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Understanding Google Plus Circles

Updated on November 1, 2014
Google+ Circles image created by author
Google+ Circles image created by author

What are Google Plus Circles?

Google Plus is a social network launched by Google on June 28, 2011. It garnered tremendous amount of support during the beta testing phase and was finally released to the general public on September 20, 2011.

Yes, it's another social network like Facebook, however, it has features that are unique to Google+ which makes it different. One of the distinct features that is at the heart of G+ is Google Circles allowing users to create cliques or groups that enable sharing information only to people in those specific circles.

G+ Circles have caused a bit of confusion in terms of how they work and how best to use them. Most users love this unique feature, whereas, some think it's not a big deal. On this web page, you will learn about Google+ Circles, how they work, how to create them, how to effectively manage your G+ Circles and more.

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An Overview of Google+ Circles

Video Tutorial on Understanding Google Plus Circles

Below is a video overview of Google+ Circles which explains what they are, how to create Google Circles and how to use them effectively in Google Plus. Essentially, G+ Circles are one of the unique features of this social network.

They provide an effective way to organize friends and people in your social network into specific cliques or groups. By organizing your contacts into Google+ Circles, you can share your social updates and information with that distinct group of people rather than everyone in your social network.

For example, if you have a G+ Circle called Family and you want to share pictures of your birthday with only your family members, then G+ Circles allow you to achieve just that rather than sharing the update with everyone in your social network. Check the video below to learn more about Google+ Circles.

Video Overview of Google+ Circles

Privacy Settings for Google+ Circles

How to Setup Privacy Settings for Google+ Circles?

Before you start sharing your updates and/or information on Google+ you should understand the privacy settings. In order to ensure that your updates are shared correctly to your G+ Circles, you need to configure your privacy settings. The privacy settings in Google+ allow you to decide whether you want to share your profile publicly or choose to keep it private. Also, you can control whether your G+ profile shows up in search engines results by changing the settings.

You can change the privacy settings so other people in your Circles cannot see which Circles you belong to. As well as, change the settings to decide which people in your G+ Circles appear on your profile. Check the video tutorial below which shows you how to setup and change your privacy settings in Google+.

Video Tutorial: Managing Google+ Privacy Settings

Understanding the Advantages & Drawbacks of Google+ Circles

When sharing posts or updates on Google+ you can decide which Circles (or people in your Circles) are able to see them. Here are the key options available:

  • Public: visible to anyone who can view your public profile;
  • Your Circles: visible to everyone in your Circles;
  • Extended Circles: visible to everyone in your & their Circles.

Of course, if you've created your own Circles or use the default Circles already available like Family, Friends, Acquaintances, etc. when you choose these specific Circles, only people in those Circles will see your posts and updates.

Now that you understand the basics of how Circles work and how to share your content with people in your Google+ Circles, let's review some of the pros and cons of G+ Circles so you can use this information to effectively manage your Circles.

Pros & Cons of Google+ Circles
Pros & Cons of Google+ Circles | Source

Pros and Cons of Google Plus Circles

Advantages of Google+ Circles: One of the biggest advantages of Google+ Circles is that you can create distinct groups of people in your social network so as to allow you to share specific updates or information with only those people rather than your entire social network.

This a great feature because if you want to share updates with your co-workers, but don't want to bother your family with those updates, you can set up a specific G+ Circle for your co-workers.

Another benefit of Google+ Circles is that if you want to look at updates from your family members in your social network, you can choose that particular G+ Circle which will display updates from your family members rather than having to sift through a whole bunch of updates from your entire network.

Google+ Circles allow people, you don't know, to follow you, but you don't need to add them to your Circles. People who follow you will only see updates and information that you have shared publicly. This is similar to Twitter, but unlike Facebook. Creating Circles is easy, as well as, moving people from one Circle to another by using the drag and drop functionality . Also, you can have the same person in multiple Circles, if you choose to.

Potential Drawbacks of Google+ Circles: Though G+ Circles have some great advantages, there are some aspects that you need to be aware of, in terms of privacy, before starting to use the social network. When you share a post or update, G+ automatically defaults the last Circle(s) it was shared with, therefore, you need to check this before publishing a new update to your Circles. If not, you may end up sending an update to a Circle you didn't intend to.

If you share updates to a specific Circle, anyone in that Circle can re-share your update with other people in their Circles, Extended Circles (friends of friends) or even publicly. However, if you'd like to disable re-sharing of your post, you can do so by using the drop-down arrow on the top-right of the particular post.

Currently, Google+ allows a maximum of 5,000 people in all Circles, but this may change given that G+ is evolving regularly with enhancements. Since launching back in June 2011, Google+ has already gone through some changes.

Google+ Beginner's Guide

If you're new to Google Plus social network and would like help with setting up your account, you can check my Google+ Beginner's Guide which will help you setup your Google+ account. In this step-by-step guide, you will learn how to set up your Google Plus profile, configure your privacy settings, manage G+notifications, add and delete people from your G+ Circles, connect with other people on the social network, manage your photos and videos, and much more.

Share your thoughts on Google+ Circles

Guestbook: Understanding Google Plus Circles

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    • michelle8989 profile image

      Michelle 4 years ago from AZ

      Thanks AJ very good info! Everyone add me :)

    • yanksbeast777 profile image

      yanksbeast777 4 years ago

      Thanks ajgodinho!

      I could not get my mind around these Google+ Circles until now haha

    • GregoryMoore profile image

      Gregory Moore 5 years ago from Louisville, KY

      Yes, and I think it is a great idea. My problem now with Google+ is the my crowd isn't there yet. They are all on Facebook. I like Google+ plus, but until the people I interact with are there, it is tough to get value out of it.

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      @anonymous: I'm very sorry to hear about your negative experience online. Hope you are getting the help that you need to deal with it. In terms of Google+ Circles, their whole purpose is to provide flexibility in terms of privacy.

      That's one of the reasons it's very important to take the time to setup one's profile and circles correctly. People who circle you, but you don't circle back, have limited access to your data and posts. They can only see your Public posts. You can even block certain individual so they can't circle you. If you wish, you can even keep your full Google+ account totally private so only people you know and trust are in your circle. Of course, no site is fool-proof, but there are precautions one can take.

      Looks like in your case, your account was hacked into. This can happen via any social network sites. Ultimately, I hope that you manage to resolve your situation and put it behind you. Wishing you all the best!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      These socalled circles are involving those who are enemies and are stalking...they invade your phone and can get all your data off your phone including contacts in your phone and basically use their phone as a remote control to your's cyberstalking and cyberbullying.....especially when ppl add you when you don't want to be added to these so called's destroyed MY life.....

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      Yes, I am learning how to use Google Plus Circles. I think that I do prefer to network there compared to Linkedin or Facebook.

    • profile image

      mumsgather 5 years ago

      I use Google Plus quite a lot now but at the moment most of my social circles are still on Facebook.

    • SoniaCarew profile image

      SoniaCarew 5 years ago

      Finally! Thank you. I was hoping that I can just ignore it, and it will disappear because it seemed like such a hassle to dissect it.

      Great lens.

    • chookyco profile image

      chookyco 5 years ago

      It seems Facebook has implemented a similar feature

    • chrisqw profile image

      chrisqw 5 years ago

      Very interesting lens. Thank you!

    • profile image

      kendrafowler 5 years ago

      Google Plus was so similar to Facebook but then when I began using it I felt lost. I seriously haven't spent much time on Google plus after that, but this lens was very helpful. I think I will give Google Plus a try again!

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 5 years ago

      Gosh.. I have to admit.. I am not sure about it. I started it rolling and now I am on the computer even more. I dunno.. if that is a good thing for me personally. Humm thanks much for the info though, info is always good! Angel blessed.

    • profile image

      JennySui 5 years ago

      I learned something new today. Your lens helped me to understand Google Plus circles better.

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 6 years ago

      Very informative and well done.

    • elyria profile image

      elyria 6 years ago

      Still so much to learn for me. Thank you for great resources and helpful explanations!

    • Candlemakingsup profile image

      Candlemakingsup 6 years ago

      Thank you!!

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image

      Gayle 6 years ago from McLaughlin

      Your lens helped me to understand Google Plus better. I understand it is in Beta--but I would love to try it out! Thanks for a thorough lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Excellent resource of information, and explanations. Thanks AJ!

    • PaulaMorgan profile image

      Paula Morgan 6 years ago from Sydney Australia

      Great resource when so many of us are still learning... Thanks

    • profile image

      GrowWear 6 years ago

      A trusted source for Plus information and how to.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I think this will be a great help in getting new users off to a good start.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 6 years ago

      Very good post as Google+ is in the mind of so many, and in beta... so they continue to enhance and modify the final platform, I personally like what I see so far.