Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Using Google+ Collections Effectively

Now that Collections have been with us for a while I figured it was time to update this post on the latest features.

So what are these collection things anyway? 

You have probably noticed Google+ promotes collections now

When you see them, you see those that are featured, the ones you're already following and those that you've created each separated into their own tab.

Featured collections come from people all throughout the Google+ family. They may be members of the Crea+e program,  or they've been chosen based on their excellent well curated content. Looking through featured collections is probably the best way today of finding new content in the plus. They are a great way for new users to build a quality stream and for oldies like me to reinvigorate what they see every day through new and interesting people and the topics they most like to share.

The Following tab has the collections you already follow. You can be following collections in two ways, in fact you're probably already following some even if you've never looked at Collections before, how? When people make a collection they can choose whether people who follow them automatically follow their new collection or if they need to explicitly follow it. This is a very cool feature and has one more facet. You can follow one or more collections from a person without following the person, you can also unfollow collections without unfollowing the person. Perhaps there is someone you follow who posts really interesting art drawings into a drawings collection and you like those posts, but they're also posting a lot on politics into a politics collection and you don't enjoy them. Simple unfollow the politics collection. No more politics.

Yours is probably self explanatory. To cover all the bases, this is where the list of your collections that you've made is shown and is the place where you can edit them.

Making your own collections

Collections are a group of posts that you have selected to combine for some reason. They might be a common theme, they might be things you love, they can be anything you want to have in a collection. They can be your posts, they can be other people's as long as they're public. They're handy for most people and the ultimate dream of the obsessively compulsive among us. Remember collections is about posts not about images. If you want to collect images, you have to collect the post which contains the images or make one that does into your collection.

Collections can be

  • private only you can see its content;
  • shared with your circles anyone in your circles can see it;
  • custom  you choose which circle or circles can see it; or
  • public anyone can see it.
Think carefully because once you've made a collection you cannot change its visibility scope.

Where do I start?

Open the Collections page and then open up the Yours tab. To get started, hit that big plus button on the Collections tab. Next you'll be prompted for a name and scope of visibility.

Have a think about what you want to collect, for me as a photographer, they naturally become collections of my favourite areas of photography. Does that mean I post photos or albums to them? No you can't do that, collections are about posts remember? Of course you can share your album or photos into the collection as new posts but take care - everything you add to a public collection also appears in your home stream unless you move it. If you've already got existing posts you want to collect then you can move them instead of share them.

Let's make a collection called "Test" and have a bit of a play to work out what's going on.

Let's make this one public. Go ahead and hit the big button and create your first collection now.

Your collection will default to being automatically followed by your followers. You can edit this later.

The collection needs two things, a short meaningful name and a tagline of up to 80 characters to describe the content.

Hit the create button at the bottom of the pop up.

Our collection is now created with a default background and cover photo.

Collections are flexible and agile. You can change just about anything about your collection at any time such as

  • Cover photo
  • Name
  • Tagline
  • Colour
  • and whether people automatically follow if they follow you.
The only unchangeable is the visibility, once you've made a collection that sticks.

When you choose a photo, you can select one of a number of free to use stock images, or if you prefer your own you can choose one from your Google Photos or upload an new image.

Go ahead and do that now if you wish, or just cancel out and do that bit later if you want.

Start collecting

There are basically three ways to get content into your collection:
  • Share a new post directly to the collection
  • Share an existing public post (can be anyone's as long as it's public)
  • Move an existing post of your own
Why three options? At first you'll likely mostly use Move and Share to manage your existing content and categorise it.

Making a new post in a collection

Lets do a little experiment to see the difference. First up, lets make a new post. Go ahead and use the normal post feature from inside your collection to make a post within this collection.

There, now you've done your first Collection post. Note that since this is a public collection it also appears in your home home stream? Its there AND in the collection but it's only one post. There is no copy. More on that later.

You can also share a new or existing post directly into a collection from your home stream. Lets take an existing post from our profile and share it into the collection. This will make a new copy of the post and it will also appear again in your home stream. I find sharing is most useful if you're collecting other people's posts. Use the normal share functionality, when you choose who to Share With (I really hope this nest of popups is cleaned up soon) you'll notice that your collections are top of list for destinations.

This makes a new post just like any other share.

That's great for new posts, but what about collecting my existing posts?

If the post is yours and public you will be able to move it into a collection. This will collect the post and leave it visible in your home stream without making a new copy and without it showing up in your home stream again. Click on the post in your profile stream (or anywhere else you see it) to get the three dots menu.

Open the three dots menu and select Move Post to Collection

A new pop up opens for you to choose the destination

That's it. The post is still in your home stream and is now part of the collection.

Can I collect other people's posts?

Yes, but there are restrictions. You have to share them, they cannot be moved (after all they're not yours). You can share public posts and posts from public communities into public collections. You cannot share private posts or posts from private communities into public collections.

When do I share and when do I move?

Always move any existing posts of your own. When collections first came out I collected all of the significant photography posts I made since I first came to g+ in 2011. Moving them meant only I knew about it, could you imagine if I had shared those thousands of posts again? All my followers would have muted or blocked me! If you want to collect someone else's posts then you have to share it again and this will appear in your home stream.

The Visibility Scope

Now one last thing for this beginners exercise - remember how collections have a visibility scope? This is really important and powerful and is the difference between collections and similar things on other platforms. You can
  • Follow a person and all of their collections (this is the default)
  • A person but none of their collections
  • A person and some of their collections
  • Just collections without the person
As an example, there is a person I know who shares lovely photographs that he makes, but he also shares a lot of information about SEO - something I could care less about. I can (and have) followed just his photography collection. Basically I uncircled him then followed his collection. Now I can see just his photography posts in my stream without the other stuff which is awesome.

As they say in the movie... "...one more thing..." DELETE!

Don't delete a collection which contains posts you want to keep without moving them out into another collection first as deleting the collection deletes all the posts in the collection.

Now get out of here and play

The options are many. Experiment, play the world is yours. Enjoy. Send feedback on Collections to help shape the future of this powerful feature. Collections sets g+ apart from other social platforms as none of them have this concept.