The Complete Guide to Google+

The Complete Guide to Google+

 

Google+: It’s the hot social network on the block. In just three weeks, Google’s competitor to Facebook and Twitter has amassed more than10 million users, and its users are sharing more than 1 billion pieces of content daily. It’s become a hotbed for early adopters, tech luminaries, marketers and businesses around the world.

Google+ isn’t the easiest thing to understand, though. It has a lot of features that can confuse beginners. Even advanced users can miss a lot of the little gems and nuances that define Google+.

That’s why we decided to dig into every aspect of Google+, from Hangouts to Circles, from Google+ for businesses to what’s next for Google’s social network. The result is an extensive guide on all of Google+’s key features, as well as an introduction to the service and the important things you need to know about it. We’ve included commentary, videos, photos and more in our in-depth guide. In addition, we will update this guide regularly with the newest information on Google’s Facebook competitor.

So, without further ado, here is Mashable‘s complete guide to Google+:

What Is Google+?

Google+ is the search giant’s latest attempt to create a social network that rivals Facebook. Google launched Google+ on June 28, 2011 with a private beta. The project was led by Vic Gundotra, Google’s SVP of social.

The social network is a collection of different social products. These features include Stream (a newsfeed), Sparks (a recommendation engine), Hangouts (a video chat service), Huddle (a group texting service), Circles (a friend management service) and Photos. We explain all of these features later in this guide. More features such as Games and Questions are expected to launch in the near future.

Google chose the name Google+ because it wants Google+ to be “an extension of Google itself,” Gundotra explained to Mashable days before the launch. It’s designed to be an improvement to all of Google, which is why the company also decided to change the iconic Google navigation bar to include a link to a user’s Google+ profile, as well as a new icon that displays how many notifications a user has received, much like how Facebook handles notifications.

This isn’t Google’s first shot at dominating the social space. It has a long history in social media, including Orkut and its biggest success in social, YouTube. However, it’s had two very big flops in social: Google Waveand Google Buzz.

 

Why Should Someone Use Google+?

Great, Google made a social network. Now you’re probably asking yourself: Why the heck should I use Google+?

We aren’t here to pitch Google+. Instead, we asked our Google+ followers a simple question: Why should someone use Google+?

The response was overwhelming. We got more than 500 responses on the Mashable News account and my Google+ account. Since we can’t post everybody’s responses, we’ve chosen six we believe encompass why so many people are excited by Google’s new social initiative:

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Google+ is a much cleaner way to selectively share data with others. As Google integrates more of their other cloud products, like Documents, Calendar, and Reader, you’re going to see it become one of the primary means of absorbing the data streaming from the Internet and sharing it with others.” ~ Jason Poggioli

“It’s the combination of being able to share based on (hopefully!) mutual interests with the ability to get exposure to interesting people and ideas. The relationship doesn’t really have to be two way, but it doesn’t all have to be public.” ~ Holly Henry

“The clean user interface of Google+, combined with the lack of distracting elements, or so-called features (such as all of the add-on games and apps on FB that clutter up your stream), that I never use, attract me to Google+. This, combined with the Circles feature, choosing who you share with, are the primary draws.” 

Getting Started

At the moment, you need to be sent an invite by a friend to join Google+. While this restriction will eventually be lifted, it’s best if you ask a friend to send an invite to your Gmail account. You must use a Gmail account to sign up for Google+. Google Apps accounts are currently not supported, though the search giant plans to add support for Google Apps email accounts in the near future.

Once you accept your invite, you are taken to a page where you are asked to create your public Google Profile. Fill in information like your name and your birthday, and you are taken to Google+. If you have already filled out a Google+ Profile in the past, you skip this step and are taken to Google+.

While we go through every single one of Google+’s features step-by-step in this guide, it’s always smart to know the basic commands and syntax of Google+. To that end, we have included a Google+ cheat sheet that explains how to mention friends in your posts (like you can already do on Facebook or Twitter), how to bold your text and more.

 

 

 

Profile

Once you have your Google+ account set up, the first thing you should do is fill in your user profile. If you’ve already created a Google Profile before, that data will automatically be imported to your Google+ Profile — in fact, your Google+ Profile replaces it.

When you first join Google+, it will ask you to enter a few key details, such as your tagline (a brief description of yourself), your employment and your education. It will also ask you to choose a profile photo. Once you set these details, you will have the opportunity to populate your profile with a myriad of other profile details. These include “Introduction,” “Bragging rights,” “Occupation,” “Places lived,” “Relationship,” “Looking for,” “Other names,” “Nickname” and “Search visibility.” On the right-hand side, you have the opportunity to add links that relate to yourself. Most users add a personal website or blog, as well as their Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.

While you’re on your profile page, you also have the opportunity to change some of your privacy settings. You can allow people to email you from a link on your profile, and you can set this to be public, private or somewhere between using Google+ Circles (explained below).

Your profile also displays who is in your circles, and who has added you to their circles. You can change the privacy settings on the left-hand side of your profile to make this data public or private.

Photos

Google+ comes with a fully-built photo albums product, powered by the technology behind Picasa (also owned by Google).

Clicking on the Photos tab on the top of your Google+ page will display recent photos uploaded by your friends, as well as how many comments each photo has received. Clicking on any of these photos brings up a photo slideshow with the most recent comments on the right-hand side and photos from your other friends on the bottom.

The slideshow is simple to navigate — click on a picture to bring it up, or click and drag your mouse from side to side to scroll through other pictures. In this slideshow view, you can also tag yourself or a friend in a photo, or check out photo details such as what type of camera was used to capture the photo.

Another section of Photos lets you check out photos in which you’ve been tagged. This is also the area where you can approve or reject photo tags. No photo will be tagged with your name until you approve it.

The most important feature of Photos, though, is the ability to upload photos and create albums. By clicking the giant “Upload New Photos” button at the top right, you can create a photo album by simply dragging and dropping photos into your browser. Once created, you can share that album with your circles, with individual friends or with the public. Albums remain private until you share them.

Once uploaded, you have the ability to edit your photos right from Google+. The browser-based editor includes simple features such as cross processing, auto contrast and black-and-white effects. You can also rotate the image or delete it entirely.

One more thing: Any photos you upload via the Stream will be added to an album called “Photos from posts,” available in the “Your albums” section of the Photos app.

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