The Ins and Outs of Google+

google plusFor the past couple of weeks, everyone has been talking about Google+ and figuring out how to score one of the elusive invites. To put your curiosities to rest, we have decided to give you a quick look into Google+, its features and its benefits so you know what to expect when you’re able to get on board.

Profile

Once you have accepted your invitation and created your Google+ account (most easily through a Gmail account), it is time to set up/edit your profile. Underneath your name is a section for a brief description of yourself. Once you fill out your description, you are able to edit a variety of optional information in the “About” section that will be seen whenever a contact from one of your circles clicks on your profile. Each of the sections has a “Who can see this?” list which lets you specify to whom the information is visible. Included are:

  • Photos
  • Introduction
  • Links
  • Bragging Rights (things you’ve accomplished)
  • Occupation
  • Employment
  • Education
  • Places You’ve Lived (including a map)
  • Home and Work Phone Numbers
  • Relationship Status
  • What You’re Looking For (Friends, Dating, Networking, etc.)
  • Gender
  • Other Names (Maiden name, alternate spellings)
  • Nicknames
  • Search Visibility (helps friends find you)

Also included on your profile are all of your recent posts, photos, videos, +1’s (things you liked while conducting Google searches), and Buzz—each with its own tab. Down the left-hand side is your profile picture (the picture from your Gmail account is automatically used but can be changed), your circles and the people who have you in their circles.

Additionally, you can view your profile as seen by a circle member or anyone else online—keeping items in your profile limited to your circles can prevent the whole world from viewing your personal information.

Home

The homepage is where you will see the “Stream” of shared news and information from those in all of your circles or specific circles (depending on which bubble you check). Within the “Share what’s new…” box, you are able to share a written update, photos, videos and links. After identifying what you’d like to share, you will also be able to specify which of your circles you would like to share with by adding it to the bottom of the share box. Once it is posted to the stream, the circles you share with will see if the post was shared to the public, extended circles or limited circles.

Google Plus Circles

Friends

Adding to your circles is as easy as typing in the email address of the person you would like to send an invitation to. Before they even accept the invitation, you are able to add them to a specific circle. You can also search for the names of individuals whom you know currently have Google+ accounts and add them to a specific circle as well.

If you have a Gmail account, Google will automatically suggest adding your contacts by displaying their names. You can drag their names into the circle to which you would like them added or you can disregard the suggestions.

One of the biggest features of Google+ is its chatting abilities—not only can you chat with your contacts as you would on Gmail, but you can also video chat with members of your circles through the “Hangout” feature. This option may be very useful for business meetings, study groups, family gatherings and much more.

Photos

Google has organized photos into four categories: 1) your circle, 2) your phone, 3) photos of you and 3) your albums. Any picture that is posted will be categorized into at least one of these four sections.

    Your Circles

    When a member of your circles posts a picture, it will show up in the “circles” tab with their name at the bottom of the photo as well as a bubble at the top of it to signify that comments have been made on the photo.

    Your Phone

    If you have downloaded the Google+ app for your smartphone, the Instant Upload feature will take photos from the phone and upload them directly to “Your Phone” tab. However, it will not post them publicly until you tell it to do so.

    Photos of You

    “Photos of you” are exactly that—pictures posted of you. These may be from “Your Albums” or posted by individuals in your circles that have tagged you.

    Your Albums

    This is simply a compilation of the albums you have created; it allows you to see all of your albums and manage them from one place.

google plus sparks

Sparks

Wherever your interests may lie, you can be sure that Google+ has a Sparks category for it. When you search Sparks for something you are interested in, it will search the Web and bring up relevant articles that discuss your interest. From here, you can simply read the article or you can share the article with all or some of your circles.

There you have it! The basics of Google+ in a nutshell. Now that you have an overview, tell us your thoughts on Google’s social network. Does it work for you? Is it a Facebook competitor? Are the improved privacy settings enough to tempt you away from Facebook or Twitter? We want to know your opinions!

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