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Google+ | The Early Adopter’s Guide

Note: This guide specifically targets the Google+ Early Adopters, Bloggers, Social Media Enthusiasts, Photographers and All Users with a following of 1k+. However, other users are more than welcome to read through, provide feedback and re-share.

It has only been 4 weeks since Google+ went into field trial. Us social media enthusiasts and early adopters flooded in like this gif: http://bit.ly/iZGosF. In this short span of time g+ has taken over our online presence. Why? Because g+ offers us a publishing platform catering to our social needs like no other network before it:
- The posts can be as long as you want them to be while holding videos and pictures.
- Feedback here is instant and meaningful. For example, Photographers have found an excellent following here. They can publish pictures in elegant portfolios as well as share their skill and technique with other photographers.
- There are no spams.
- I’ve never been a fan of blogging and hence never had a blog/website, but Google+ makes me want to write, publish and share!

And the list can go on for much more I'm sure.

The issue I want to highlight and possibly solve is that even though most of us know how to work google+, we still don’t use it to its full potential. It is important we do so because:
- It will make our presence on google+ more organized and manageable both socially and individually.
- It will increase our rewards on the time we invest into google+.
- Our followers, especially the new comers, rely on our knowledge of the system for guidance and support. The google+ community managers are already swamped with support requests so surely we can help out with what we know.

For these reasons and more, I believe that there is an unknown but very real need for a guide that will fully unlock the power of g+ for the early adopters and social media gurus. We are quick to provide Google+ with a list of features that we would like to see but we ourselves aren't even using the complete set of features that have been giving to us. Using them properly will show you that most of what we need is already in here just waiting to be discovered.

The guide is divided into six main sections:

Circles | Sharing | Commenting | Chrome Extentions | Sparks | Educate


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1. Circles
a) Organization
I know of quite a few users on here that are popular; they follow a lot of people and are likewise followed by even more. However, they are of the opinion that even though they really need to sort out their circles, they would rather not because it’s a hassle and there is no time. Instead they just put everything into one or two circles and share everything publicly.
I humbly refuse to agree with that. Granted that it can be a hassle to sort out 10k+ people but if you are spending 12 hours a day on google+ then you definitely have two hours to invest as a one-time investment to organize your circles. Doing so will save you a lot of trouble in the future when the list of your followers will grow even further. Circles are the most powerful feature of google+ in my opinion. If used in the right way, they can make the sharing and reading experience a 100 times more efficient and manageable. How? Here is one way to do it using Dividing, Nesting and Prioritizing: http://bit.ly/gpcircles

b) Etiquette
More importantly, managing circles is also a matter of etiquette. Even though people are following you, that does not necessarily mean they’re interested in all the things you’re posting and would rather not have you clogging their stream. However, they’re still interested in some of the information you share relevant to their interest. Therefore, I would suggest creating circles meant purely for interest-based sharing. For example: Mobiles, Movies, Books, Music. Then poll your readers; let them know that you have created the above-mentioned circles and will be posting to them accordingly. In response, they should let you know which circles they want to be a part of based on their interests. Afterwards, add them to your interest-based sharing circles accordingly. This way you will accomplish two things:
- You will be filtering content automatically so that your readers get information from you that they’re interested in specifically.
- You will add your readers to your circle. Even if you’re a famous actress or a social media guru with 50k followers, you adding your readers to specific circles makes them happy and lets them be a part of the google+ community. An inspiring example of this is +Trey Ratcliff setting up his photographers circle. Think of the world of good that will do to the aspiring amateur photographers.

So, don’t just amass followers. Add them to circles based on interest. That way content will be filtered and people will feel wanted on here. This is something I am working on too by setting up my Movie Maniacs circle.

c) Bookmarking
So much content is being generated on here that it’s hard to keep track of it. A bookmark circle is one of the most popular tips being shared on g+. Surprisingly though, a lot of people haven’t created it yet, and if they have then they don’t use. Create an empty circle called Notes or Bookmarks and bookmark things in it by sharing content with that circle only so only you will be able to see it. I find this an excellent way of saving long articles I’m typing as drafts or to go through interesting content on google+ as per my own convenience.


2. Sharing
a) Content Filtering
One of the important aspects of sharing was already mentioned above with content filtering using circles. So to recap don’t share everything publicly, rather use Interest-Based sharing with the help of content filtering that is made possible by circles.

b) Formatting / Layout
A brilliant aspect of google+ is the ability to format your posts. And yet it is so under-used. When you’re posting something, take the time to format your text and lay it out in an aesthetic way. This will make your posts more readable, presentable and will definitely attract more attention. A well formatted post stands out in the stream. Furthermore, add helpful text so people can give one look at your post and tell what it’s about. Here is what I try to do mostly: http://bit.ly/pz1wTU. Some note-worthy tips from that link:

- Give a bold category heading at the top. It further helps filtering based on interests.
- If you’re sharing a link/picture/video then give your own description of the link even if it silly. It gives readers something to talk about in your comments and gets a discussion going.
- Keep it precise but make sure the users get all the necessary info at a glance. For possible ideas please refer to the link above.

c) Re-sharing
Don’t re-share a post straight away. Space it out. If someone popular with 50k+ users just shared a post publicly then that means tons of people see it already. So you re-sharing will clog the streams of users who already got it the first time and will be counter-productive. The better thing to do would be to wait thirty minutes so that the original post has disappeared down in the streams. Re-sharing after that time-period will spread the message more efficiently because users who missed it the first time will now get another chance to see it.

d) Crediting
Always give credit when you re-share what someone else posted. That is a big question of etiquette. Doing so will earn you respect on the network. The aim is not to earn followers and +1s, rather it is to allow everyone to share original and quality content.


3. Commenting
a) On other posts
Don’t just post your own content. Interact with other users on the network. Only then will you become social on this network. Go through your stream. Comment on other people’s posts. Discuss. That “Incoming” circles stream is there for a reason. It is most definitely not to block out people that have followed you. You are not the only one sharing interesting content on Google+. Therefore, see what the users are posting and provide feedback to them for it. This will also earn you more respect on the network and people will look forward to having you online.

b) On your own posts
After posting something, do not leave what you just shared for other people to comment on. As mentioned earlier, the great thing about google+ is you get real-time genuine and helpful feedback. So respond to people when they leave comments by +mentioning them. It is the least you can do. This will not only show them you actually care about what they have to say and but it will also make them feel integrated too. You needn’t respond to each and every one of them but make your presence felt in the comment threads regardless of the number of followers you have.


4. Chrome Extensions
Google+ has an excellent, clean and functional UI. It is pleasing to the eyes. There are some handy extensions for Chrome that make the Google+ experience even better. Here are some of the ones that I use and would strongly recommend them:

Google+ Photo Zoom: http://bit.ly/rurhrR
Replies and more for Google+: http://bit.ly/pMH2GB
Usability Boost for Google+: http://bit.ly/pPXWa1

There are lots more out there. If you have some really helpful ones to share then please link them in the comments. I will add them here as necessary.


5. Sparks
Sparks is the most un-used feature of google+. I agree that there are some flaws in Sparks that need to be ironed out but it still provides an easy way of looking up the most popular content on the internet relevant to your interests. So create Sparks for yourself. It is a great way to find content not just for you but also for your Interest-Based circles.

Some sparks that I’m using so far are: Android, The Dark Knight Rises, Movies, Google+, WTF, Samsung Galaxy S II, etc. If you have more terms for Sparks, please do leave a comment and I will add them here.


6. Educate
As the well-settled adopters of google+, we now have a responsibility to the social network. We’ve all wondered and written about whether google+ will last long and eventually be a big force in the market both for companies and individual users. But what we don’t realize is that the network has to spread through us. I already mentioned in my previous article, Google+ Starter Pack (bit.ly/gpstarter), the average facebook user (AFU) uses the internet strictly on a personal level to share with a small group people within their real-life social circles. If they browse the internet for looking up content related to their interests, they either use their facebook stream, follow a popular twitter account or lurk on sites like reddit.

This AFU is now giving Google+ a try thanks to the invite system opening up recently. However, when they come here they see a large community of well-settled users, like me and you, who have a relatively huge following compared to theirs and who publish regularly. As a result, they feel blocked by a learning curve making it harder for them to become a part of the g+ community. We as Google+ early-testers can help bridge this gap by guiding these people with what we already know about the network. Here is what you can do to play your part:

- I’m sure you’ve all come across posts/tips both on googIe+ and elsewhere that helped you with your first few days on the network. Include this collection of articles and tips in the About section of your profile. The Introduction textbox is most suitable for this as it allows formatting and embedding of links. New users always look at About sections of other users. Therefore, any helpful tips and articles found there will greatly assist them with getting started smoothly. If you can’t find a good collection of articles then you can use mine:
Google+ | The Starter Pack - bit.ly/gpstarter
Google+ for the Average Facebook User - bit.ly/gb_fb
Circles: Dividing, Nesting and Prioritizing - bit.ly/gpcircles

- In a similar way, use the Introduction text-box to advertise any Interest-Based circles you created for sharing. Users can then message you and request to be added. Again, this will help them with getting integrated into the community while immediately exposing them to content relevant to their interests. For ideas, please look at my Introduction text-box: http://bit.ly/zeeshan_about. If you know of other helpful About profiles, please do share in the comments below.


That marks the end of the guide. Indeed, there are many ways of using Google+ and each person utilizes the available features as is most convenient and suitable to them. However, in writing this guide, I hope to show you all that Google+ offers a lot more than we actually see at the moment. Exploiting the true potential of g+ will do wonders for you and the community in terms of content, management and integration.

Thank you for reading through.

Cheers,
+Ahmed Zeeshan

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Permalink to Post: bit.ly/gp_early
Google Doc version: bit.ly/gpearlydoc



This article is also available in the following languages:
Italian - bit.ly/gpear_IT (translated by +Mario Pacchiarotti)
Spanish - bit.ly/gpear_ES (translated by +Michael McConnell)

If you wish to contribute a translation for another language please read this post: bit.ly/gp_trans


Other Google+ articles from me:
Google+ | The Etiquettes - bit.ly/gp_etiquettes
Google+ | The Starter's Pack - bit.ly/gpstarter
Google+ for the Average Facebook User - bit.ly/gb_fb
Circles: Dividing, Nesting and Prioritizing - bit.ly/gpcircles

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Note to fellow readers:
> Please do leave feedback. It helps to improve the article and starts a healthy discussion.
> Please feel free to re-share the post.
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66 comments
 
Ahmeed, is this posted on any static web site, or can you put it a Google Doc pershaps?
 
+Mark Traphagen Nope I don't have a website to paste it to but I can put it into a Google Document. If you have a website/blog you're welcome to share it there.
 
Thanks roberto. Be sure to post a link here. I've put it in a tab of its own and will read it later when my work is done.
 
The "bookmark" circle suggestion is excellent!
 
There's a free-to-edit wiki I've found really useful - http://googleplustips.wikispaces.com/ - the front page has links to other resources too but its locked (all the other pages are open), maybe worth sending the owner (gplusguide) a message to put the link for your gdoc on it too?
 
+Ahmed Zeeshan , love the Google Doc version, but how would you like me to use that if I post to a personal site (with attribution, of course)? Should I just copy and paste? If I just post the link to the o.p., can curious non- Google+ ers go there? Just want to make sure I link correctly. You have compiled a nice amount of information.
 
Ahmed: NP - looks like the author really likes to give credits!

btw, the link in your article for the average fb user seems to be broken for me?
 
Ahmed - no edit?! Harsh! Feedback time? ;)

Thx for the link, looks really good, I think you cover all the important bases - I know a few people who are in need of something just like that :)
 
Yep. It is because of these people that I thought I'd write about it.

For come reason google+ limits the number of times you can edit one per day. So now I'll have to correct it tomorrow and by then it will probably be re-shared everywhere with the wrong link. Sucks!

Thank you for the feedback :)
 
The trouble with the etiquette scenario you've laid out points out what I see as a structural flaw in the g+ system: it puts the onus on the more popular powerful person to add the "little people" (so to speak) into his/her own circles, and post to them, rather than simply being followed. If someone is an internet star, I doubt s/he has the time or energy to respond and act on a ton of requests from strangers to be added to this or that circle.

Far better if there were a way for me as a user to choose to follow someone but only follow certain public circles that user created with the express purpose of transparently naming a circle for others to "join" as followers.
 
Thanks for putting this up +Ahmed Zeeshan - though I wonder if you did manage to find the bug about the alphabetical arrangement in the circles ( if you remember we had talked about this last time)?
 
+N.A. Kudumu Just create an empty circle called Bookmarks and when you find a post that you want to go back to later on but dont want to lose it in your never ending stream, just share it and only share it to your bookmark circle. So then when you go to your home stream and click your bookmarks circle, you will only see the shared posts that you shared with yourself...essentially. :)
 
Great introduction! I added this post to the "introductions & tips" section of the organized Google+ resources doc I've been compiling:
http://goo.gl/4zRc6
 
Great guide ! I start to share in interest-based circles thanks to your advices
 
Thank you for this great material: it is full of good ideas! Hope it will help many users :-) I agree totally with most of your suggestions. The only one that leaves me currently dubitative (but I can not say I do not agree) is about how you advise to keep sharing circles. Even if we propose users to say they want to join this or this specific circle of yours, they will not automatically see your invitation... and they may not see some of the information you share about it (just an example: imagine a visitor discover your profile one months after you suggested users to be added to your "movie maniacs" circle, how can they know you have such a circle and share this kind of information?). Moreover, as a teacher, I think one of the greatest features of Twitter (thus G+) is to keep interactions with students... but also with the outer world. This means that experts of a specific field can join the conversation, and then interact with us. It is the same with former alumni. On Twitter, we had fruitful debates between teachers, current students alumni, and external experts about on-going courses. If I had broadcasted this information only to the current students (or currents students + alumni + teachers circles), I would not have been able to benefit from the suggestions of experts. That is the only limit of the circles reasoning...
Despite these remarks, I totally agree with the need to structure how we share the information.
One again, thank you for this inspiring post!
 
+Morgan Magnin Thank you for your detailed feedback. Letting people know that you have an Interest-Based circle through a public post does indeed get lost in the stream. However, I also suggested in the Educate section of the guide that a good way to make your sharing circles more visible is to add information about them in the About section of your profile. I added my Movie Maniacs circle to mine and I have received quite a few emails since then from people that I don't know at all on Google+ but they were obviously browsing my profile and came across it. Information loss is unavoidable on google+ but such work-arounds and tricks do make it likely that information is found more easily.

+Mariva H. Aviram Thank you for including it in your document.

Please keep the feedback coming. If you include the post in your blog, please leave a link so I can look at the comments you might receive on there.
 
Good god...You presented it very well bro
I never felt the need to prove my existence as an early adopter
Frankly I have used my G+ to a nominal extent
You woke me up..Thank you
 
You're very welcome. I'm glad it helped you out.
 
Thank you for the idea about a Bookmarking circle - excellent tip!

I disagree with one point you made, about the issue of sharing etiquette - your suggestion of creating interest-based circles can only work if we don't post publicly, which seems a very high price to pay. If a person has knowledge/thoughts/wisdom etc that they want to share with the world, I think it's too much to ask them to keep it for just a small number who have signed up to go in a particular circle. I've seen a discussion about this issue elsewhere: https://plus.google.com/u/0/107602882044753150398/posts/GoPx4nywMHh and I really liked the suggestion made by some of the commenters for a sub-streams feature, which would enable a user to post separately on different subjects. I hope Google will work on such a feature. But in the meantime - I'm afraid it's up to each user to use the Mute feature when they get a post they're not interested in their stream.
 
Thank you for the feedback, +Meirav Berale. You raise valid points.

But the guide does not seek to shut out public posts but rather improve the content filtering. For example I have my Movie circle. Now, when I get a trailer like The Dark Knight Rises which would interest pretty much everyone, I post it publicly. But other smaller news pieces and reviews that only movie fans will be interested in, I post them to the movie circle. Now the question is how do people find out if I have a movie circle? I use two methods to publicize my circle. As mentioned, in the article, new users always look at About sections of profiles. So I have added some text there saying that I am running a movie circle and if people are willing to join they should email me using the "Send Email" button under my profile picture. I have received many emails thanks to that. Another thing I do is periodically advertise the circle publicly.

Obviously we will never have a perfect solution to this. But this way I think I can make content sharing more efficient and interesting for the right people using the features that google+ has given us... while at the same time I still publish some content publicly that I believe will appeal to the masses.

I, myself, post publicly too... such as this article which I believe should be read by the public rather than just by the people in my circles.
 
+Abhijith Venkata lol thanks. That's very flattering. Glad to help. Although I'm sure you can find tons better role models on here.
 
Yes, I can see how this works with your movie circle - you have some content that you regard as suitable for public consumption and some content which is only of interest to a movie fans, and by advertising that on your About page you're letting them know it's available. So people who are keen enough will be happy to go to the trouble of letting you know they want in on that.

I wasn't trying to knock your idea - I think it's a method that can work in some cases, but not all. What bothered me was not the idea itself, but the feeling that you were suggesting it as a rule of etiquette for everyone.
 
Ah I see. Apologies if it comes across as that. I'll fix it in the text. It is by no means a binding request. :)
 
+Ahmed Zeeshan True.. there are a lot of really cool, inspiring and awesome ppl around in G+
One of the perk of being an early adopter - Skimming and finding them was easy
Also Pls add me to your movies circle
 
Amazingly comprehensive, I only hope that 20% of your suggestions get adopted by 20% of the rockstars, so that us Little Guys can get up to speed!
 
Dear Ahmed, greetings from Rio! Congratulations for the great job done - excellent material. And thanks a lot!
 
Would you mind if I translate it to Spanish? I think that is a wonderful guide.
 
I may have mentioned this to you already +Ahmed Zeeshan, but I added your posts to a non-comprehensive but lengthy list of useful G+ links. Your explanations and advice in prose form is complementary to a "shotgun" view I made of other similar guides & content. I asked Mariva to funnel it all into her Google Doc since she already had it setup because I didn't necessarily want to reinvent the wheel :) Once again, thanks for your invaluable insight.

https://plus.google.com/114424163811716070551/posts/QXJGeE55sHG
 
+Johnathan Chung That is an amazing collection! I will definitely bookmark and re-share it. Thank you for linking me to it.

+fish roncefish Awesome, thanks! I'll add them to the post.

+Dario Castañé no problem at all. Feel free to share it any language :)
 
I have added your articles to my Introduction text box and also put them in my Bookmarks circle. Keep up the good work!
 
I love +Karsten Self's description of the G+ meeting when they decided how to design the stream so that we would never feel there's not enough there, and I would like to join in in the plea to Google: please please please give us control over our crazy ever-moving stream, full of comments which we can't collapse - it really isn't fun wading through all this stuff, and it makes me feel seasick when I'm trying to read a post and it keeps getting shoved down the screen.

<end of mini-rant>
 
+Karsten Self yes, opening a post in its own window is one of my sanity-preserving mechanisms, to fend off the #infoflood - and Firehose does seem a good name for this thing...
 
Thanks +Ahmed Zeeshan excellent piece. I would love to share your link on my Social Media site? with your Name in lights of course ( virtual) LOL
 
+Karsten Self Loved your feedback, Sir. Just what I was looking for. I really appreciate that you took out time to write a very thoughtful post. I agree with your points and there are key features that google+ would do well to implement. However, the guide is designed on what we have at the moment. So, essentially, I am trying to show people the things they can do with the set of features that they currently have. Once improvements such as public opt-in/out circles are available then I'll update the guide accordingly. Sparks does need improvements and the ability to search for posts is of critical importance!

That being said, we're still in Field Trial. Google+ community managers, +Natalie Villalobos and +Toby Stein are actively collecting feedback. They're also interacting with the community. Some improvements have already been rolled out based on the feedback they've received. They've promised more. A social network is always a work in progress and google+ so far has been the fastest in evolving. This can only mean that good things are to come over the next few months.

Thank you again for your excellent post!
 
This so reminds me of the Google Wave days when self proclaimed gurus published all kinds of overcomplicated solutions for non existing problems. 
 
How would you recommend using keywords to improve your posts for search engine results?
 
Thank you sharing your ideas and for the GDoc template for long posts. Is there any way to include inline images in a post similar to what you can do on normal blogs?
 
+Ahmed Zeeshan I'm an old-guy-noob, never even got on facebook, only on g+ ~a few months, and this -- and your other guides -- are far and away the most useful help I've come across thus far.  Bits are out of date, but then the discussion flagged what I should be looking for... and often, where to find it.

Much of the 'current' advice from g+ gurus assumes too much, so the good stuff is often couched in 'ancient' answers to questions and comments us new folk have never heard.  Thnx.
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