The Art Of Managing Google+ Circles

Google finally answered my prayers for a good and usable social network. Google Plus (Google+ or G+ for short) is not a whole week old but it makes a lot of buzz (no pun intended). If you are one of those that managed to get in, make some contacts and play around you know why. While it might be seen as just another social network, and while it does sound and look quite familiar, there are some new features. The most praised one being circles. Which is unprecedented power of managing, sorting and organizing your contacts. Maybe it sounds trivial, but it actually changes the way we'll use social networks from now on. 

Problem is, now when all those people are not just "friends" (most of which being anything but friends) but can (and should) be organized in circles, how to do that in the most useful and efficient way. Here's my (rather early) attempt to make the most of it.

We have three concerns:

  • privacy
  • targeting
  • flooding prevention

Privacy – Simply put, you don't want your boss, co-workers, family and some other people to see the photos of you from the lastnight's party that still painfully rings inside your skull. And vacation photos are for the family and the closest group of friends and nobody else. As well as the status update that you just landed on XX airport and had a sandwich. 

Targeting – This one is similar to privacy except that it's the receiving end that suffers. Ideal social network delivers right messages to the right audience. Your friends and family are not interested in business related links that you want to share with your co-workers. You probably have several group of acquaintances with different interests so it's annoying to send all your stuff to all of them. The problem escalates if your social networking experience is bilingual as mine is, then a half of the messages your peers get is not even understandable to them. 

Flooding prevention – With privacy solved and all different networks and accounts coming under one roof, chances are that your list of Google+ contacts will count thousands of names. After all, it's Google contact list which contains all the emails from the inbox you hardly ever bother to delete. As a result, you might open G+ to check what's new and find yourself missing important stuff from family and friends in the endless torrent of status updates and photos and links shared. 

circles of hell circles according to Alighieri Dante

Important thing to remember is that circles are more like tags than folders, so one contact can be in more than one circle without the risk of duplicated messages from you. By no means you should organize concentric circles based on closeness only. Other thing is, you can have as many circles as you need and your contacts can't see which circles they are in nor the name of the circles.

My first step was to sort the people by the language. Both of those are quite huge and are intended for posts concerning general public (no privacy needed) just to keep everybody understand what I'm talking. 

Then a circle for the people I meet and hang around in person, and one or two subsets of it for really close people. One for those that have seen me making fool of myself in the pub and the other for those who are close and should remain that way by picturing me nice and decent. 

Then, topic oriented circles. One for Second Life, one for Tai Chi, one for clubbers and music people… you get the idea. Bosses and co-workers deserve one as well. These circles might as well have their subsets depending on how close and intimate are you with some people there. You'll probably want to have a circle or two for businesses, organizations and causes (similar to Facebook pages) as soon as those get implemented. And one for celebs and interesting people you follow Twitter-like style.

Of course, you have "blocked" circle as well. Some people are good only when muted. :)

google photo by Ana Belén Ramón

In essence, start with separated circles (they might be overlapping) based on interests. Then make inner-circles of closer friends for your privacy.

So with a nice collection of circles, some intersecting, some being part of larger circles, some not overlapping at all, you have a nice starting point for a fulfilling online life. Sure, things will change, people will jump from one circle to the other, but that's the reality of social life both off- and on-line. It would be wise to start organizing as soon as possible, while the number of your contacts is relatively small. 

With all this you already have a nice list of circles on the left-hand side and clicking each of them gives you filtered stream of posts from just that circle. Of course, you can make additional circles for this purpose only. Like: "must-read, "regular", "funny", "the bloody stream that takes 10 hours a day to read"…

This is an early attempt, based on four days of experience, chatting with nice people with the same problems and ex-Google's Paul Adam's presentation The Real Life Social Network. It's far from definitive wisdom, so I guess I might have a follow-up on this. In the meanwhile, I'd really like to hear your tips and tricks. 


  • We have put together a circle site that provides pre-built circles. Do you think it is time to bag the site and move onto something else or do you think we will have a future in sharing pre-built circles. For the advanced G+ user, this site is not good, but to the beginner, maybe it has a future???

  • I don't know…. having pre-built circles with lots of people seems like self-spamming move. Sure, there is a lot of people, especially those who seek self-promotion, that will join the fun, but for me it sounds more like those sites that give you hundreds of Twitter followers that never interact. Each to its own. 

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