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How to Get the Most Out of the New Google+ Features

If you haven’t logged into Google+ in awhile, you might be in for a surprise. Shortly after Facebook released it’s highly anticipated (or dreaded) new Facebook page design, Google+ released its own new look. Here is a look at what has changed and how you can get the most out of it as a user….

If you haven’t logged into Google+ in awhile, you might be in for a surprise. Shortly after Facebook released it’s highly anticipated (or dreaded) new Facebook page design, Google+ released its own new look. Here is a look at what has changed and how you can get the most out of it as a user.

The New Google+ Home Design

New Google+ Homepage

The first thing you will notice about the latest Google+ changes is the design of the homepage. On the left, you will see large icons to get you to the main areas including Home, Profile, Hangouts, Photos, Circles, Games, and Pages. For smaller screens, many of these options might be hidden under the More option. Hover over it and then the menu item you are looking for. Even at 1920×1080, my pages are hidden under More.

When you click on one of your pages from here, you will automatically be switched to using Google+ as the page you selected. You can also do this by clicking on the dropdown next to your profile image at the top right of your Google+ screen.

The new item in the left side menu is explore. Here, you can find out what is new and interesting on Google+ including hot stories, trends, and a slider that allows you to incorporate more or less “Hot on Google+” items into your main news feed.

To the right of your news feed, you will see the latest trending topics on Google+, your current hangout invites, people you may know, and pages or people you might find interesting. Be sure to use the trending topics to jump in on conversations that might get more exposure to your profile or page.

At the top of your Google+ news feed, you will see your circles, many of which will be hidden under the More dropdown. Use these to filter your Google+ news feed to show only items from particular circles.

You can also find any saved searches or hashtags at the bottom of the More dropdown so you can view updates pertaining to those searches. To save a search, search for a keyword or hashtag using the Google+ search bar, then click the Save this Search button that comes up with the results. Using saved searches is a great way to keep up with public conversations in your industry and anyone discussing your brand on Google+.

When you change your news feed to view only a particular circle, the area to the right of the news feed will change as well. Now you will see thumbnails of people in that particular circle with the option to add more people to that circle by name.

You will also see your hangout invites when available as well as an option to share that circle as a status update. This is a great way to help your followers on Google+ connect with other key names in your industry.

Depending on how large your screen is, you should also see the option to start a hangout and enable chat on the right side throughout all of Google+. Both of these options will help you create a deeper connection with your audience.

When you sign into chat, you can use the dropdown next to your name to find your privacy settings. Select Custom in the dropdown so you can choose which circles of people you want to chat with.

Since you can’t choose or block individuals, you might want to consider a circle just for the people you want to chat with. You can look at using chat as a way to steer a friendly conversation into a possible conversion!

Your Google+ Profile

Along with the change to your homepage is the change to your Google+ profile.

The main changes here are…

  • You can now have five small photos thumbnails or a solid banner image. InlineVision created a guide to the new Google+ banner size plus a Photoshop template on their blog if you want to get creative with yours. The photostrip is particularly important as it will be shown when someone hovers over your name almost anywhere in Google+.
  • Your profile image is larger. This means you might want to upload a higher quality image if yours is looking grainy.
  • Beneath your profile image, you will see your latest employment listing, where you attended college, and where you currently live. These pieces of information may also show up in the little popup when someone hovers over your name in Google+, so be sure they are up to date.
  • Your tagline has been moved into a less prominent area above your Introduction.
  • The number of people in your circles and who have you in circles is beneath your profile photo (depending on your privacy settings).
  • Your links to other profiles, contributor to, and recommended links are at the bottom of your profile beneath your introduction, bragging rights, occupation, employment, places lived, and contact information.

The links moving to the bottom is probably the biggest heartbreaker. Previously, the links were pretty close to the top or your profile in the right sidebar which meant a higher click through rate to your website and other social profiles. Now that they’ve moved, you will want to make sure the links you want noticed the most are added to your Introduction information. Don’t remove any of your other profile, contributor to, or recommended links though as these are still used for your Google authorship and sometimes shows up along with your Google+ profile in search results.

Hangouts to Join

Ever wanted to jump into a hangout to test the waters of video chat, but didn’t want to set one up for yourself or wait for an invitation? If you go to the Hangouts section, you should now see a listing of public hangouts that are currently ongoing that you can either watch or join.

Click on the view more link next to hangouts to join to see what is going on, and jump in when ready! You might see someone hosting a public hangout that you have wanted to get in touch with, and there’s no better way to make a great impression than by jumping on with them in a video chat!

Getting the Most Out of the New Features

As with most social network changes, regardless of whether you like it or not, the changes are here to stay. To get the most out of the new Google+, be sure to:

  • Create some saved searches to keep up with industry topics and reputation management.
  • Update your photostrip images or create one banner image that represents your personal or professional brand.
  • Update your location, employment, and education information.
  • Add the most important links you want people to notice to your Introduction section on your profile.
  • Check out live Google+ Hangouts.
  • Create a circle for people you want to chat with and enable your chat window.
  • Keep adding links to your Contributor To section to help boost your exposure in Google search results next to articles you have published.

Do you like the latest changes to Google+? What other features have you noted are different?