This month’s Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly column: Circle around to learn more about using Google Plus

Every month, I write a column about social media for the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly. This month, I focused on how to get started with Google Plus.

Circle around to learn more about using Google Plus 

Last month, I shared an overview of Google Plus, which has become the fastest-growing social media site of all time after its launch in June. If you’re interested in joining the 25 million people who are using Google Plus, here’s how to get started.

1. Download the Google Chrome browser. Most of us connect to the Internet via the Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox Web browsers. Google Chrome is the third most popular choice, but the launch of Google Plus may change that. While you can access Plus via any browser, there are some significant incentives — not surprisingly — to use Chrome.

The Chrome Web Store, for example, gives you access to extensions to customize Google Plus and make it even more powerful. If you want to get the most out of Google Plus then, start by downloading Chrome (it’s free, by the way) and trying it out. If you like what you see, it will only improve your Google Plus experience.

2. Sign up. When Google Plus launched, you needed an invitation to join. That’s no longer true. To sign up, all you need is a Google account. If you use Gmail, Google calendar or another Google service, you already have a Google Plus account. If not, visit plus.google.com and click on “create an account.”

3. Complete your profile. You wouldn’t invite someone to your house before you put furniture on the floor and photos on the wall. So don’t invite people to visit your profile until it’s complete. That way your connections will be able to learn about you and understand where you may have common interests or objectives for using Google Plus.

4. Customize your privacy settings. One of the most frequent complaints about Facebook is that privacy settings can be hard to understand — and hard to control. Not so with Google Plus. First, the Circles feature makes it easy to control what you share with whom (more on that in a minute). In addition, privacy settings are clearly explained and changing them takes just a click or two. Google clearly has heard the complaints of Facebook users and is attempting to respond with something much more privacy-friendly.

5. Add connections to your Circles. One of the best features of Google Plus is that your connections are organized into “Circles” designed to reflect your real-world relationships. You can create Circles, for example, for co-workers, friends, family, customers and just about any other type of relationship in your life. Then you can choose to share content — status updates, links, videos and photos — with everyone or only with specific Circles or individuals.

The other unique feature of Circles is that connections are not necessarily reciprocal. You can add someone to your circles, for example, even if they don’t add you. That means you have tremendous flexibility in how you use Google Plus. It can serve as a hub for connecting with your personal and professional networks without the kind of overlap that can make doing so on sites like Facebook or LinkedIn unwelcome. Since it’s easy to control what you share with whom, then you can be pretty liberal in adding people to your Circles.

6. Explore. Even though the population of Google Plus members has grown to more than 25 million, it’s still brand new. If you join the site anytime soon, you’re an early adopter, and it’s easy to catch up since everyone is learning how Google Plus works and what it has to offer. Feel free then to make mistakes, ask questions and explore. You’ll learn a lot just by listening, and there’s little risk in trying new things. Be curious and be patient, and you’ll be teaching others tricks and tips in no time.

7. Stay tuned. Change will be a constant as Google Plus gets off the ground. Add Google Plus community managers (like Katherine Gramann, Toby Stein and Natalie Villalobos) to your Circles and watch for news about upcoming tweaks and improvements. Look beyond Google, too: there are plenty of Plus users sharing news about updates and innovations. Stay tuned so you can keep pace as things change.

One last note: Does joining Google Plus mean you can abandon other social media sites? I believe it’s far too soon to do that, but I do think Google Plus is here to stay. It may take some time and effort to add Google Plus to your social media portfolio, but there’s never been a better time to join. Get started on Google Plus today and you’ll be well ahead of the curve when it reaches critical mass.

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