What is a Google+ "Circle"?
Google+ was developed on a very simple yet powerful foundation. Rather than adding friends into one community base or following list, you can segment your contacts by adding them into what are called "circles". You can label your circles as anything you wish, such as "Friends", "Network Partners", or even "Customers". You can also have as many circles without limits.
The best thing about your circles is that they are kept private, so that even when you add someone to your circle, they only see that you've added them as a connection, not what circle you added them into.
When you first join Google+, you will want to begin by creating a handful of circles, with each one categorized based on the people you’re in contact with.
For example, you might create a circle for “Family”, “Friends”, “Partners” or even “Customers”.
By creating individual circles for each group of contacts, you can post content that goes out only to specific audiences, allowing you to "tailor" your content and updates based so that they are shared only with specific groups of people.
Why are Circles a Good Thing?
This is VERY powerful, because instead of posting an update as you would on Facebook or Twitter, and your entire following base being able to see it, you can create content around specific audiences, which gives you the opportunity to connect in a very different, and far more personalized way. It’s social segmenting at its best!
Google+ offers other special features as well, including “Stream” which is the newsfeed from those you have chosen to add to your circles as well as your own posts and updates.
You can view current updates from within your personal stream by logging into your Google+ account and clicking on your username, or by visiting the main page of your profile.
Google+ also introduced “Hangouts” which offers live, multi-person video chat between Google+ users.
You can set your status as available or offline, and when you’re active, people from within your circles are able to connect with you via video live feed. In fact, you can have as many people within a video channel as you wish – absolutely free!
And there’s also Sparks, a recommendation based search engine.
With Sparks, you are able to share interesting content, websites and information with those within your circles.
All you have to do is subscribe to the live feeds and receive content based around your chosen topics or interests. The Sparks feed is available to you in over 40 different languages.
You can also choose to share photos, videos and links with everyone within your circles, as well as those that have added you to their personal contact list.
Don't forget Google+ Huddle
Bundled into this feature-rich social network, Google+ also introduced “Huddle”, which is a powerful text based messaging service that enables you to send instant text messages to individuals, or groups of people that you are contact with.
There are other features that have been introduced to Google+ users as well, including +Mobile, allowing you to sync your Google+ account to any mobile device such as an iPhone.
You can upload photos instantly, and even use your phone’s built-in GPS to tag places, and allow your contacts to keep up with you’re doing!
You can also optionally add locations to your Google+ updates, so that your contacts can see where you are at any given time, by adding a location link to every Google+ post you make!
In addition, you can take advantage of Google+’s “Instant Upload” utility, which enables you to upload photos directly from your mobile device.
You can choose to add your photos to a public or private album, and set permissions so that only specific circles (or all of your circles) can see them.
You can opt to receive updates and alerts of when Google+ goes live by visiting: https://plus.google.com/up/start/?et=sw&type=st and subscribing to their notification list.
You can also create an account by requesting an invite from someone you know who is already using Google+.