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Google+ Impressions and Newbie Tips

How weird of me to be an early-adopter of a hot new social media platform. I remember getting an email from some place called Twitter the day they launched telling me to check it out. I did and thought it was weird and would never, ever work.

Now I’m @lifenut and still scrambling to catch up. Lesson learned.

I was invited to Google+ several days ago and found myself jumping right in. Here are some initial thoughts:

1. The circles are an easy way to sort through the Google-generated list of people to invite. If you’ve ever emailed anyone, thought about them, driven by their house, or flew over them in an airplane, they seem to be there. I didn’t know I knew that many people. I happily spent a few minutes sorting people into categories like Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and one I created called Blogging Buddies. You can add people to more than one circle too. For example, I have many blogging buddies who are also friends. If you can’t remember who you’ve added, hover over their name and the circle they are in will emit a blue glow.

2. The area where you interact the most with people is called the Stream. Find the Stream by clicking the Home button that looks like a little house next to the Google+ logo. This component is the most like Facebook, with updates started by people who have included you in their circle. You can comment back. Instead of a LIKE button, you have the option to +1 someone. It serves the same function. You can also keep track of all the +1s you’ve given around the web by visiting your profile.

3. To invite people, add them to your circles. A green box will appear at the bottom of your screen, prompting you to invite them to Google+. Or, there is an invite button in the right sidebar on The Stream page.

4. Making your profile couldn’t be more simple. Hover over the area where you want to add information and type. I didn’t feel compelled to complete most of the sections.

5. In the upper righthand corner, you will find Notifications. It’s a small square box with a number. It’s grey when there’s nothing new. Notifications will tell you if someone has added you to a circle. It also notes if friends have replied to you or to a stream where you participated in a discussion. From the notifications box, you can add people to your circles if they’ve added you. Their names will be in bold. Hover over the name and a menu will drop down with options where you may want to add them. Click, then mouse out of the box. Easy-peasy.

6. The upper lefthand corner has all the Google goodies you expect: Gmail, your calendar, YouTube, photos, reader, and more, all in a handy toolbar.

7. The Sparks feature is a search engine located in the left side bar of your profile. Click on it to look for topics that interest you. I entered “Large Families” to see what happened and it brought up several fresh articles from around the internet.

8. The Chat button will bring up the same list of contacts in your Gmail directory.

9. I haven’t tried the Hangouts feature yet, but I plan to soon. It enables users to have a video chat with up to 10 people.

10. Privacy! I think this is what concerns most people about Google+. To me, if you are already on Google a lot and have gmail, a calendar, a blog listed on Google, you’ve already encountered their privacy policy. My non-lawyerly reading of the privacy statement and privacy settings set off no alarms. My settings at Google+ only allow friends in my circles to read my updates. Another refreshing aspect is that it asks users to care for each other. If a person shared an update with a limited number of people including you, maybe it wouldn’t be very nice of you to share it with the world. There are little reminders and guides everywhere. This will get old, but for now I think it’s really welcome.

11. There is nobody harvesting invisible vegetables. Yet.

(edited to add: please keep in mind I am not a social media expert…just someone who has been exploring Google+ and has formed some opinions)

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