What is Google +? A complete beginner’s guide


While any social network can offer new opportunities to improve communication and engagement, becoming familiar and understanding the nuances of a new network can be a bit of a challenge. It can at times feel like learning a new language, with specific vocabulary you have to get to grips with – if only to avoid the social embarrassment of accidentally asking a colleague how you can ‘like’ their recent Google+ posting …

So to help you get to grips with the Google+, here’s a brief guide to some of its key features and how they compare to other social networks you may already be familiar with.






One of the most important and unique features to G+, circles allow you to separate the posts that you see (and share) to different groups of people by creating ‘circles’. By setting up different circles for your friends, family, teachers and even groups of students, each time you post, G+ will give you the option to specify who sees the post. So you can make a post ‘public’ or visible only to specific ‘circles’ of people.

Compared to Facebook, which shows everything in a single news feed unless you personalise your settings, circles offer a simpler approach for those who want to easily be able to organise their social groups.






Pages are very similar to the profiles you create when you set up a Google+ account, but are generally used by organisations, brands and businesses as unlike a profile multiple administrators can have access. As in our very own Macmillan English Campus and onestopenglish pages, you can follow a page to keep up-to-date with their latest news.






A way of finding groups discussing certain interests, you can join public and private communities to interact with others who share interests similar to yours. Google+ automatically generates a list of communities it thinks you might be interested in, making it easy to discover relevant communities.






A feature which really makes Google+ stand out compared to other social networks are Hangouts, which act as an online meeting room for voice and video chat. Hangouts work in a similar way to Skype, or Blackboard Collaborate and the great thing (besides being free) about Hangouts is that they allow you to have up to 10 people simultaneously sharing video.

As an additional feature for those with Google+ pages, there’s also a ‘Hangouts On Air’ option which allows you to broadcast your videos by streaming them directly to your Google+ page and YouTube channel.


Essentially the G+ equivalent to a Facebook ‘like’. Just think of each +1 you give to a post or a page as a public stamp of approval.


Just as Twitter has a ‘Discover’ tab for you to find new content, Explore allows you to see what’s popular on Google+ so you can find new pages and people to follow. It also recognises hashtags so you can see what’s #trending.


The above is by no means an exhaustive list of the features of Google+. In fact, one of the things I’ve noticed with Google+ is that even after using it for a couple of months with our Macmillan English Campus page I still find that there are a lot of features I’ve yet to fully explore. Google have been extremely comprehensive in their G+ offering and once you get used to the layout, everything does feel very logically organised. It’s fairly straightforward easy to get set up with a Google account which covers G+ as well as all of Google’s other services. Google offer a lot of tips on how to get started. Alternatively, here’s a short video about how to set up an account.

If you’re already using Google+, let us know your thoughts and experiences of using the network and don’t forget to follow us! Our upcoming posts will look in more detail about how G+ features can be best put to use in teaching.





Read more in Julie’s Google + series by following the links below.


 Using Google+ in teaching

Using Google+ as a professional tool

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