Getting around Google+: Expand your circles -- and your influence

Part 2 of our three-part how-to series on Google+ teaches you how to create a following and make your content pop.

Psst! Hey, you -- yes, you, the one reading this. I see you there. Come closer; there's something I need to tell you.

It's simply this: If you aren't taking Google+ seriously yet, you're missing out on an enormous opportunity.

Go ahead -- laugh. Tell me how Google+ is a "ghost town" filled only with Google employees and/or Robert Scoble.

But if you really look closely, it's getting difficult to deny that Google+ is important as a social networking arena. Research suggests it's well on its way to surpassing Facebook in terms of social sharing activity. It has a direct and significant impact on numerous other Google services, including search. And all measurements aside, those of us who have embraced Google+ have found a thriving and active community of passionate tech enthusiasts who regularly comment on posts, follow links and reshare material -- a presence that can be valuable both for personal and professional interaction.

Count me among the satisfied pack that's tapped into Google+'s potential. In the two years since the service launched, G+ has become my primary "home" online -- the place where the majority of my social networking takes place. The level of engagement and quality of discussion I see on G+ are vastly superior to what I see on other social networks (especially Facebook) -- and those differences were apparent long before my G+ follower count eclipsed my totals elsewhere.

So what does it take to get noticed on Google+? Once you've learned the basics of the service, here are some strategies I and other G+ devotees have found to be helpful:

1. Find your crowd

Any social network has the potential to seem quiet when you first arrive. While Google+ may not be the de facto gathering place for aunts, uncles and old high school acquaintances, it is an ideal environment for finding people who actually share your professional and personal interests.

"The amount of effort required to fill your stream with interesting conversation is minimal," says Fraser Cain, a space enthusiast who runs the Universe Today blog and has amassed over 800,000 followers on Google+. "Your first step is to follow people you're interested in hearing from, then after a while it seems busier and busier."

Google+ gives you a helping hand by suggesting groups of people who post about topics you like as well as people with whom you have a connection.

Google+ gives you a helping hand by suggesting groups of people who post about topics you like as well as people with whom you have a connection (you can always access those suggestions by navigating to the "People" section of the site). Other good ways I've found for finding folks include using the G+ search function to look for people posting about your areas of interest and browsing through the site's "What's Hot" section to unearth users who are actively sharing interesting material.

And of course, you can also always search for specific experts and industry leaders -- even lowly tech writers -- who talk about your favorite subjects. Their own commentaries aside, they're likely to share and reshare content from other users that'll be relevant to you -- and you'll probably encounter other interesting people commenting on their posts.

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