Now that Google+ is open to everyone, there are a lot of new people who aren't techies trying out the service. When you first sign on, it can be overwhelming. I've decided to round up a bunch of resources to help you get started, and recommend some people for you to follow, if you want to stay on top of tips and new announcements.
Here's the first thing about Google+ you should know - you can use it however you like. If you only want to share pictures between family and friends, Google+ can help you with that. And if you'd like to make new friends, and reach out to people with the same interests as you, you can do that, too. However, in order to get the most out of your experience, you'll have to interact, whether it's with strangers or familiar faces. Comment, +1, start a discussion, or share pictures with them.
To get started, you can check out the Google+ Insider's Guide Index, which lists every single article, how-to, and corkboard post in this World. You'll learn all about the latest tips and tricks, and the best Google+ extensions and plug-ins to enrich your Google+ experience even further.
If you'd like more personal help, add these people to your circles:
- +Ardith Goodwin started a group called "New to Google+? Let Us Help", of which I am also a member. The group has many members eager to help Google+ newbies navigate their new social network. Members will often times post public tips and updates.
- +Paul Spoerry created a massive round-up of the best resources to getting started on Google+.
- +Natalie Villalobos is one of the many Google+ Community Managers, who often solicits feedback, and will be the first to tell you the latest Google+ updates. Add her and other Google Community Managers to your circles.
- +Johnathan Chung collected many sites dedicated to helping you find people to follow on Google+.
If you're new to using Google+, you should know that participation is contingent upon the name you use sounding "real". This means no pseudonyms, and no names that would sound strange to the Western ear. +Kee Hinckley, +danah boyd, and many others have expressed their displeasure with the policy. A project called My Name Is Me has sprung up in protest of the policy.
If your Google+ name gets flagged, and you don't change it, you risk losing access to many aspects of other Google products, including Picasa, Blogger, and Reader. To be on the safe side, learn how to use Google Takeout to periodically download your data from Google+.
Although Google+ is a lot of fun, there are still a lot of frustrating things you'll come across. To solve those issues, many developers have come up with Google+ Chrome browser extensions and Firefox plug-ins. To take advantage of them, you'll have to install the Google Chrome browser, or the Mozilla Firefox browser. Both are free. I've covered them in the articles below:
- 10 Chrome Extensions to Jumpstart Your Google+ Wishlist
- 13 Firefox Add-Ons to Enhance Your Google+ Experience
- Fix Your Google+ Frustrations with 18 More Chrome Extensions
- 22 Google Chrome Extensions to Make Google+ Even Better
My personal favorites are the excellent G+Me extension, along with the Extended Share for Google+, and RSS Share for Google+ and Google Reader. As Google opens up the Google+ API for developers to play with, expect a lot more creative applications to come along.
You're not taking full advantage of Google+ unless you are also using the mobile app. You can download it for your mobile phone here, and you will have group instant message with Messenger, and the ability to do video conferencing with multiple people if you have a front-facing camera on your phone with the Hangout feature.
My favorite feature, however, is the Instant Upload. When you enable this, the pictures you take on your phone are instantly uploaded to a private Picasa album. From there, you can share your images or move them to a different album.
If you're not using hangouts, you don't know what you're missing. If you have a web cam and a mic at home, you can video conference with up to nine people at once. You can create public hangouts, or do private hangouts with loved ones. And even better, right now, the ability to broadcast your hangouts is being rolled out to a select group of people. You can watch the first live broadcast of "Hangouts on Air", with +will.i.am and crew here.
If you're a newbie to Google+, what do you think of the experience so far? Do you think you'll make the switch from Facebook? Or do you think Google+ still needs more work before it's "ready"?