What exactly is Google Plus?

If you are familiar with Facebook and Twitter, then you will recognize the networking processes of Google Plus and becoming an expert on this social network will be a short learning curve. However, there are some very important differences between Google Plus and similar sites like Facebook that you need to know about.

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This network is touted as being a combination of the best attributes of the Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Digg and other forms of social media. The origins of this network go back to before the advent of Facebook. One can refer the beginnings of Google Plus to a social networking site launched by Google in 2004 known as Orkut, but which never really became very well known internationally.

Google Plus continues the central themes of social networking that we have emphasized throughout this eBook, and provides some very useful methods of communication as well as ways of interacting with others.

Starting Up with Google Plus.

Once again, your profile is the most basic but most important element in starting your social network experience. Your Google Plus account is based on your Google profile and will have to register for a Google account if you do not already have one.
Just go to www.google.com and register. As with all the other networks, your profile is important. While your Google profile was designed to help you search, with Goggle Plus it becomes an important part of your networking identity. Importantly, Google allows you to reveal or hide as much of your profile as you like. However, before we get onto a discussion of your profile it is firstly important to understand one of the central components of this social network,
the Circles.
For more on the history of this network go to this link on the history of Google Plus. http://www.howstuffworks.com/internet/socialnetworking/ networks/google-plus.htm

Essential Knowledge
One of the most important and useful aspects of Google Plus when it comes networking is Circles. Circles are simply specified groups of people who you would like to connect with. The network provides three predefined circles. These are,
friends, family and acquaintances. However, you can define or create your own customized circles – for example, business contacts. The central idea behind circles is that you can send updates or messages to all, a few or just one circle. The usefulness of circles is emphasized by the fact that you can have one contact in numerous circles. This means that you can send a work related update to your business contact’s circle and a reminder about someone’s birthday to your friends and family circles.
With the above understanding of circles we can return to the subject of profiles. Your Google profile is the About page on Google Plus. You can also limit the amount of information that you would like to be made publically available for privacy reasons.
This is also linked to the concept of Circles. For example, you can customize your profile to only allow your friends circle to have access to certain profile information, such as your telephone number.

So how do you Begin?
Now that you understand some of the basic concepts that make this site so network friendly, here are a few pointers as to how to actually begin working on Google Plus Firstly, create your own Circles if you feel that you need more than are provided for you in the application. In other words, decide on what groups of people you would like to divide your contacts into, e.g. family, friends, business partners, associates, etc. Now you have to add actual contacts to these groups or circles. Google Plus makes this process very slick and easy. Click on the circles tab on the side bar of the
site.

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This will open up an interface that allows you to see all your contacts in Gmail. All you now have to do is drag a contact on this list to a circle. For example, if you decide to select a friend as contact, drag that person to the Friend’s Circle. Note that Contacts can be added to multiple circles.
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There is also a “follow” Circle you can use this to follow people who you do not know, as one does on Twitter.
It is interesting to see the results of the additions to your circles. Return to the Home page. The stream will now be populated by input from the circles of contacts you have crested. The stream is a lot like the wall or newsfeed on Facebook — it’s where you’ll see status updates from the people you’ve chosen to follow in your circles. You can share your own status updates with specific circles or even individual users. In other words, you now see the messages and postings from those people who you have added to your circles. A very innovative and useful aspect of this is that you
can stream all your connections at once, as you would do in Facebook, or you can view the stream in relation to a  particular circle.

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Other Important Features
There are many other features to this very useful network. We will look at these very briefly. Google chat is a part of Google Plus and you can choose the circles that you want to chat with. Another way of contacting others is through creating a hangout. In brief, a hangout is a video chat session. You will of course need a webcam as well as a microphone to make use of this facility. There are a number of ways that you can create your hangout – you can elect to have an open public chat session, or you can limit your hangout to certain Circles or even restrict it to a number of your contacts. There is however a limit of ten users, including yourself.
There is of course much more to this very user-friendly and useful sight – which will be explored in much more detail in forthcoming Imaginet eBooks.

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