Google+ sign-ups was recently made public which resulted in a massive flow of new users to the social network. This post is mainly targeted for such new users or for Google+ users with limited number of people in their circles. This might not work well now for early adopters of Google+ like me who have a large number of people in their circles already. To be honest, till the time I realized the importance of properly arranging my circles I had already accumulated a large number of people in my circles. So, it is quite difficult to change that now but I want to share some tips so that you do not make the same mistakes.
Google+ allows you to add unlimited number of circles. You can add a maximum of 5000 people in all your circles combined as of now. The common mistake made by most new users of G+ is that they tend to use just one circle and add all the contacts, friends, new acquaintances, celebrities and everyone else in that circle. Though it might work at the start but it will create a massive problem when you are older on Google+ and accumulate more friends and users in your circles. Using a single circle will definitely create a mess in the long especially if you are an active Google+ user with thousands of users in your circles. It might also create privacy problems if you use it as a “real life social network” as even strangers can track every step of your life closely. But the best part is that Google Plus solves the same by providing the users with extreme flexibility to maintain their privacy. Google+ not only allows you to choose who can check your profile details and updates using Privacy settings options but it also allows you to control every aspect of privacy using circles. Almost every part of Google+ can be shared only with specific circles to maintain your privacy as well as to keep it properly arranged.
So, planning your circles is of utmost importance. You should not only plan your circles in terms of updates and posts shared with your friends but you must also keep in mind the various parts and features of Google+ while creating circles. Let us go ahead step by step with each feature to help you in the same.
1. Stream, Posts and Updates: The first part where you need to plan is the stream that would be visible with the shared circles etc. In most parts of your Google+ profile, you can share with the public or extended circles (people in circles of your circles) in addition to your circles.
a) The first circle you would probably need to plan is a friends circle with whom you can share interesting posts and things related to your circle. If you are a college student, then probably you might have things which you are comfortable sharing only with those close friends. In case of professional friends, it might work out similarly.
b) The second circle would probably be your family members and relatives where you can share family matters. It is not advisable to reveal family matters, problems and discussions in the public or with strangers and so, this is an extremely important circle if your family members and relatives use social networking.
c) The third circle can be a specific gender based circle. No, I am not being sexist here but practical. It is not a bad idea to create a boys only circle in case of a guy and a girls only circle in case of a gal. The reason is because there might be intimate things which you might feel comfortable in sharing and taking advice only from the same gender. If there are updates which might not be quite family friendly, then they too can go in this circle.
d) The fourth circle that I would advise is for your favorite celebrities, photographers, techies etc. whose posts really interest you. The reason I am advising you to create a separate circle for them is because it often becomes difficult to track each and every post in your stream if you have a massive number of people in all the circles combined. With a limited number of people in that circle, you can easily track all their posts even if you log in to Google+ only once a day.
e) The fifth circle should be for all other users including new acquaintances and friends with whom you can share fun facts, interesting photos, gifs and everything else. You can also add this circle whenever you share things with the public.
In your stream, you can filter the posts only from a specific circle by clicking on the circle name on the left sidebar as displayed in the image above. This can be helpful in case you need to quickly check the updates from specific circles only such as your friends, relatives etc.
2. Google+ Hangout: The second most important thing you need to keep in mind is Google+ Hangout while planning your circles. Hangout is basically a video conferencing feature involving a maximum of 10 active users at a time. You can create a private hangout with specific circle(s) only or a public hangout where anyone can join. Most people who care about privacy might not opt for a public hangout that easily. You can also type the name of every user you want in the hangout and add them manually. But it might not be the best option especially if your typing speed is not that good. Instead, you can keep a circle of trusted friends only in a circle where you can start the hangout. Anybody in that circle would be able to join whereas strangers or people from public circles would not be able to do so. For a family hangout, you can use the circle you created earlier too.
3. Google+ Messenger: Another important feature for which you need to plan your circles properly is Google+ Messenger. The messenger is only for Android phones as of now and it is a group chat/texting feature for your circles. You can post updates from your mobile phone in real time irrespective of your location and can also click and add photos in your updates. So, it can reveal personal information in such cases and you might update your present location and photos while in the flow of the chat. If your have random strangers in that circle, then it might not be a wise decision to reveal such personal details. So, you would probably want to create specific circle for Messenger and plan your chats accordingly.
4. Google+ Profile: Last but not the least is your Google+ profile. You can control nearly every aspect of your profile privacy as mentioned earlier and so, you would probably want to arrange your circles in a way so that you reveal only the information you want to share with those circles. These includes your “about you” section of your profile and your “photo albums”. There are people who might not be comfortable sharing every photo album with the public and want to lock some albums or make them limited to only specific circles. You can check this post on how to lock your photo albums or to restrict them to specific circles only and this post on how to change your privacy settings in Google+. So, if you are concerned about your profile privacy then you should plan your circles accordingly.
Having said that, it is not necessary to add dozens of circles as that would make it difficult to manage the circles in case you add multiple circles while sharing. Around 5-6 well managed circles should be enough even if you have a large number of contacts. Please remember that you can add a single person to multiple circles. So, you can add all your friends to your friends circles while selecting a trusted few of them for your Google+ Messenger circle (everyone might not have an Android phone either Similarly, instead of creating separate circles for your privacy settings you can plan your earlier circles and arrange them according the level of trust in case you are concerned about privacy. Planning is more important than just creating the circles and make it a long term plan so that even if you have thousands of people in your circles in the long run but you can still arrange them properly. Google+ features will only grow with time and they have already rolled out 100 features till the time it became public a few days ago. So, it is only become bigger and better with time and you need to plan now to keep everything in a proper order.