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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.