When Google Plus first came out, did you think that the last thing you need is another social network to manage? We get it. However there are so many compelling reasons to use Google Plus, that learning how to use it quickly and easily is paramount. Don’t believe it? Give Is Google Plus a Plus For your Business a read and decide for yourself.
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Google Plus doesn’t offer a programming interface available, and that makes it harder to find tools to automate your posts and to optimize your Google Plus experience. Fear not: this cheat sheet includes a bevy of tools, browser add-ins and other handy things to know about Google Plus. We'll even show you how to post and share posts.
How to Use Google Plus
The lack of an API or Application Programming Interface for Google Plus means you won’t find many tools to pre-schedule posts to go live at a later date. If you're not up for logging in every time you want to post something, you'll need to download and install the Chrome browser, because it offers additional Google Plus functionality.
Schedule a Post
Some handy plug-ins for Chrome can make your Google Plus experience better. One of these extensions -- Do Share – lets you create a Google Plus post ahead of time, and it will go live at a time that you specify. However, this extension comes with a few gotchas; your computer needs to be connected to the Internet at the time the post is scheduled to go out. And, since the Chrome browser extension pushes the post live, Chrome must open and running for the push to occur.
You can find any extension for Chrome simply by typing its name into the Chrome browser address bar.
Figure 1: The Extended Share extension for Chrome makes it easy to share Google Plus posts with other social networks.
Share Posts Directly to Other Sites
If you already use other social network sites, then you probably know that there are ways to take content from Twitter and repost it automatically to Facebook, for example. But pushing content to Google Plus from other social networks isn't easy; if you want to simplify your work life, create your posts in Google Plus first, and then take them to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.
One tool for this task is called Extended Share. This extension takes a post that you have already made in your Google Plus stream and gives you the option to share it on a number of sites, including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and others. You add icons for each service you want to use, and then you can repost from Google Plus to any of those sites easily -- even to a Facebook business page. The posts aren't auto-shared; you choose the posts you want to share and the specific service for each post.
Extensions to Help You Assemble a Post
Two other tools that are handy for creating Google Plus posts: a screen capture tool and a tool for shortening URLs. There are a number of choices, but we like Screen Capture by Google as a screen capture tool and, for shortening URLs, either goog.gl URL shortener, or Bitly.
Both tools double as Chrome extensions. They load into Chrome, and you access them from its main toolbar. Together, they make posting to Google Plus faster and easier.
Formatting Text for a Post
There are a couple of ways to format text in a Google Plus post. You can bold text by surrounding the text with asterisks such as *this is bold*. You italicize text by adding underscores around it such as _this is italic text_ and, should you desire strikethrough text, you use dashes to signify it -strikethrough-.
Understand Google Plus Terminology
Understanding the Google Plus features and terminology will help you interact more effectively with other people on social network.
When you first follow someone, they receive a notification that you are following them. They can follow you back if they want, but it's not required. When you follow someone, you see all the posts that they have made public, and you see what they post to a Circle if they have included you in that circle. If you choose to un-follow a person, they won't know. They also never know which Circle or Circles you've put them in.
Figure 2: The Do Share extension lets you schedule posts to Google Plus.
You organize the people you follow into Google Plus circles. You can create circles of customers or suppliers so you can interact and share posts with a limited group with a specific interest. You can also adjust the volume on a Circle so you can see more or less of the content that each circle posts. Circles are easier to manage when using Chrome, because you can easily drag and drop people from one circle to another.
If you see a post that you like from someone else you can click the +1 button and effectively "Plus one" them. This is similar to a Like on Facebook except that the person who posted doesn't have to be following you. You can +1 anyone's post that you see.
When you Share someone's post with any of your Circles, everyone in those Circles will see it. In this way you are spreading the post around so that the people following you will see it.
Commenting on a post lets you join and contribute to the conversation of that post. To mention or "tip your hat" to someone in a comment or a post, you +mention them by prefixing their Google Plus name with a plus symbol. They receive a notification that you have mentioned them in the comment or post.
Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com
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