The Best Social Network You’re Not Using (Yet)

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I’m excited to serve as a guest moderator for tonight’s official #gafechat which was founded by Kelly Fitzgerald. Tonight I’ll be joining Kelly from 8:00-9:00 CST and leading a discussion on using Google+ for social learning. Below are my tips on how to get started with the best social network you’re not (yet) using. You can access tonight’s questions by clicking here. 

1. Create Your Google+ Identity 

Begin building your Google+ brand and identity by adding a profile picture and cover photo. People like to see who they are connecting with! Next create what Google+ calls your story; a tagline, introduction, and bragging rights. You may also include education, employment, contact information and more. Think of your Google+ profile as a cross between the About page on Facebook (you can get personal if you want) and your summary on LinkedIn (or you can keep it strictly professional). Keep in mind that if you share nothing about yourself, you may find it challenging to build a network on Google+ which is really the point of joining in the first place. You can check out my Google+ profile here. 

Important note: you can control the visibility of each piece of your profile. In other words, you can make it only visible to you (private), public, circles, extended circles (think of this as friends and friends of friends).

Profile story

 

2. Create Circles 

Every time you go to plus.google.com you will be taken to the home page in Google+. You will see a share what’s new box (think status update), upcoming events, the latest posts, and a You May Know section. Every time you sign into Google+, there will be a suggested list of people who you can add to your circles. Circles are a way to organize who you connect with. By default you have the circles Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and Following. Each time you add someone, you can add them to a particular existing circle, or create a new custom circle. It’s equivalent to creating a List on Twitter. Whoever you add to your circles, does not necessarily have to add you back. Similarly when you follow someone on Twitter, they don’t have to follow you back.

3. Start Connecting by Sharing Content

Google+ provides you with six different options for sharing content: text (no character limit), photos, links, videos, events, and polls.  You also have the option to specify your audience; public, a community, certain circles, or individuals. Don’t expect to build a network by sharing nothing. Sure you’ll be able to learn from others by lurking on Google+, similar to how you would learn by lurking on Twitter, but if your goal is meaningful connection through developing relationships, you’ll need to share content and/or ask questions and engage in discussion. I believe making connections on Google+ is somewhat easier than Twitter. First, there’s a spirit of camaraderie and helpfulness on Google+ that I see lacking on Twitter. Yes, there are lots of retweets, link sharing, thank you’s and virtual high-fives on Twitter; however I often see Tweets from people asking questions, but the question go unanswered. This just doesn’t happen to me. I see people with literally thousands of followers ask a question on Twitter to their PLN only to have it go unanswered…lost…in the Twittosphere…forever. But on Google+ I get the sense people are engaged and invested in helping others. This is why I find Google+ so appealing. Oh, and the +1 on Google+ is essentially showing approval of a post. It’s similar to a “Like” on Facebook. The reshare button is also a great way to show you are an active user of G+, just exercise good Google+ etiquette by giving credit to the person who originally shared the post. The bottom line is that like any social network, you get out of it what you put into it. I’ve learned a lot from others on both Twitter and Google+ which is why I use both platforms.

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Here’s an example of a post in a community. There are lots of subcategories to make your post as specific as possible.

 

4. Join or Create Google+ Communities

Communities are where the Google magic happens. Joining a community is the best way to target your learning experience and connect with others who are searching for the same types of information, resources, events, and discussion topics as you are. For example, if you are looking for answers to questions about Google Classroom, join the Classroom Community; there are over 18,000 members! If you are a technology integrator, join the Instructional Technology Integrators and Coaches community. If you are a Google Apps for Education school, join your state Google Educator Group or the Connected Classrooms community.

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Here’s what you need to know about communities:

-they can be public or private (sometimes you can request access to join a private community)
-you can search for and join existing communities
-you can create your own community (public or private)
-as a community owner, you can create sub categories which help members organize their posts (like tagging)
-notifications can be turned on or off for each community
-keep notifications turned on for communities that you get the most out of
-join communities that have a strong moderator/owner who doesn’t allow spam (this happens now and then)
-don’t reinvent the community wheel; there is likely already an established community for what you are looking for

I hope these tips have been helpful and that you will give Google+ a try. I only advocate for edtech tools which I personally use and those which have impacted my career as an educator in a positive way. It’s important to understand that it’s people, not tools, that have changed how I learn. So if you are looking to expand your network beyond Twitter and connect with smart, interesting, and helpful people, then take my advice and start using Google+ today!

You won’t regret it! See you on #gafechat!

 

 

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