Google Plus Noobs, Welcome! <3

I've gotten a few e-mails this week asking me what I'd tell new Plussers to keep in mind while exploring the network. So, new Plussers, here is what I think you should do (but always remember that this is your network and you should do what you want on it):

Fill out your profile!
(I added this right up at the top after some very clever commenters pointed out that I missed this one. I love being able to edit my posts on G+, by the way. Probably my favorite technical feature. Really.)

Who are you? Share as much or as little on your profile as you're comfortable sharing (the privacy controls are excellent), but please don't leave it blank! We want to know what you're about. Telling us what you like to post about is a good start, but you're free to make your profile into anything you want it to be. Tell us your favorite books or tell us your occupation. Whatever you want to share. Just share something!

Set up your Circles for reading and for sharing.
You know how Google starts you off with Acquaintances and Following and Friends and Family, etc? All of those are Streams just as much as they are Circles to share with. When you post things to the Family Circle, only the people in that Circle see the post. Great! Makes sense. But did you know that when you click "Family" in your Stream list, only posts from people in your Family Circle show up? Circles = Streams. Lightbulb!

This will make more sense as you get more familiar with the platform, but if you start thinking of your Circles as reading tools and not just sharing tools from the beginning, you will have a much easier time managing the flow of content you read. Make big and little Circles for reading if you want to try to categorize them. I have a free-for-all Main Stream and then lots of categories for more focused reading. Yes, it's work, but it's worth it.

Find awesome people and interact with their posts.
Add +Natalie Villalobos and +Tom Anderson to your Circles. Put them in your Main Stream. These two Plussers are truly interested in the community on the network, but it's not just the content they contribute that makes them great. It's about the conversations happening on their posts and their level of personal engagement with those conversations.

G+ isn't just about broadcasting or just about private networking. It's about interactivity and engagement, whether that's done in public or in private Circles. Public conversations here are amazing, and private sharing is kept relevant by the use of Circles.

There are a lot of amazing people to follow on G+, but Natalie and Tom are great hubs from which you can explore anything in the community that interests you, whether you're into geeky stuff (Tom's G+ posts led me to +Mike Elgan, who is one of my favorite tech writers now) or whether you're a foodie like +Alida Brandenburg, who I found through Natalie.

Use comment threads to direct your exploratory efforts!
The Google Plus Search feature is amazing for new users and I think a lot of us wish we'd had that about 90 days or so ago, but it's not your only source for finding interesting people. Comment threads on highly active profiles like the ones I mentioned above are a fantastic source for great new people to follow.

When you go to a Tom Anderson post looking to get in on the discussion, you might want to tear out your eyes because within minutes there are hundreds of notes from hundreds of people. But stick with it anyway. Skim. See a funny comment or something really thoughtful that catches your attention? Why don't you add that person to a "Potentially Interesting" Circle? When you're bored and looking for new content, that Circle will be unpredictable and ... well, you know. Potentially interesting. When you read something you like in there, add that person to your Main Stream. When you read enough stuff you think is lame from one person, take 'em out of your Circles. It's your show. Tailor it to your own interests!

If people you don't know Circle you, don't freak out!
Consider this a new source of "Potentially Interesting" people. You don't have to Circle anyone back, and you can read all of the posts they share with you in your Incoming Stream. Same principle as before: if they entertain or interest you, add 'em! If not, Google has ignore and block features.

If nobody Circles you, don't freak out!
And don't start spam-sharing your posts with people to beg for attention, either. It's kind of obnoxious.

When people Circle you, it means they are either interested in what you are saying publicly on your own Stream, or they are interested in what you might have to say in the future based on a comment you made or something in your profile. You are not obligated to entertain anyone on G+, but if you want followers for some reason, work for their attention in an authentic way. Interact with others, give your time to others, and others will want to return that sentiment to you. If you don't ever broadcast a single thing via your Stream but you comment thoughtfully on other people's posts, you are still the backbone of this community and your "Follower count" is irrelevant. I promise.

You don't have to post publicly, but if you do, try not to feed any trolls.
Don't waste your time with people who drive you nuts -- there are tons of awesome people waiting to interact with you elsewhere. Your public posts are your territory and you're free to set your own rules for how people behave in your comment threads. Don't tolerate anything you don't want to tolerate.

If G+ starts feeling like too much work, go outside.
We often get out what we put in, don't we? If managing your Circles seems too hard, consider simplifying them. If reading your Streams starts to feel like it's frying your brain, go get some Vitamin D in the great outdoors (but please wear sunscreen). When you come back, you might suddenly have a super awesome idea for a great public post (Tom Anderson once came back from floating in the ocean to tell us all about an epiphany he had...while floating in the ocean). Or you might have something particularly insightful to add to someone else's post. Or you might realize your Circles are set up in a way that's totally ridiculous and you'll find a system you like and everything will be epic from now on. Who knows? Taking a break and unplugging is really important, whether you feel legitimately overwhelmed or just a little frazzled from information overload.

Own your experience.
This is your network. Google made the tools, but you are the driving force behind the site. How you use this platform is up to you. Experiment! Play. Be social. Be creative. Enjoy yourself. Don't take anybody's crap, and always remember that words on a screen can't hurt you unless you let them. Inspire someone. Help someone who knows less than you, especially if you don't usually like doing that. See how much appreciation and interaction you get back for it. People are fundamentally good -- I don't care if you disagree -- and so far, this network has only proven that to me over and over. I hope it does for you, too.

When in doubt, ask!

What advice would you give a new user?
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