Getting Started on Google+

If you've checked out the new social network by Google, Google+ (or Google Plus) and been invited to follow some people, you're already seeing a full range of updates in a more interactive stream than you've ever seen on Facebook or Twitter. Keep reading to figure out the best ways to use Google+ and decide whether it's the right social network for you.

As of this writing, if you don't already have a Google account, you must receive an invite from someone who does if you want to use Google+. So nudge a friend who uses the service to invite you to join. Once you're in and you've created an account, you'll be prompted to log in with your Google account username and password. The first thing you'll see when you log in for the first time is the opportunity to add some details about yourself — fill out as much as you feel comfortable sharing.

The best way to get familiar with Google+ is to just get in and play with it! Follow some influential people like Chris Pirillo or Robert Scoble or Vic Gondutra (the project lead at Google). Comment on posts. Share interesting things with your friends! The more you use it, the more you'll discover new and interesting things to do on it.

Posting on Google+

To post on Google+ just click the Share what's new... box and start typing. You can attach links and photos by clicking on the corresponding icons in the status box.

Before you can click Share to post your message, you have to specify who gets to see it. Select Public posts if you want the entire world to see your message (Google will also index it in search results). Or, you can share only with the people who belong to the circles you choose. (See the upcoming "Expanding your Google+ Circles."). You can type in an e-mail address, or even just a contact's name. Who sees your post is entirely up to you.

Selecting Google+ users to follow

The easiest way to choose people to follow is to look at the suggestions in the right column of your Google+ home page. Google is very good at guessing what types of people you might be interested in, based on your contacts in Google and other criteria. To follow someone on Google+, just mouse over their name, and mouse over again on Add to Circles and choose which Circle to add that person to.

You can also type names of people you know in the search bar at the top, click Find and Invite under the Circles page (the little icon at the top with three circles), or mouse over the names of the people who comment on the posts that appear in your stream and add them to a Circle.

Scouting the Sand Bar

All Google products now have what's called a Sand Bar at the top of the page that you can use to access all your Google accounts. Click Share on the Sand Bar and post to Google+ from whatever Google service you're using at the time.

The red notification icon in the upper-right notifies you when new comments appear and when people mention you in posts, as well as when new people add you to their Circles.

Expanding your Google+ Circles

View your Circles in the left column of Google+ under Stream (click a Circle to see only the stream of the people in that circle!). To edit and manage your Circles, click the icon with the three circles at the top of the page.

To create a new Circle, mouse over drop here to create a new Circle to open a link that says, Create a new Circle. Click it to create your Circle and add people to it. Alternately, drag or mouse over names from the top of the page into the Circles you choose.

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