Organizing your circles in Google+ can be the most confusing part of the new social network. Yet people are learning to embrace and even optimize their circles for better efficiency, filtering and privacy.
We spoke with some Google+ mavericks about how they’ve corralled their circles to be more effectual. Below, they share their clever tricks and best practices so you can learn from both their mistakes and their successes.
Technology writer +Mike Elgan will straight address people that circled him. He’ll reach out with a personal question like “Where do you live?” Not only do Elgan’s polls help him get to know his followers, but he often uses the feedback from his circles as a resource. His “What should Google users be called?” poll, for example, generated 181 responses. “I’ve crowd sourced some issues for columns I work on and taken polls to obtain a finger-on-the-pulse idea of what people are thinking or doing,” Elgan says.
Steve Rubel, EVP/Global Strategy and Insights for Edelman have organized his circles to focus on early adopters and thus access precious feedback and information. He uses Google+ as a virtual “Junto,” named after Ben Franklin’s original discussion forum. Rubel’s circles are prepared by persona, for example, “Pluserati,” “CEOs” and “Clients.” From there, he shares “semi-private posts just to ask questions … we can discover the issues of the day, much as Franklin did.”
Many Google+ early adopters are curious about their followers. Because Google+ doesn’t require mutual friend acceptance like Facebook, many users have gained hundreds and even thousands of followers in the first few weeks of registering.
Ben Parr regularly asks his public circles for responses and insight. One recent request, “What’s the name of your favorite Google+ circle?” received funny replies including Purgatory, The Circle Of Trust, The Party Posse, Inbreds, Ppl I’ve Kissed, Ppl I Want to Kiss, People I NEVER want to Kiss, Tila Tequila Wanna-bes, Guys Who Pissed Me Off in High School, Scoblized, People I Call When I’m Dying or Arrested, More Bacon Than the Pan Can Handle, Muggles, and of course, Ubergeeks.
Google+ users are finally able to put faces to their followers and interact with them in meaningful ways.
Google+ users are two to three times more likely to share in specific circles than in public, according to Bradley Horowitz and Vic Gundotra, Google’s vice president of products and senior vice president of social, respectively.
Google+ circles encourage user etiquette, sparing certain members of your network from updates they can’t relate to or flat out don’t care about. “You share each item with only the people who deserve to know. And simultaneously, you spare the masses from seeing news of no interest to them,” wrote David Pogue of The New York Times.
Technology journalist +Steven Vaughan-Nichols divide his circles into three basic categories: personal, work and interest. He warns about proper circle etiquette on ZDNet’s blog. “Just keep in mind that if you want to keep people reading your words, show some sense about what you post,” he advises. “For example, I can already tell you that a lot of Google+ users are already sick and tired of animated GIF graphics, no matter how cute they are.”
5. Personal Memos
Advanced Google+ users have discovered a way to use circles to save personal memos, drafts or articles to read later. Think of it as a type of Google+ reader, especially when articles that you’ve “+1′d” don’t make it to your profile.
Creating a circle-of-one can function as a type of scrapbook, a history of interpersonal notes or private memos. Blogger +Charo Nuguid created a circle only composed of herself. “I created two ‘private’ circles, one for private messages and another for my notes-to-self,” she writes. “So far it’s worked out well. The posts show up in the circles. I finally have a way to keep track of my notes and the messages I post.”
Technologist and startup advisor +Christopher Allen explains his method for organizing his circles.
Although Google+ is not yet offering sub-circle organization, Allen figured out a way to organize circles within circles. For example, under “1.0 Kin,” he’s added sub-circles called “1.1 Immediate Family” and “1.2 Extended Family.” All in all, Allen has created 42 circles. It may sound daunting but it does allow him to better target his posts to specific audiences.
Still, that’s a lot of sorting to do especially if you already have a lot of followers. Allen suggests reviewing a few circles every day: “I do so by going to ‘Manage Circles,’ then selecting ‘People in your Circles’ and sorting by last name. I choose that letter of the alphabet that corresponds to the day of the month and hover my mouse over each name … If they’re in the wrong Circle, I move them.”
7. Preparing for the Future
Many Google+ users have already begun to think about future uses for circles. Although Google is still tight-lipped about additions, our early adopters have certainly been chiming in with suggestions.
- Search: Mike Elgan suggests that “standard search, plus a lift on the limit of people in circles (something rumored) would enable me to follow a gazillion people without actually seeing the full stream generated by that gazillion — only the most relevant items.”
- Organization: “I would love to be able to organize my circles any way I want (alphabetical, most used, etc.). I also would love to color code them,” says indie film producer +Adam Cohen.
- Topics: Steven Vaughan-Nichols writes, “At the moment, Google+ circles aren’t ideal for interest circles. For example, if you were to follow me in a dog-lovers circle, I might only mention pups once every other day or two. It’s my understanding though that Google intends on making it easier to post by topics. I certainly hope they do.”
Google+ circles have surprised and stumped the world’s greatest technology leaders. Hopefully these quick tips will help you optimize your own circles and become a Google+ master.