How I Set Up My Circles in Google Plus

Posted on Thursday, Jul 7, 2011

I’ve been playing around with Google Plus for about a week now. One of the major features of the product is the concept of “Circles”, which is similar (in a way) to Facebook “Friends Lists”. Here’s an overview of my personal Circle strategy.

What are Circles, anyway?

In a nutshell, a Circle is a group of Google Plus users. Circles serve primarily as a security boundary – when posting content to Plus, you can choose to only share it with certain Circles. I also have been experimenting with using Circles as a publishing boundary as well.

My Circles

The first thing I did was remove all of the “default” Circles (“Friends”, “Family”, “Acquaintances”, “Following”, etc). The reason for this is simple – your Circles are ordered alphabetically, however, the default ones always sort to the top. I wanted to be able to control the sorting, so I removed all of the defaults and replaced them with my own.

Here is a screenshot of my Circles:


Notice that there are basically three master groups – Family, Friends, and Work. Each of them contain sub-Circles (for example, “Work: Vendors” is a sub-Circle of “Work”, but everyone in any Work: * Circle is in the “Work: All” Circle). Creating the master Circles is a manual effort – you cannot (at this time) nest Circles, but I am doing it by hand.

Special Circles

Outside of the obvious groupings, you’ll notice two other Circles – “Famous People” and “Purgatory”.

Famous People

This is the Circle I created for folks like Gina Trapani or Robert Scoble – consider it similar to the “Following” default Circle. The idea here is to be able to easily look at those posts in a different stream than my more “personal” stream. It also makes it easier to find the “noisy” posters and remove them if needed.


I don’t know about you, but I am getting a lot of “adds” from people I don’t actually know…and even if I don’t know them, I have no idea if they are going to be interesting or not. When someone I don’t know adds me to one of their Circles (or I come across them in another section of Plus), I add them to this Circle. Once I have seen the content they post and determine that they are interesting, I move them into the appropriate other Circle. And if they turn out to be obnoxious, I just remove them altogether.

Circles for Publishing

Some of my Circles don’t seem to make sense from a privacy perspective – for example, why would I want to post something that only my blogging friends could see? For me, those Circles aren’t so much to keep other people out, but it’s from a perspective of controlling my publishing stream – my family, for example, won’t care when I post links to an article about a new version of the Thesis framework, but my blogger friends will. So those posts only get shared with the Friends: Bloggers Circle. It’s not to keep my family from seeing the posts, but to keep them from HAVING to see the posts. Make sense?

One More Tip

I highly recommend moving people from your Gmail contacts into appropriate Circles, even if they aren’t on Plus yet. That way, when they DO sign up with Plus, they will already be Circled. This wasn’t a big deal for me last week, but in the past few days, with lots more folks joining up, it was really nice to not have to manage them into the appropriate Circle at that time.

What about YOU? What tips and tricks have you come up with for managing your Circles? How are you using Circles to control your sharing on Plus? Let me know in the comments! And if you ARE a Plus user, don’t forget to check my out at

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