Google+ Circles: What it Means for Your Personal Brand

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Posted by The Editors on July 12, 2011

Just when I finish a guide to using social media to build your personal brand, Google releases a potentially landscape-changing social sharing component. Really!? Really? Well, yeah, of course. Social media changes fast—the features available today could be tested and changed by tomorrow—which is why we made sure that the Brand Thyself! (released a month ago) would be as relevant in a year as it was last week.

But what happened last month is even more game-changing than I expected. During the last week of June, Google introduced its latest and best attempt to enter the social sharing space. 

So, have you heard of Google+ yet? If not, run a quick Google search or, better yet, scan Facebook and you’re sure to find at least a few comments along the lines of “Okay, so I have Google+… Now what am I supposed to do with it?” Let me answer that for you: Plenty. In this TechCrunch post, blogger MG Seigler says that the goal of Google+, according to project leads Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz, is to allow users to interact and manage relationships like we do in “real life.”

You’re not here for technology reviews—you’re here for career advice—so I’ll focus on how you can use Google’s new social sharing features to manage your online presence, increase your professional network, and strengthen your personal brand. Let’s start today with the most significant feature on the new platform: Circles.

Google designed Circles as a way for its users to easily manage who sees the content you post (similar to Facebook lists, but much more intuitive). Circles allows you and other Google+ users to divide your contacts into groups, keeping family separate from friends separate from coworkers, if you wish to do so. To organize your contacts, simply drag their faces into appropriate circle. Next time you want to share something from your Google+ account, you can either share it publicly or target it to specific groups of contacts.

I’m going to come out right now and say that I’m really into this feature—and that it could become personal branding gold if Google+ membership skyrockets as expected. Sure, right now I only have web developers and a few friends in my circles, but I can already imagine how great it will be when my contact list grows to include family, friends, and professional contacts.

As much as I believe in putting your best self forward no matter the audience, the value of being able to target content sharing and updates to specific groups is clear. Take me, for example. The jokes and gossip and feelings and links that I share with friends is rarely something I care to share with colleagues; likewise, the questions and comments and jokes and links I share with the web development team rarely have a place in my friends’ or family’s inbox.

If or when Google+ catches on, I’ll no longer waste time posting different updates to my LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. (Nobody on LinkedIn wants to know if I’m selling a concert ticket or couch, and most friends on Facebook don’t care about the cool new feature added to our e-commerce software.) I can share photos of my friends’ children to a small group of friends one second, and send out a public tweet regarding new WetFeet.com changes the next. Simple.

So even though most of your contacts aren’t active Google+ users yet, I suggest you start working with features like Circles now so that you’ll be prepared when they do.

Coming up: Using features like Sparks, suggested contacts, and more…

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