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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5. Share stuff the right way

Like with anything, what you get out of Google+ tends to be directly related to what you put into it. Simply pasting in URLs and clicking "Share" won't get you very far.

Even when I'm essentially just passing along a link, I try to write something to go along with it -- and put some thought into what I say. You don't have to compose a novel by any means, but a sentence or two actually addressing your followers and leading them into the link makes your post more than just another ripple in the stream.

"It's great that you just put a link to something, but why is it interesting to you?" Cain asks. "Custom information in a post ... gives much more emphasis than when you just post a link and move on without offering context."

Google+ also provides formatting commands to help make your content pop. Surrounding a sentence with asterisks, for instance, causes the text to be bold; many G+ enthusiasts use that as a way to create an eye-catching title at the start of a post.

Last but not least, posts with large images or video often do well on Google+. The service is a visual medium, after all, and everyone loves eye candy. Even if you're posting a link to something, occasionally including a picture within the post can change things up and catch content-surfers' eyes.

6. Take advantage of the technology

The Hangouts element of Google+ is arguably the service's killer feature -- and it can be a powerful weapon for anyone looking to build a following of like-minded individuals.

Hangouts lets you have one-on-one or group conversations via video and -- if you're so inclined -- share the video to your stream live or as an after-the-fact broadcast. Sarah Hill uses Hangouts to host interviews with people relevant to her field as well as to hold Q&A-style discussions with her followers.

"We're interacting with people face to face, not just chatting with their avatars," she says. "It's a deeper level of real-time engagement."

Sessions don't have to be limited to talking heads, either: Fraser Cain caught Google's attention with his creative use of Hangouts as a method for hosting "virtual star parties" -- public gatherings where amateur astronomers from around the world share views from their telescopes via their webcams. Cain starts the parties and shares them from his personal Google+ account.

"I wanted to demonstrate that this service would be really useful for astronomy and give some value to the people who are interested in this topic," he says.

Cain has certainly succeeded at that goal -- and has simultaneously managed to deliver some value to himself as well.

"There are all these intangible benefits you get," he says -- things like brand reinforcement and establishing one's reputation as an authority in a field. "And bar none, it's provided a platform for the most interesting conversations I've had anywhere."

And that, my friends, is what we call a plus.

JR Raphael is a Computerworld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. For more titillating tech talk, come hang with him on -- you guessed it -- Google+.

This article, Getting around Google+: Expand your circles -- and your influence, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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