Google+ circles are a powerful way to maximize your social network connections!

One of the greatest foundational features of Google+ was and always will be circles. This fundamental shift in approaching your online connections makes Google+ a powerful networking tool that can help you grow your audience and discover highly valuable connections.

I want to give you a firm foundation to help you understand and manage your Google+ circles. In this post I’ll go over the basics and share how I manage circles effectively.

Most people don’t understand the power in well-managed circles. This was evident when many freaked out over the new +1 feature. Anyone who was worried about their Home stream being cluttered was probably not effectively using circles to their full potential. So lets start by going over the basics of circles.

What Are Circles?

In everyday life we have different “circles” or groups that we are a part of. Groups of friends, colleagues, neighbors, church members, etc.. These connections don’t always overlap. So instead of lumping all of these people into one category (such as “Friends” or “Following”), Google+ allows you to organize them into different lists called circles.

Google Plus circles page

Our social networks have always been a place where we share our lives in a way that may not be relevant to all of those that are connected to us. So with circles, Google makes it easy to only share the right things with the right people. This makes context and privacy simple and effective.

Every time you write a post on Google+ you have the option to post it publicly or only share it with circles, communities, or collections of your choice. That way, you can freely post pictures of your trip to Disneyland (from when you called in sick to work) to only your friends and not your colleagues circle (which may include your boss).

It allows you to share the right things with the right people.

So what circles boil down to is essentially contextualized relationships and privacy control.

You can create as many circles as you like and name them whatever you want. It’s also good to know that the people in those circles never know the names of the circle(s) you put them in.

So if you want to have a circle called Frienemies, those people will never know that’s the circle you’ve placed them in.

Creating Google+ Circles

By default when you start out on Google+ you are given a set default circles for your profile:

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Acquaintances
  • Following

But those may not suit all your needs. You can create new circles in a few different ways, but for the sake of simplicity I’m going to People Your circles.

Google Plus navigation menu

Google Plus find people page

To create a new circle simply tap on the big + sign. When you do you will see a dialogue pop up where you can enter the name of your new circle.

Create new Google Plus circle

You can then either click on the person icon and start adding people by name or email address or just click the button to create an empty circle.

New Google+ Circle box

Add new people to Google Plus circle

Once your circle is created you can begin dragging and dropping people into it from your circles page. Use the search bar in the top right corner and begin searching for people you’d like to add.

Adding people to Google Plus circles gif

The other ways you can add people to circles include:

  • Using the Add to circles button on profiles or pages
  • On the hover card that shows up when hovering over a person’s name
  • Using the “In this circle” box found in circle streams

With the way Google has designed circles as an integral part of the user experience, adding people (or removing people) from circles is simple!

A Few Circle Ideas to Get Started

If you’re on Google+ for more than just casual browsing, you’ll want to create some circles that match the different types of relationships you want to form.

Here are a handful of ideas for you to steal or build upon:

  • Industry Specific: if you’re interested in following industry news sites, industry influencers or thought leaders then I recommend creating a circle specifically for adding those types of profiles or pages.
  • Team Members: if you work with a team or have co-workers on Google+, this would be a great place to put them.
  • Customers or Clients: to make sure you are maintaining relationships with those you serve.
  • Target Audience: people or pages who’s business you would like to win.
  • Inspiration: this is a circle you can use to follow the people and pages who inspire you or ignite your creativity.

The idea here is to make sure you’re contextualizing both your relationships and your browsing experience. So be specific in your circle creation, but remember to not go over the top.

For further reading, my pal +Stephan Hovnanian has created a great guide to Google+ Business page circles on the +Plus Your Business blog.

Circles Boost Efficiency

When you’ve taken the time to properly manage your circles you can then make the most of your Google+ stream. When on the Home tab you will notice several different streams available.

Google Plus circles stream

This means you can filter your Google+ stream by only viewing posts from people in specific circles. This effectively makes Google+ the most efficient social stream on the internet.

No longer do you have to sort through all the posts from everyone you are following, hoping you don’t miss the things you’re really looking for. No sir, with circle filtering you can effectively control who’s posts you see, when you want to see them.

For example, there are certain times during the day when I want to check in on only family and friends without the clutter from breaking news or business-related topics. Then there may be the business side of my day where I only want to browse through industry news sources or thought leaders rather than baby pictures and cat gifs.

So managing your circles means your experience browsing Google+ is easily controlled by your preference.

Circle Management

Once you understand the concept of circles, it’s crucial that you be intentional about managing them. Here’s a few tips on managing your circles well:

1. Not too many

Don’t be too specific so as to create more circles than you want to manage. For instance a “Family” circle may suffice as opposed to creating a “Immediate family”, “Aunts/Uncles”, “Grandmas/Grandpas”, “Cousins”, “Cousins I actually Like”, “Relatives that Never Spell my Name Right”, etc..

Have just enough circles to keep your relationships contextual. That’s all. Once you’ve mastered that, then you can move on to more specific circles.

2. Create notification circles

Google Plus notification circles

There are certain people who’s posts you never want to miss. Your significant other, your kids, influencers, celebrities, or that special someone whom you’ve been stalking for the past 6 months.

Google+ allows you to set the “volume” of each circle. This is the amount of posts from that circle that will show up in your Home stream.

Google Plus circle stream volume

You can choose to see more or less posts from each circle and you can also choose to subscribe to or turn notifications on for certain circles. This means that any time someone in that circles posts something, you will get a notification. Use this sparingly and only for those people you really want to hear from.

Hint: this is great for following influencers whom you want to connect with.

3. Arrange your circles by priority

Arrange Google Plus circles gif

Through your circles page on Google+ you can drag and drop your circles in whatever order you want them to be in. Arrange them by the priority in which you want to hear from them.

This will make it easy when you’re browsing through your streams.

From your Home stream you are automatically shown the stream of all posts from those you have circled. You will then see your first four circles listed in the top navigation bar and then a “More” option that drops down a menu with the rest of your circles.

When you click on a tab you will only see posts from people who are in those specific circles, filtering our everything else.

This is the most efficient way of reading social media updates. Period.

It makes reading the general stream (or social streams on other networks) seem like a complete waste of time IMHO.

Conclusion

The world of circles can make connecting with your network more efficient and keep context and privacy simple and effective.

We could dive in deeper (and maybe we will at a later time), but until then, do you have any questions about Google+ circles? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

This post was originally published on August 13, 2013 and is current as of May 2015.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great explanation of circles Dustin. I think a lot of people still have trouble understanding that circles are who they follow not the other way around. I would be interested on your insight into how to effectively use your circles to promote your interests. I typically share just about everything public, unless I go into a specific community to share a niche related article.

  2. says

    Thanks Dustin, this helps! I did not know about a few of the things you covered. I have been seeing a few of those circle chains lately, they seemed a bit fishy. Thanks again.

  3. Les Dossey says

    Hey Dustin,

    Yet another great post from dustin.tv

    Have you seen this line of thought from +mike Elgan?

    If you address it to “Public,” it’s a blog post.
    If you address it to “Your Circles” it’s a tweet.
    If you address it to your “My Customers” Circle it’s a business newsletter.
    If you address it to a single person, it can be a letter to your mother.

    I thought this was a great way to get your brain around using circles more effectively. Couple this line of thinking to your strategy for circle management and you’ve got a very effective way to use circles.

  4. Owen Wylde says

    I blocked strangers with whom I have no common interests, but who added me to their circles. How can I make sure that people can only add me if I allow it?
    Being in someone’s circles may imply a connection that does not exist.

  5. says

    I have to admit – I have pretty much treated Google+ like a ghost town. I’m on there. I’ll add people who add me (most of the time). I’ll put links to my blog up there, but that’s about it. Part of it is because of time (I have too much on my plate to maintain another social media account) and partly because I haven’t fully understood the benefits of Google+.

    I’d be interested to know the list of Circles you have on your account. I have a few that I started when I got onto Google+, but haven’t really curated anything.

  6. John Dorner says

    Jason, you might want to watch Martin Servington’s “7 tips for magnificent Google+ circle management” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7vxTKvi3e0

    I’ve adopted his idea of having the volume on most of my circles turned off, then put individuals into one of four circles “Show More”, “Show Standard”, “Show Fewer” and “Notify” to control that individual’s incoming volume.

    My circles are more for limiting outgoing information to those who may be interested.

  7. Neil Ferree says

    I agree with 99% of your Circle Mgmt views except, I find it useful to get a bit more specific in my Circle naming convention so that I can filter the stream. I use the Temp Circle to add new Plussers along with a 2nd the Topic Circle. I like to see how long and how many interactions is required to get a noted thought leader to Circle me back?

  8. says

    Thanks Dustin, I appreciate that you that you got to the circle rant. I had my suspicions when I first encountered a chained circle, but I opted in anyway and there wasn’t any value. What’s worse was that when you try to engage the author of the circle, and the people in the circle, they just never responded. Not even a +1, dito. That’s my pet peeve, I’m on Google+ to engage with real people and network. If I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall, I’ll uncircle, and I think that’s what most people do.

  9. says

    Thanks Dustin, I appreciate that you that you got to the circle rant. I had my suspicions when I first encountered a chained circle, but I opted in anyway and there wasn’t any value. What’s worse was that when you try to engage the author of the circle, and the people in the circle, they just never responded. Not even a +1. That’s my pet peeve, I’m on Google+ to engage with real people and network. If I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall, I’ll uncircle, and I think that’s what most people do.

  10. says

    Thanks so much Dustin!
    Although I’ve been using google plus for about a year now, I’m only just now starting to realize some of the potential.
    I didnt realize all you could do with circles.
    Thank you!
    I look forward to more in depth posts in the future.
    Samantha

    • Jack Bobeck says

      Debi,

      That is a great question! Why would Google allow us to add the same person to multiple circles? If we have the volume on different levels for different circles, why have multiple circles for the same person?

      Jack

  11. Roxanne Davenport says

    Thank you for talking about the way people are wanting to add themselves to circles. I thought I might have been doing something wrong not wanting to do that. I feel bad not wanting to add everyone that I was put in a circle with. Is that bad?

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