I’ve seen quite a few people who don’t understand Google Plus or think Google Plus is some sort of wasteland with giant swaths of inactivity. I was one of these people until I decided to dive in and really explore the social network and become active on there to see what this G+ thing is all about.
The end result is this guide, a complete Google Plus guide for the person who is just getting started, or quite simply, started but staring at a boring feed with zero activity. Take a look at the sections below and click any section that has your interest.
The Google Plus Beginner Guide Sections
When browsing this guide, you can click the below links to jump to the section you are interested in. I’ve done this for your convenience and for my ability to link directly to sections from within this site as well as on Google Plus when helping people.
- What are circles? I’m confused on how they work!
- My Google Plus feed is inactive! Because of this, I feel Google Plus is a giant wasteland or ghost town!
- How do people format their posts with bold and other rich text?
- What are hashtags?
- What are communities?
- How do I get more people to circle me?
- What are hangouts all about?
- OK, Scott! I’ve followed your guide and now my feed is out of control! Any suggestions?
- How do I create a separate page for my website or company?
What are Google Plus Circles?
Think of Google Circles as categories. You likely have many interests in life and finding people to fit those interests on Google Plus is easy and fun with a quick Google Plus search. With Circles, you can categorize people by your interests.
This video, created by Google, shows you exactly how Circles work, how you interact with them, how to add people to them, and so much more. Worth the watch!
My favorite feature with Google Plus Circles is the fact that you can use them to send topic-specific email notifications specifically to that circle group. If you’ve got a group of awesome locals in your area that you have in a Circle called “Locals,” you can send them a notification about a function going on in town.
Pro Tip: Create many circle groups around your interests and carefully place people in the right circle groups! Trust me, as you grow your Google Plus, you’ll want to be able to take advantage of other advanced features I’ll talk about later in this guide.
Is Google Plus a Wasteland? Hardly!
Google Plus is boring to you because you haven’t circled anyone interesting! To get started, I highly recommend adding a circle share I’ve created that will instantly activate your Google Plus feed with content.
The above is called a Circle Share and is created by myself, Scott Buehler. This is a great way to start your feed with content that may interest you. Let’s add one now:
- Click here to go to Scott Buehler’s Hyperball Circle Share. Note: I updated this on July 12th, 2013.
- Click the white “Add people” button.
- On the next screen, create a new circle in the field at the top and name it something like “General” or “Hyperball.”
- Click “Create or Add to Circles.”
- Join Scott’s Hyperball Circle Shares Community to find my latest editions of the Hyperball released every Saturday and more.
Once finished, go back to the Google Plus main page and take a look at the Google Plus “Wasteland” now. Instantly, you should see a ton of new content, photos, shares, and hundreds of comments to these posts. Pretty cool right?
From here, you’ll likely find topics that interest you and you’ll also find interesting people just browsing the comments of some of these posts. Try to add people that have at least 500 people that have circled them because this is a good indicator that the person posts interesting content to their feed.
As an example, at the time of this writing, if you look at my Scott Buehler Google Plus page, you should see something similar to the image on the left showing I have 3,942 people that have circled me. Take a look at the person’s page and if their content interests you, add them to your circles by using the red button in the header, simple!
Now that you’ve started with some people in your circles, find more. Use search on topics that interest you and begin circling people like crazy. Within a week, you should have a massive list of people you’ve circled and the main page of Google Plus will become highly engaging to you with many topics you can readily comment on, share, and more.
Quick Note: Google has internal limits on how many people you can circle in a day. If you see a tiny red flag appear that you’ve reached your daily limit, don’t worry, just come back in 24 hours and add some more. Slowly, over time, you’ll be allowed to add more people to your circle groups. This is done as a protection measure to guard against spammers and there’s no way around it.
Google Plus Post Formatting
As you can see in the screenshot above, there are three ways to format text for your Google Plus posts.
- *Bold* – Using asterisks will bold the text.
- _Italics_ – Using underscores will make the text have italics.
- -Strikethrough- –
Using dash with cause a strike-through effect.
I posted the above rich text demo to a private circle to show the outcome of the above post. As you can see to the right, once posted to Google Plus, the text has the intended bold, italics, and strike-through effects we wanted. Pretty cool, right?
Google Plus Hashtags Explained
Hashtags are useful inside Google Plus because they help you find posts that use them and also help you organize your own posts that use them. As an example, I’ve started my Hyperball shared circle to reward people who are active in my posts as well as a way to help people populate their Google Plus feeds. In my posts, I use the hashtag #hyperball so that people can find my circle shares easily.
- How to create a hashtag? Simply use “pound” in front of the word. Using #webhostingchoose in your post, when published, will create the link #webhostingchoose.
- How can I use hashtags? You can click them from other posts to see topics posted with the hashtag or use the Google Plus search to see them in action. Try a search on your interests and you’ll likely see many posts using hashtags.
- How can I find my friends’ posts with hashtags? See below.
When you do a search on Google Plus, you’ll see a grey search bar below the search field that allows you to filter your results. If you’d like to see what your circled friends are posting with that hashtag, click the More option then “From your circles” as shown in the screenshot above.
There are many ways you can use hashtags in Google Plus. You can create your own, use them privately, categorize all of your posts, and however else you feel they might be a value to you.
Latest Google Plus Hashtag Developments
Google Plus now displays the first 3 hashtags you used in a post as Related Hashtags – they show in the upper right of the post. Click on one of them and the post Flips Around and then shows you other posts that use that same hashtag.
In the interest of most exposure to your posts, with Google’s latest development of showing the first 3 hashtags, you might want to use the most important ones first as they are the only ones displayed! I now try to keep my posts to 3 hashtags where possible because I have a feeling that any more may cause a post to be flagged as a hashtag spam and cause less exposure to others in your circles and on hashtag pages.
Google Plus Communities Explained
Another great way to remove the Google Plus “Ghost Town” or “Wasteland” effect is to join communities. Communities are large groups of people based around a common theme. All you need to do is search Google Plus and look for the “Communities” section on the right to find communities that interest you. Or, you can browse all communities on Google Plus and find ones that interest you as well.
Once you find some awesome communities based around your interests, I highly recommend circling people that provide excellent content. This way, you can follow their posts on your main feed and engage their content. The more you engage with them, the more you become part of the community, and the more popular you’ll become (often, they will circle you back if you post great content too).
With Communities, you can create Private Communities or Public Communities.
- Private Communities – These communities are geared to be an exclusive group of permitted people. As a creator, you can mark these to not be searchable within Google Plus or you can allow them to be searchable but members must ask to join to be a part of the community. An example of this use: A company wants a central location for all of their employees to discuss topics, rant, suggest, and more, but hide the topics from the general public and Google Plus users.
- Public Communities – As it sounds, these communities are open to the public. The communities are searchable within Google Plus search and as a creator, you can leave the community open for anyone to join or you can set it so that users must request to join and be approved before they can contribute to the community.
In order to create your own community, go to the Google Plus Main Communities Page then click the blue “Create Community” button on the upper right of the page. If you’d like to see what a community looks like, see my communities list below.
Scott Buehler’s Communities
- Tiger of the Day – I love Tigers and I noticed there wasn’t an active community focused on this beautiful animal. So, I created this community and started sharing Tiger photos like crazy. After inviting a few people, I’ve now got an active community going. Just a hobby.
- Hyperball Circle Shares – As you’ve seen throughout this post, I’m big into the Circle Shares community. I decided to create my own community based entirely around the Hyperball theme. I just recently created this community and is actively being worked on.
- Animal and Landscape Animations – Animated GIFs only of animals and landscapes. We accept other types of animations as well, as long as they are in GIF format.
How to Gain More Followers on Google Plus
I joined Google Plus when Google first launched the network but then promptly ignored the network for a long period of time because I just didn’t “get” where Google was going with the network. However, once I did further study in April of 2013, I figured out that I needed to get active on there because there was huge benefits to networking on Google Plus that simply wasn’t available anywhere else. The problem, of course, is I had less than 40 people circling me from the time I first joined to the beginning of April, 2013. Here’s how I gained a fairly large following (nearly 4,000 at the time of this posting) in less than two months time.
- Circle Shares – Already discussed above. I found great circle shares of active engagers and shares along my interests. I immediately saw a lively main page and began commenting on everyone’s posts that interested me, met some awesome people, and people started circling me back.
- Update Your Profile – On your Google Plus, go to your main page then hover your mouse over “Home” on the upper left, then click Profile. From there, click “About” in the navigation bar near the top, then look at “Story” on your profile. Is it blank or basically useless? Click the edit link and write all about yourself, your projects, your interests, and hobbies. Basically, fill this bad boy with everything you’d think people will search for on Google’s main search engine. This will help your exposure and allow more people to find and circle you. Here’s Scott Buehler’s Google Plus About Page. I update it about once a month because I always remember a thing or two more to add to it.
- Share, Share, Share, Share, Share, and Share Some More! – This is a very important part of getting people to circle you. You should share as much as possible. Share articles you’ve written, share hobbies, share photos that grab your attention, share things you find hilarious, and keep going. If you make a few posts go viral, you’ll have a flood of people circling you in no time. Here’s a couple posts of mine that went hot / viral recently: Faith the two-legged dog animated GIF; This baby giraffe will make you saw D’awwwwwwwwwww.
- When Sharing, Use Photos! Google is very photo-centric. Whenever you share a topic or interest, try to find a photo you can share along with it to grab more eyeballs. Many people have fast-updating feeds, so if you use an eye-catching photo, you’ll increase your chances of being seen.
- Create a Personal Brand Website – Welcome to ScottBuehler.com’s reason for existence. The primary goal of this site is to raise awareness of myself and what my interests are. The best part is people find me on my websites and circle me on Google Plus on a daily basis. Make sure your site has Google Authorship (see link below) enabled so that you are credited by Google for your content.
- Become a Writer – The more great content you write on sites that have Google Authorship enabled, the more your pretty face appears in Google searches. The more you come up in searches, the bigger the chance people will find you and circle you.
- Share Other People’s Content You Find Awesome – People can see who share’s their content on Google Plus and many people have rewarded me for sharing their content by including me in their circle shares or by sharing some of my content on their much more popular Google Plus profiles. This has helped me gain more circles, more awareness, and more importantly, I’ve made some great business contacts.
What Are Hangouts?
Google Hangouts are a way for you to video-chat with one or more people directly with other Google account owners. Besides video chats, you can also engage other members in group conversations, chat, and so much more. Take a look at Google’s Hangout video:
Pretty cool right? Hangout operators can also do “Hangouts on Air” and record the entire session directly to YouTube to share and view later which is an amazing feature. See how you can use Hangouts on Air by viewing this video by Google as well:
In the end, hangout possibilities are endless. Strike up a conversation with a group of people you find interesting, have weekend gatherings, heck, play a few games together in a hangout session.
The best part about hangout is, once you have a decent following, you can start your own hangouts and make yourself an authority on a topic that interests you. If you know a topic extremely well and want to share your knowledge, starting hangout sessions might be your ticket to fame on Google Plus.
Taming the Beast – Controlling Your Feed
Remember my pro tip about creating multiple circles? This is where the magic happens.
- View Specific Circle Group Streams – The first thing you may not notice is at the very top of your Google Plus main page, there’s a list of all your circles that you can click on. If there’s a topic you’ve created a circle group for, click that topic and find on-topic posts from the people you’ve circled in that group.
- Disable Certain Circles’ Posts on Your Home Stream – If you’d like to disable an entire circle group from appearing in your main feed, Google Plus allows this. When I use circle shares, I often create a generic circle group that I place these people in. I then tell Google Plus that I want this circle group to not appear in my main feed. To do this, follow the above “View Specific Circle Group Feeds” instructions. Once you’ve clicked a circle group, then follow this:
- Accelerate or Decrease Certain Circles’ Posts on Your Home Stream – What if you’d like to see more posts from circle groups you love but less from others without disabling using the option above? You can! On the picture above, when you get to #2, make sure “Show your posts in Home stream” is checked and you’ll see new options shown below:
If you hover over “Amount: Standard” or whatever you have, you’ll see the above options. With this wonderful feature, you can slow down and decrease circle group Home Stream posts you have less interest in and increase the Home Stream posts you have a huge interest in.
Why disable people from appearing in your feed? Why don’t you just remove them from your circles entirely?
Great question! I’ll frequently come across great looking circle shares and add them. By placing them in a circle group that is disabled from my home stream, I can, at my own leisure, go through the people in these circle shares and determine if I want to keep them or ditch them without disrupting my feed. Usually, I place circle shares in generic groups and then I’ll go through them and place the awesome ones in proper circle group categories they fit in. Once I do this, their posts immediately begin to show on my main stream so I can interact with them. Cool, right?
Google Plus Brand Pages
Another great feature of Google Plus is the ability to create and manage separate brand pages. These allow you to create separate entities on your Google Plus account so that you can feature information about your website(s), businesses, and much more.
If you’d like to create a brand page, click here to get started. Once you follow the link, you should see something very similar or exactly like the above screenshot I posted for this section. From here, you can create pages for:
- Local business or Place Page
- Product or Brand Page
- Company, Institution, or Organization Page
- Arts, Entertainment, or Sports Page
- Generic Page
Creating the actual page itself is a piece of cake. Just follow the prompts, add your company details, and complete your page within minutes. For additional tips on optimizing your Google Plus brand page, I highly recommend the Complete Guide to Optimizing Your Google+ Brand Page written by Mark Traphagen.
Once your page is completed, you can find the page on your Google Plus dashboard. On Google Plus itself, hover your mouse over “Home” then click “Pages” to find it. Or, you can click the down arrow next to your photo on the upper right of Google Plus and click “All your Google+ pages.”
Conclusion and Info
A lot of time was spent on this post, however, as with most great posts, it is never “finished.” I plan to return to this post and update it when new things come up or when someone asks me a question I haven’t answered here already. Since I’ll link this post directly in Google Plus when I see a question asked that I know I’ve answered here, I’ll make it a point to keep this updated.
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If you have any suggestions, questions, or feedback, leave a comment below. Thanks!