle names that are at least somewhat aligned with topics. If you are a GTD fan, you might want to use some ideas from GTD and create groups that are work/home centric. Make a list of your different interests. What do you enjoy doing? What are the different categories of business functions you engage in? You might also think of section names in a newspaper or magazine. Are there certain key companies you need to follow? What about geographies. The objective is to try to create a custom circle structure that is comprehensive enough for you, but not so exhaustive that you won’t end up using it.

As inspiration, keep in mind that Google is not going to pull a Facebook and try to keep your data. You can export your groups at Google Takeout which gave me nice Mac OS X Address compatible .vcf files for each of my circles.

Here is an example of some of the groups I’ve created (non-exhaustive, as my circle names are somewhat private and tell a lot about me):

  • Adobe related – This is not just for employees of Adobe. It’s for people who are closely related to the company in some way or form.
  • Apple related
  • Google related
  • Press/Journalists/Major Blogs
  • Celebrities
  • Interesting people – For people I’d like to get to know better
  • Funny people
  • Politicians
  • Trainers
  • Coworkers
  • Referral network
  • Hangout buddies – For people I like to chat and hangout with on Google+
  • Real Life Friends – For people I hangout with IRL
  • Atlanta (also have groups for other cities I am interested in)
In addition to some structure, you’re going to need some good started content but we’ll leave that for the next post.
  • My feeling is  “circles” will be the key feature which will differentiate Google+ other social media platforms. I I agree that users need to put careful thought into how their circles of contacts are organized because it will enable them to get the most benefit from the service.  I also love your suggestion of using a spreadsheet to  help name and organize your circles for Google+.  

  • Sierra Sugar

    Great start.  I love the idea of using a spreadsheet for organizing circles, but I would also recommend considering them in “outline” form.  Simply meaning, we have some people who fit under multiple categories, and some categories that have smaller, more refined categories, So circles within circles, or taken out of the Google environment would be viewed as points under an outline.  An example in my case would be my groups for Second Life.

    Second Life (all)
      -Second Life (aquaintances)
      -Second Life (Friends)  for those that are on my in-world friend’s list
          +Second Life (Close Friends)  for those I talk with in world and out on a regular basis

    and so forth.  I am interested in seeing how others organize their circles.  As Google+ evolves and grows so will our contacts and circles and we all need to think how we’re going to keep thing organized in a way that best makes sense to us.

  • has some interesting Circle Strategies tips

  • For another view of circles that tends toward a bit negative on them, check out

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