How to start over with Google+

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Will Google+ ever replace Facebook? It’s difficult to imagine. While 15 million people—including tens of thousands representing businesses—have reportedly signed up for the beta, Google+ is still some 700 million users behind Facebook.

However, it’s clear that the search giant has created a social platform with interesting features—like Circles and Hangouts—worth checking out. And for me, Google+ represents more than a Facebook clone that lets me know I have new friends whenever I log into my Gmail or Google Reader. It’s a chance to rebuild my social network using what I learned from years of using Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

In many countries you can start your Google+ account now, by logging in here. Here’s a nice preview of what you’ll find there:

To be honest, I’m not the world’s biggest Google fan. I’ve even tried to get it out of my life. But I do recognize that there is an opportunity here to make my social interactions on the web more interesting with a little less risk. So here’s how you can start your social network over on Google+.

1. Know why you’re using a Google+.
When Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain used to complain about the burdens of fame, critics would say, “No one ever started a rock band to NOT become famous.” And no one goes on a social network to be ignored. We just want control over what kind of attention we get.

Google is a business that gives away the vast majority of its products for free. Why? The old saying goes, “If you aren’t paying, you are the product.” Google makes billions selling you to advertisers. When you search (or check your Gmail), you pay for it by experiencing ads. Search will always be the core of Google’s business. So what you share on Google+, if you allow it to be public, is likely to show up in a Google search.

Some say Google+ isn’t a vast improvement over Facebook. The same potential to share information you shouldn’t exists and soon even things like games and apps that create privacy problems on Facebook will appear on +. I agree. However, you have improved. You are get what is at stake when using a social network. You know that people have lost jobs and scholarships because of their social media presences. And in the US, your social networking history is even fair game for potential employers. Knowing all this, there are tools in Google+ that make sharing more logically and potentially safer.

If you’re at the point that you feel you still want to be social but you’re existing network doesn’t work anymore…. If you’re sick of having your information shared and being opted into new features all the time… If you just want to start over, Google+ is perfect for you.

2. Get your privacy settings right.
Are Facebook’s privacy settings purposely confusing or is there just so much going on with the site that they have to be complex? Both answers are true. Some features—like facial recognition, using your identity in ads and Instant Personalization—are, I believe, purposely hidden. Others just naturally are buried to make the site easy to use.

Google+ is still relatively simple. It will become more complex but you still can quickly get most of your privacy settings right. Here are the three most important settings.

Prevent anyone on Google+ from emailing you

As my social networks use has grown, my email has become more sacred. I use it for business and close family and friends, exclusively. Google+ as a default gives everyone on the network the right to email you.

To turn this off, go to the gear in the top right corner and select “Google+ Settings”.

Select “Profile and privacy”.

Next to Public profile information click “Edit visibility on profile”.

Under your profile image, you’ll a “Send an Email” box. Click on that.

Until, at least, you have your circles set uncheck the box next to “Allow people to email you from a link on your profile”.

Turn off email notifications

Go to the gear in the top right corner.

Click on Google+ settings.

On the left of the next screen click on “Google+”.

I recommend you uncheck every box on this screen. How will you know if you have any Google+ activity? There’s a notification box that will automatically pop up in red on the black interface bar that appears whenever you use any Google site.

Now, while you’re on this page.

Edit who can see your pictures and videos

On the bottom of the Google+ Settings screen, you’ll see “You can change the visibility of your photos and video tabs on your profile.”

Click on “photos” first.

Until you set up your Circles, you may want to turn this tab off.

When you’re done adjusting these settings, click save then go back in your browser and do the same thing for videos.

3. The most important step: Take your circles seriously.
The average Facebook user has 120 friends. They also follow over 100 groups, brands, celebrities and organization. This produces a tremendous amount of information. As a result, Facebook edits your feed to give you the updates you’re most likely to interact with.

You may be following people you haven’t talked with in years and missing updates from your mom. And you’re probably sharing everything with everyone—unless you use Lists or Groups, which are challenging. As a result, people are often sharing much more than they realize.

Google+ aims to fix that. You don’t want to share your travel plans with anyone but your family? Only Google+ that is easy if you take your Circles seriously. As you add new friends, place them in the right circles.

And as you share, only share with the Circles who you want to reach. It’s much simpler than Facebook’s Groups and just requires a little thought before each post.

More on Google+

Many people think Google+ isn’t just about competing with Facebook, it’s a social backbone for web. Regardless, these 21 Google+ Privacy Tips will put you ahead of the curve on the fastest growing social network in history.

Cheers,

Jason

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