One feature of the Google Plus social network that confuses many newcomers is “shared circles”. Heck, it confuses more than a few old-timers. And the very concept of “circles” can itself be confusing!
As soon as possible, I’ll update this post with some background information on Google Plus circles — or G+ circles for short. If you’re unfamiliar with Google’s social platform, you may find these a compelling reason to hop aboard. But for now, I’m assuming the reader is an active Google Plus user with an interest in circle sharing, its purpose, and how to use it for best effect.
In my view, the primary purpose of circle-sharing is not to rapidly expand one’s “follower count”. It is to increase engagement. By this I mean the extent to which other people interact with your social-media posts by commenting, sharing, and plussing them (“liking”, to anyone who prefers Facebook lingo). Perhaps more important, it means the extent to which you interact with theirs.
Because a social network is, above all else, social. If you use it only to “build a following” (important though that is), you easily may, in the long run, damage your standing with Google itself. Google doesn’t care about your circle numbers. It cares about your content, sharing, and involvement. Public circles can easily be misused — sometimes by their compiler, sometimes by the circle member — in counter-productive ways.
To get the most out of any shared public circle on G+, here’s my advice:
1. Start by adding the circle under its own unique name. Don’t just dump its names into your one of your existing G+ circles.
2. Over the next few days, or even weeks, monitor the circle and engage with its members — especially, but not exclusively, with those who circle you back. Read, plus, comment, reshare, interact. Reach out and get to know your new circle-mates.
3. While doing this, create and share as much of your own original content as possible. Do it in a way that lets people know who you and and what you’re about. Own a blog? Share posts from it! Own a business? Without being spammy, write about your sector, or share links to helpful websites. Let folks know what you have to offer! Love to shoot photos? Now would be a great time to post some!
4. As you forge real connections, move your new contacts into more permanent, more appropriate circles. These may include people who don’t circle you back. The important thing is that you find their shares useful or inspiring. For the same reason, people you don’t circle back may nonetheless keep you in their circles. Remember that you can be in an unlimited number of G+ circles; however, you yourself can circle only 5000 people at most.
5. Once the hubbub of meeting-and-greeting-and-getting-acquainted dies down, take stock. Make sure everyone with whom you’ve “clicked” is safely in one of your permanent circles. Then remove the original “shared” circle, returning those with whom you didn’t hit it off this time around. You may also, at some point, find yourself suddenly uncircled by people who added you before. Don’t take this personally! People you didn’t connect with on this occasion, may well become valued friends and colleagues in the future.
Oh, and if this sounds like hard work — that’s because participating in shared circles is hard work. At least it is if you do it right! You can rack up some impressive numbers even without doing it right; but this, as noted, can hurt you in the long run. Don’t treat it like a chain letter or pyramid scheme, because it isn’t. Think of it instead as a networking conference where you have an opportunity to build lots of new connections. Roll up your sleeves, get to work, and watch your engagement and numbers both soar!
UPDATE: A few days after publishing this article, I added further thoughts in a post shared on Google Plus. Rather than incorporate these directly, I’m here embedding the Google Plus post itself: