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.

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2. Become a core part of your niche

There's no magic shortcut to gaining new Google+ followers, but becoming an active participant in your niche -- whatever it may be -- really can help. Try to follow people who talk about the same sorts of things that are relevant to you and then interact on their posts whenever possible. Discussion value aside, you'd be surprised how many people will circle you when you leave insightful, interesting or funny comments in the right places (and most of those people are inherently bound to be interested in the same topics you discuss).

Google+
You'd be surprised how many people will circle you when you leave insightful, interesting or funny comments in the right places; such interactions can also lead to your inclusion in shared circles.

Such interactions can also lead to your inclusion in shared circles -- personal recommendation lists that people pass along on Google+ -- as well as within the site's own internal recommendations.

Another area to consider is Google+'s growing collection of communities -- organized discussion forums that revolve around specific topics. There, too, a little bit of effort can go a long way.

"If there's not a community out there for what you're interested in, create your own community and invite others to join it," suggests Sarah Hill, a reporter with the Veterans United Network who's assembled 2.7 million G+ followers. "You'll surround yourself with people who are interested in what you're interested in."

3. Make yourself discoverable

It may sound obvious, but taking the time to fill out your Google+ profile -- and to upload a halfway decent picture of your smiling mug -- can make a world of difference when it comes to attracting attention. The same could be said for any social network, of course, but given Google's emphasis on search and discovery, it's particularly important with Google+.

"When people search for others who are passionate about a certain subject, if you don't have [the relevant terms] in your profile, Google doesn't know to include you," Hill says.

A consistent identity across social networks can also be helpful, especially if you've already built a following in other places.

"If a person recognizes your picture over on Twitter, they should recognize your picture on Google+, too," Cain notes. "It's super important to make it clear that you are that same person in all those different places."

Google+
Taking the time to fill out your Google+ profile can make a world of difference when it comes to attracting attention.

The same applies for a business: Google+ allows you to create professional pages for organizations that can be managed by multiple users. It helps if your company's Google+ page is immediately recognizable and consistent with the rest of your business's online presence.

4. Share the right stuff

Figure out what you're interested in -- whether personally or professionally -- and then find interesting things to share on that subject. Whether it's science, technology or cooking, knowing your focus will help others understand what you're all about.

"You want to post information that's relevant to the kind of audience you want to have interacting with you," Cain says.

That doesn't mean you have to be a single-note sharer; sprinkling in the occasional "just because" post -- whether a behind-the-scenes glimpse at your work, a funny photo relevant to your area of discussion or an amusing anecdote -- can broaden your appeal and help establish you as a real person worth following. Some of my most popular Google+ posts have been random images or off-the-cuff quips that tie into my favorite geeky subjects but have no direct connection to any stories I've written.

"You want a little bit of dessert with your vegetables," Hill explains. "Don't just talk about yourself all the time."

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