There are a lot of separate parts to Google+ as a whole, which can be daunting for a new user. This series of articles will clear up the confusion in small bite sized chunks.
When you join any social network, it may seem like an uphill struggle trying to gain followers. At least at first. That’s because when you first start, you have no followers. No one does! We all start from zero.
So the question is, how can you create exposure and engagement to gain followers in Google+?
Google have made it extremely easy to include people in the conversation. Just by typing a + before a name, you can turn your mention into a link, together with an associated hovercard and a notification sent to the person mentioned. You don’t even need to type the whole name, as Google+ will guess the rest and offer suggestions. Like this…
You can see it has suggested first and last name matches. If I click on Martin Shervington, the +mention now looks like this…
The name is now a link that displays the user’s hovercard when moving the mouse over it. Also, you will note they are also listed in the To: field.
Here is a quick tip. If you +mention someone and remove Public (or anything else) from the To: field and just leave the +mention, you can send a completely private message to that person. What is more, they get notified about it!
If you have used Twitter, you will be familiar with hashtags. If not, then they are simply a way to group posts under one heading. You can search for hashtags directly in the main Google+ search bar, or you can view them in ‘What’s Hot’ available from the navigation side bar on the left.
From here you can see trending topics, including many hash tags.
Adding your own hashtags to a post is as easy as typing # followed by the name you want to give it. Just remember they cannot have any spaces.
Google+ also makes guesses and suggestions which you can choose from while typing.
When you have shared your new post, you’ll see the hashtags listed down the side. Clicking on one takes you to a view of all posts that share that hashtag.
Google have eased the use of hashtags even further, by a process of auto hashtagging. By that I mean, Google+ scans the text of your post and automatically adds hashtags to it. You can see a combination of manually entered and auto generated hashtags in the post below by Malcolm Oakley.
If you dislike a hashtag Google+ has suggested on a post you have created, then you can remove it by clicking on the x as you hover over it.
In real life people naturally seek out others of a like mind. If you are passionate about photography for instance, you may join a local group of enthusiasts. Google+ caters to those basic needs with Communities.
You can view communities via the main menu.
You’ll see communities you belong to at the top of the screen and suggestions underneath. You can search for specific keywords using the search field in the upper right corner.
Here is the communities page for one of my Google+ brand pages…
New posts are highlighted for each of the communities that you belong to. Clicking on a community takes you to the page for that community.
If you are not currently a member, you’ll see a big red button at the top asking you to join.
Some communities are free to join, some require approval by a moderator. Also, some communities are public and some are private, requiring an invite.
When posting to a community, you must select a category. Categories help visitors to find exactly what they want and are available for viewing from the menu on the left hand side. When viewing the community, all you need to do to select a category is pick one from the To: field.
You can also post directly to a community from the normal new post dialogue box. Just click on the To: field as normal and scroll down to the community you want, then select the category. Google+ won’t let you post to Public or circles and to a community at the same time, and it will prompt you to replace one with the other.
Update: At some point during the second week of May 2015, the ability to share circles was officially removed from Google+
Google+ is unique in the way it allows you to organise your contacts into circles. Did you know you can share your circles? When viewing a circle from ‘Your circles’ page, click on the little sharing arrow.
+Mentions, hashtags, communities and sharing circles are all fantastic tools to increase your visibility.
If you have any questions about Google+, ask in the comments.