What I like most about Google plus – Circles

I want to get a couple of things straight before I start singing the praises of Google Plus. First of all, I LOVE Twitter. Absolutely love it. Secondly, I live with Facebook because it is the easiest way to keep up with people I know that are scattered all over the place. For me, Twitter is like eating cake; something I do regularly because I really enjoy it. Facebook is like ironing clothes, something I feel compelled to do to keep up appearances.

So now I’ve set the scene, here is an outline of the feature I like most about Google plus.

Adding and [just as importantly] categorising people is very easy

Admit it, sometimes adding people on Twitter can be a pain in the arse. Bios are too short to include enough information to search effectively, and unless you know the exact Twitter account name then you won’t find who you are looking for. On the opposite side of the fence with Facebook, it is easy enough to find who you want to add, but then there are the politics surrounding adding or removing people. That cringe worthy moment when you receive an invite to connect from someone you removed a few days ago. You know that they know that you removed them, they’re just letting you know that they know. Your choices are add them again, or they kill your cat.

Google plus is best of both. It allows you to categorise your contacts into groups, referred to as Circles. The best bit is that when you categorise someone, that person doesn’t know the category that they fall under. So although they have been accepted into your social media circle, it may be under a Circle entitled “People I’m not that fussed about staying in touch with”. Because you can target your updates as public (visible to anyone in your circles and on your public profile), or send only to particular circles, or just to certain individuals, the fact that you are in some way connected is never an issue. It also means that you can connect with work colleagues, whilst still being able to share photos from embarrassing nights out via the same platform; it can act as a professional and social platform – a situation that is currently achieved by keeping my professional (Twitter and Linkedin) and personal (Facebook and to a lesser extent Twitter) lives on separate platforms.

Twitter has this categorisation functionality (Lists) and so does Facebook to an extent (Groups), but it is an after thought for the user and as a result has experienced limited uptake. With Google Plus this is integral to the experience and, most importantly, simple to do at the first point of contact as you can see here:

You accept the request to connect and then select the Circle, or Circles, that you would like to add the person to. In this case, as an acquaintance, Peter will receive my social media/marketing updates, but won’t be bombarded with pictures that I send to my family and friends.

Google will not ignore the fact that 53% of Facebook’s 600m+ users play games via the social media platform. So eventually gaming functionality will be incorporated into Google Plus. I believe that Circles provide a more effective way of hiding from Farmsville type invites for those that aren’t interested (like me). It also means that gamers will be able to build networks of like-minded social media gamers, who can share invites and updates without clogging up the newsfeeds of all of their non-gaming contacts.

This doesn’t stop at adding and categorising your contacts. You can also use these Circles to tailor which updates you view. In the left hand column you can select streams, which are filters for your newsfeed. If I want to see what my family have been up to, I can select that stream and all the updates from people outside of my family circle will be hidden:

I imagine that one major reservation that people will have in signing up for Google Plus will be that all of their contacts will be on Twitter and Facebook, and it will be a hell of a task to migrate them over. I’m not sure how you can do this with Twitter, but there is a work around to import your Facebook contacts into Google Plus via Yahoo Mail, which can be found here. Remember that Google Plus is currently in Beta, hence having to be invited by somebody already using it rather than being able to just rock up and set up your account, so not all of the functionality is in place. I couldn’t get this to work, but I’m sure that once the bugs are ironed out it’ll work just fine.

There is much more to talk about, including tailored news updates, photo upload functionality, group chat (video or text), the mobile app and the impact that Google Plus will have on SEO, but I need to have more of a play before writing up on this functionality. I already (wrongly) jumped to the conclusion that Google Plus was no good before I actually had a play around with it in this post, so I’ll reserve opinion for now.

If you would like an invite for Google + so that you can see what all the fuss is about, add a comment with your email address below (I won’t approve the comment, so nobody will see your email address) or send me a tweet, we’ll follow each other and then you can direct message me your email address.


15 thoughts on “What I like most about Google plus – Circles

  1. I am already on google+ definitely I like it!! However, I feel that it still lacks a basic feature of sending message directly to other person. Currently, one have to post on other person’s wall..which no longer keep it a personal communication.Hope it’s available in the full version when it is rolled out!!!!!

    1. Hi Amol,
      It is possible to send a private message to one person, or a group of people. You simply remove ‘Public’ and and Circles from the box underneath where you type your message, and add the name of the person you want to privately message. This way, only the person you message will get to see it. Because the process looks like a Facebook status update, it seems like it is public as you can see this conversation in your stream with all the other public content, however it is only you and the recipient that will see it. This is explained here.

  2. Interesting post! I really like the sound of circles so you can keep your work and personal life seperate, I think I need a few more friends/contacts and a bit of time to explore it before I would use it over facebook though.

    1. Thanks Rachel, I’ll add you on Twitter and DM you my email so we can link up. I am also loving Sparks (great way to keep up with sports teams for example). I also need to get a few more contacts on there so I can really put it to the test.

      1. Great, I’ve added you to my ‘Acquaintances’ and ‘Following’ Circles, so that you don’t get bombarded with pictures of my son or sweary rants to my friends 🙂

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