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Circles and Plus Ones and Shares - Google+ Concepts Explained

Updated on January 3, 2016
Google Plus - The Main Concepts Explained
Google Plus - The Main Concepts Explained

How to get the most out of Google Plus

Google Plus is a fantastic social network. It links all of the various Google properties together and helps you find, share and interact with the content that's most important to you. Some of the concepts can be tricky to grasp though.

I've been using Google Plus for a while and I've created this guide to explain all of the main concepts and principles. I've divided it into the following areas:

  • The Google Plus Interface
  • The left hand Navigation Bar
  • Finding and Following People on Google+
  • Interacting on Google+ - Posting Content and Links
  • Interacting on Other's Posts and Content
  • Other Concepts in Google Plus

I hope you find it useful.

Google Plus - The Main Concepts, Explained
Google Plus - The Main Concepts, Explained | Source

The top of the Google Plus Interface (Home screen)

The Google Plus Home Screen (Top section)
The Google Plus Home Screen (Top section) | Source

We'll start by exploring the main Google Plus interface on the home screen.

Home Tab

This is your main Google Plus content feed. This is where you'll see:

  • The posts of anyone in your circles (similar to the 'news feed' on Facebook)
  • Community invites - Communities are live, interactive forums on Google Plus
  • Upcoming events and hangouts - Virtual, live meetings
  • What's trending and popular #hashtags at the moment (similar to 'what's trending' on Twitter)
  • Navigation to other parts of Google Plus (on the left side)

Google Plus Search Box

The search box allows you to search the whole of the Google Plus social network. Just type in any search terms you want and when you get the results back you can choose to filter them by 'People and Pages', 'Communities', 'Posts', 'Hangouts' and more.

You can also use standard Google search operators in here like "quote marks", OR and -Excluding terms (e.g. "civil engineering" OR mechanics -electronic )

Share Box

This is the main way that you can share content on Google Plus; you can share the following types of content:

  • Text updates, long and short form
  • Links - Links to articles and websites that others might find of interest
  • Photos - Viewable directly from a person's update
  • Video - Playable directly from a person's update

You can also specifiy exactly who will see your updates:

  • Public - Anyone on Google Plus has the potential to interact with and see your content
  • Extended circles - Anyone in your circles and anyone in the circles of people that you have circled
  • Your circles - Anyone in your circles
  • Communities - Anyone in the community that you specify
  • Individuals - Any individuals that you want to share the post with

Notification Box

The notifications box will show a grey '0' when there are no notifications and a red number when there are notifications. To view your notifications just click on the box. A pop-up will load that lists your ten most recent notifications and you can click on each one in the list to find out more.

You can also choose to 'View all notifications' if you have more than ten or if you want to look back historically at the notifications you've received.

You can get notifications for lots of things in Google Plus including:

  • Someone adding you to one of their circles / following you
  • Someone commenting on, +1ing or sharing your post
  • Someone commenting on a post you've already commented on
  • Someone +mentioning you in a post or comment
  • Someone sharing a post with you directly
  • Community invitations and more

If you are signed into your Google account, the notification box is viewable across many other Google properties including search, YouTube, Reader, Gmail and more. You can check your notifications from any of them.

Google Plus Settings

Settings allow you to control notifications, determine how people can interact with you and your content and more.

The left Navigation Bar in Google Plus

Next, we'll explore what lies behind the navigation bar on the left hand side.

The left sidebar on Google Plus
The left sidebar on Google Plus | Source

Google+ is now second in size to Facebook and will only continue to grow as it gets linked to more Google services and the whole concept of Google Authorship really takes off. It makes sense to have a presence there; it's easy to use, clutter free and has some fantastic communities.

You can also follow me on Google+ if you want to.

Google Plus Profile

The profile page serves three main purposes:

1. It shows all of the posts that you've made on Google Plus (similar to your Facebook profile page)

2. It gives a public overview of the number of people you are following (in your circles) and who are following you (you are in their circles) - You can hide this if you want

3. It allows you to add to, remove or edit the personal information that you want to share with the world

Personal information on your profile might include:

  • Your photograph / profile avatar
  • Where you work, went to school and live
  • Tagline, introduction and 'bragging rights' - Freeform text where you can share pertinent information
  • Occupation and employment
  • Contact information, email etc.
  • Relationship status, gender and what you are searching for on G+
  • Other profiles - Where else you are on the web (links to your Facebook profile, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora etc.)
  • Contributor to - Important to your Google Authorship - Where do you write, create content or contribute?

It's entirely up to you how much or how little of this that you fill in and you can check what other people can see by clicking the 'view as' button near the top. You can view my profile here and you'll see that it's pretty well filled out.

Explore Google Plus

The 'Explore' button is one of the main ways to find new and exciting content on Google Plus. It will highlight some of the best new links and information, together with what is trending highly right now. It can also suggest interesting communities, pages you might like and more. It's a fun way to waste a few hours!

Google Plus Find People Tab
Google Plus Find People Tab

Recommended Google+ Books from Amazon

Find People / Circles

This is one of the most important areas of Google Plus as it's where you can find new people to follow / circle and also where you can manage your own circles. We'll cover the concept of circles in much more detail below, but on this tab you will find:

  • Suggestions - People you might want to follow based on your interests, other people you have followed, where you went to school, where you work and the like (it's similar to the 'find friends / people you may know' function on Facebook)
  • Added You - People that have added you to their circles and are therefor following you and can read your content and what you post
  • Your circles - The people that you are following, which means that you can see their content and read their posts

On the 'Added You' and 'Your Circles' pages you can change the names of circles. move people between them, delete circles and much more. More on this later on in the article.


Pages are similar to Facebook Pages in that they are a way for business, brands and organizations to have a presence on Google Plus. If you're just using G+ as an individual, you can ignore this tab.

Google Plus Communities

Communities are one of the most exciting parts of Google Plus. They are all themed around a central topic (e.g. classic cars, mathematics, psychology, papercraft, gardening etc.) and are constantly updating, interactive forums where people can share useful content, discuss ideas and opinions, ask questions and much more.

Communities are a great way to dip your toe into the waters of Google Plus and I've written an extensive guide on getting the most out of communities here.

More (Hangouts, Games, Local, Photos, Events)

This tab hides a multitude of other great features including:

  • Hangouts / Events - Real time, virtual conferences where you can chat to others via microphone and webcam
  • Games - Although it's a limited selection of games compared to Facebook, there are some fun ways to pass the time here
  • Local - Connect with other Google Plussers in your local area and see local businesses and attractions including entertainment, hotels, bars and the like. You can also read and write reviews here
  • Photos - Collections of photos that you've uploaded or saves to Google Plus

Finding, following and +mentioning people on Google Plus

Google Plus is all about the people you meet. In this section we'll explore some of the most important concepts.

An example of a shared circle on Google Plus
An example of a shared circle on Google Plus

Circles and how they work

Circles are central to Google Plus. A circle is essentially a group of people (followers). Circles allow you to share your content with the right groups of people. They are how you, and the people you are interested in, follow each other.

Here are the important things to remember:

  • You can have as many circles as you want
  • You can decide what you want to share with each of your circles
  • You can name a circle whatever you want
  • A person can be in one, some or all of your circles
  • You can delete circles and remove members from them
  • You can only have a maximum of 5,000 people in all of your circles combined

As an example, I have several circles: Family and Friends, Google Plus Moderators, Small Business, Fan Pages etc.

When your circles are setup, you can choose to read posts from individual circles on your homepage and also just choose to post updates to specific circles.

The main way to manage your circlers is through the 'Find people' tab. They are a very versatile and easy to use system.

How to +mention someone in Google Plus
How to +mention someone in Google Plus

Mentioning Using the '+' Key

One of the most important concepts on Google Plus is using the '+' key to +mention someone. It's very useful because it will notify the person that you +mention in a post or comment. To +mention someone, just type + followed by their name.

For example, if you wanted to notify me about content you'd posted, you would enter +paul maplesden - This would then pop up a list of all people called 'Paul Maplesden' on Google+ and you could choose the one you wanted (hopefully me!). When you then post the message, a notification alert will pop up in my profile saying you have shared a post with me directly.

You can use +mentions in the share box (in the 'share this post with' section), text content and comments.

Interacting on Google Plus - Posting Content and Links

It's very easy to share content on Google Plus, you just need to use the 'Share' box as follows:

  1. Think about what you are going to post to make sure it's relevant and interesting to your audience
  2. Go to your 'Share What's New' box (available on most pages)
  3. Type or paste your update into the box; you can also click the little icons next to the box to add photos, videos, links or events
  4. Choose who you want to share the update with (public, specific community, extended circles, all of your circles, specific circles, individuals)
  5. Click 'Share'

You can also use *asterisks on each side of a word or sentence* to make it appear in bold or _underscores on each side_ to make it appear in italics. You could, of course, _*do*_ both.

All of the different ways you can share and post your content on Google Plus
All of the different ways you can share and post your content on Google Plus

Who do you want to share with on Google Plus?

If you want to share with...
...then you need to...
Select 'Public' in the share box
Everyone that you have circled and the people they have circled
Select 'Extended Circles' in the share box
Everyone that you have circled
Select 'Your Circles' in the share box
People in one of your specific circles
Enter the specific circle name in the share box
A community
Select the community name in the share box, or share in the community screen itself
A specific person or people
+Mention the people in the search box

Interacting on other's posts & content

There are several ways that you can interact with posts that other people have made as follows:

  • +1 - All Google Plus content has a +1 button on it, and this is a central concept of how the network functions. A +1 is similar to a Facebook 'like'. It's a way of telling the author that you approve of, agree with or like their content. +1's are a good thing to use and you can +1 posts and comments
  • Comment - You can make comments on other people's posts. Just click in the box underneath the post to add a comment; you can also +1 other people's comments and +mention people to draw their attention to a comment that you've left
  • Share Onwards - You can share a post onwards to the public, your circles or individuals. Just click the 'Share' icon and share the post as you would your own content

A video introduction to Google Plus

Other concepts on Google Plus

The Google Plus 'Volume Control' for your Circles
The Google Plus 'Volume Control' for your Circles

A quick quiz on Google Plus

view quiz statistics

There are several other interesting features of Google Plus including:

  • Control notifications by circle - If you click on one of your circles to view the posts from its members, you'll notice a little sldier on the top right of your screen. Drag it to the right to see more posts from this group of people and to the left to see fewer (or no) posts. This is a very effective way of controlling the 'volume' on Google Plus
  • Muting posts - If you don't want to see any more notifications relating to a specific post, just select 'Mute Post' when the next notification pops up
  • Ripples - If you want to see how a post has been shared, click on the post and in the drop down menu underneath the top right arrow, select 'Ripples', you can then see how the post has been shared historically.
  • #hashtags - Similar to Twitter, you can use #hashtags in Google Plus (they will even autocomplete for popular ones); you can search and read by hashtag too

And that's it for now! I really hope that you've found this explanation of the main concepts of Google Plus helpful; please do share it with anyone that could get some use out of it.

Do you have any other areas you'd like to see me cover in this article, or hints and tips of your own? If so, please let me know in the comments.

Other Google Plus Articles that I've Written


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