How to use Google Plus aka G+
What is Google Plus?
A new social network to rival Facebook and Twitter...
If you use the internet regularly then it’s probably a safe bet that you have a social networking account such as Twitter or Facebook. You may even be one of the people still clinging on to the likes of MySpace and Bebo, although the statistical likelihood is the first two, and if you’re particularly unlucky – your parents might be on there too.
Facebook and Twitter are so big now (with 900 million and 140 million active users respectively) that it’s getting harder to find people who aren’t on either in some shape or form. Although there are plenty of other Social Networks out there it seems it’s going to take something pretty big to lure people away from the big sites. Google have realised this….and Google are pretty big.
Google have tried to enter this particular corner of the internet before with the ill-fated Google Buzz, amongst other projects that have since been abandoned, but with Google Plus (G+) they seem to be making steady progress. An independent report has the site adding 625,000 new users each day which will put it at 400 million users before the end of 2012. Why are people heading over to G+? well, erm, it’s actually pretty good.
What features does Google Plus have?
G+ has a relatively large amount of built-in features, some you will have seen before and others that are brand new and unique to the site.
Choose a feature to read about:
- Your profile
- The content stream
- Sharing circles
- Photo upload and sharing
- Hash tags and trending topics
- Gtalk messenger
- Hints & tips
The profile section is something you may be familiar with. This is where you can add all your details and provide information that will help your friends find you. It will also show all of your posts in one place.
If you like a post in your stream, give it a +1. To do this, use the greyed out +1 button just under the post.
The live content stream is very similar to a Facebook newsfeed or timeline, and is where all of the posts, pictures and links that have been shared with you are found. You can customise what you see in your stream, by muting posts using the dropdown menu at the top of the post, or by toggling through the views at the top of the stream to see different circle activities (circles are covered below).
I’m willing to bet that at least half of the people reading this have accidentally updated Facebook or Twitter with a particularly embarrassing comment and told their boss that they hate their job or posted a terrible picture from a night out in full view of their parents – it’s a classic mistake. (Not me mum, I like my job and never go out…) One thing Google seem passionate about is empowering you so that you can control exactly who sees what on your G+ account, they do this with Circles. In their words “With circles, you can share some things with close friends, others with your family, and almost nothing with your boss.” Sounds good to me! Now this sort of function is available in some form or another in other sites, but with G+ it’s clear from the start who you are sharing with, and how you can alter this.
- To control your circles, click the circles tab on the right dropdown menu (shown in the image to the right).
- You can search for a person to add to your circles using the search bar at the top, drag and drop your existing contacts into circles, or click on a contact to open their profile page and change which circles they are in using the green box at the top right of their profile page and ticking which circles they should be added to.
- To create a completely new circle, drag one of your friends into the empty circle that says 'drop here to create a circle'
- You can remove people from circles at any time, by accessing the circles management tab
Yup, you guessed it, this is where your photos are kept and displayed for your friends. You can see your photos by opening your profile and clicking on the 'photos' tab.
Google Plus now includes elements of the Picnik photo editor that was so popular as a free online Photoshop alternative. To edit your photos, open a photo so that the overlay appears and select 'Creative Kit' from the top menu. You can optimise, sharpen and edit the colours of your photo, plus more.
- To tag a contact select one of your albums, open the photo and select 'tag people' from the menu on the right. Type in the person's name and use the dotted circle line to select where their head is in the pic
- To approve tags of you in photos, open your profile and select the 'photos' tab, you'll see all pics of you that are pending approval
- To share a photo with one or more of your circles, open the album the photo is stored in, select the green 'share' button from the top right-hand side of the page and choose which circles to share with
- If you have the Google Plus app on your Android powered smartphone or iPhone, you can choose to store all your photos automatically in Google Plus as you take them, via 3G or Wi-Fi internet. This is called 'Instant Upload' and can be turned on or off.
- 'Instant Upload' is a great way to back up your pics for free, to a secure cloud server. Any photos you upload via Instant Upload will be visible only to you, although you can choose to share them with any circle at any time, and delete them from your account at will.
Like in Twitter (and now Facebook to a lesser extent) G+ has embraced the hash tag and tracks what’s trending on the web, which is nice and handy for keeping up to date with what’s going on in the outside world.
Ok, so it may look like Google are not exactly reinventing the wheel up to now, but these things seem to be the solid foundation of popular social networks. Now let’s look at what new things Google are bringing to the table.
Hangouts are the G+ take on Video Chatting, again this is something that is available in various shapes and forms but has been put across in a completely new way here. With Hangouts you can video chat with up to 9 people at a time, and when you’re in a hangout you can do things together like watch videos on YouTube or play games, you can even overlay graphics to make you look like a pirate or a spaceman if you want to….and let’s face it you do.
To start a hangout, click the 'start a hangout' button at the top right of the main Google Plus homepage, then type in the names of contacts, or circles, that you wish to hangout with.
Tune in soon for our detailed guide to Google Plus hangouts!
Messenger is another feature specific to the mobile app, and allows you to chat with multiple Google contacts, share photos and start a hangout whilst out and about. You can start a chat at any time by typing in a contact's name in the chat search bar on the right of your main Google Plus page, or sign out using the chat dropdown menu.
If any of the above has got you thinking about giving Google Plus a shot, then the best thing to do is to head over to www.plus.google.com, create your profile, create some circles and start sharing. Here are a few top tips to get you up and running quickly:
- Don’t wait for your friends to find you, go and find them. Otherwise, as G+ is set up to share things to selected people, you may find your stream kind of empty
- Use circles how they were intended, create specific circles to ensure that you have the best level of control over what people can see
- Check your privacy settings, these can be found by clicking your name in the top right corner, and clicking on Privacy. Here you’ll be able to filter out any unwanted notifications
- Use ‘@’ or ‘+’ followed by a friends name to mention them directly in a post
- G+ has the ability to import contacts from Hotmail and Yahoo (Any Google contacts you have will be imported by default) think carefully before deciding whether you want all these contacts brought into your nice shiny, clutter free environment before doing so
- Start a Hangout – even if you’re just goofing around making faces, Hangouts are fun and are likely to have you coming back to the site regularly
- Don’t ask co-workers for Google Plus top tips over Google Plus, as none of them will be printable