One of the prominent features of Google+ is this concept of "Circles." Circles are Google’s way of managing online relationships based on how you know someone by placing that person in your relevant circle.
By managing your circles effectively, you end up sharing the right content with the right people and also only see information that matters to you.
So whether you’re seeking social media tips or memes for a good laugh, here's our list of pointers on how to maximise the use of G+ Circles.
Circles As Contextualised Relationships
Typically, our social, personal and professional connections are spread throughout different circles (friends, co-workers, neighbours, club members, etc.). In most cases, these connections are not always related. So instead of stuffing people into one group like “Friends” or “Following”, Google+ allows you to classify them into different circles.
Each time you post something on Google+, you can either make it public or just share it with a specific circle(s). For example, if you have a technical post on an SEO experiment you’ve recently undertaken, it’s probably not a good idea to share this with your real estate or mortgage broker circle, right? You can have as many circles as you like and rename them whatever you want. Plus, the people in your circles won’t know the names of the circles you’ve added them in.
So with the introduction out the way, lets dive into how you can boost your Circle activity.
Once you become circles, it’s essential that you manage them effectively. Here are some tips:
1. Don’t go overboard just yet. Have just enough circles to keep your connections relevant. +Dustin Stout uses a great example to illustrate this point “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.. Once you’ve got the hang of this, then feel free to move on to more segmented circles.
2. Create notification circles. If you have somepeople whose posts you don’t want to miss, increase the amount of posts from that circle that will appear in your Home stream. You can also subscribe to or turn notifications on for certain circles, so when someone in that circles posts something, you will get a notification. This is a great way to follow specialists (because I don’t like using the term ‘influencer’) in a particular niche.
TIP: There might be an audience which especially loves the content you push out which might be a good opportunity to include these members in a particular circle where you ping them each time a new blog post has been published. Check out how +Mike Allton does this by asking his readers to leave a comment of +1 the post if they wish to be notified.
Also while on this point, instead of creating circles based on the relationships you have e.g. friends, family, university colleagues etc, try to create circles based on the type of content you plan to curate with them or how you prefer to interact with this group of individuals. These same circles are also displayed as labels in Gmail so one way I use this is to search within Gmail by circle such as circle:SEO specialists. If you’re a heavy user of G+ Hangouts, Circles can be used as an invite list for future hangouts.
3. Organise your circles by priority. On your home page, the default view will show ‘ALL’ streams however you can select a specific circle (in the below screen shot, you can see my social media people circle) where you have the ability to choose whether you want less or more or the standard level of content appearing from those in the circle. I’ve found this to be the simplest way to capture all of the latest content in this particular niche and would highly recommend you apply this approach in the interest of saving time.
4. Share your circles. Google+ also has a great option that lets you share your circles. This option allows whomever you share them with to easily add those people into their own circles. Sharing circles is a very powerful way to boost your social efforts and expand your network. While on the topic of shared circles, be very careful when it comes to adding shared circles from random users as this is the fastest route to turning your daily feed into a junk stream.
Depending on your personal G+ settings, adding random shared circles could potentially allow these circle members to generate G+ notifications for you which can be extremely annoying not to mention giving these randoms access to some of your personal information.
So what makes a good or bad shared circle? +John Skeats recommends only adding shared circles if at least one of the following holds true:
- You’re already familiar with the people in the circle and want to access their content on your personal stream.
- You know who built the circle and how it was built. For example. if a Google head office member shared a circle of Top Contributors, chances are this would not include users who will share ‘crappy’ content.
5. Curate circles. Pick one day each week and curate a circle of people who have engaged with you in some way over the past few days. Basically, you’d be sharing a circle with all the people who have commented on one or more of your posts and added value to your content. For example +Keith Bloemendaal here is sharing his personal circle of the 12 most important people to follow on Google+ but what Keith does well is he lists down why he values each person so those in his circle can decide whether or not to add any of these users should they meet their circle needs. So the lesson here is if you do share a particular circle, try and include any reasons as to why people should add the circle to their list rather than a blanket share which really adds no value.
6. Hit up the “Added You” notifications view. Every now and then check out the people who have added you to their circles. Click on the Circles tab -> Find People-> Added you. This will show a list of users who have added you and provide you with a good opportunity to add them back should their content appeal to you. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of Mr Jingles updates so I tend to visit this every now and then as a way of keeping up to date with who’s adding me to their circles.
There are definitely more than 6 tips to enhance your G+ activity through effective circle management but hopefully these 6 along with the corresponding examples have helped. If you need more information, check out this quick video from Google which presents an explanation of what Circles are all about.