Google this year launched its own social network to rival Facebook. Google+ lets you share photos, chat with friends and leave them messages and comments. Your acquaintances are grouped into ‘circles’, which differentiate between family, friends and colleagues. Google hopes that its approach to social networking will bring the “nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software”.

More than 750 million of us are already using Facebook, and over time will have built up a strong profile, uploaded a huge collection of images and connected with several long-lost friends. So why change? After all, this isn’t Google’s first foray into social media: Buzz and Wave attempted to fill a similar spot but failed to become popular with users.

One reason might be Google+’s group video-chat feature, Hangouts. Google led the way with its group-calling functionality, although it’s since been adopted by Facebook with Skype.

Another reason is Huddle, group instant messaging that’s accessible from a mobile phone. Facebook has yet to launch a rival feature. We also like Google+’s instant photo-upload feature, which lets you quickly add snaps captured on a mobile phone.

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Google+’s biggest draw, however, is its integration with the company’s other services. Google will build Google+ social-networking tools into most of its existing services, from Google Search and Google Docs to YouTube. The social network already features in the top navigation bar within most Google products, allowing you to monitor Google+ events and share content without leaving the service you’re using.

Millions of us use Gmail, Google Docs, Search and other such free services. With Google+ bound so tightly to them, it may become counterproductive to navigate to another site to conduct our social networking.

Here, we’ll show you how to set up and start using Google+. But business users need not apply – for now, at least.

Get started with Google+

Step 1. To join Google+, head to Enter your name and gender and add a photo. This must be your real name. Click Join.

Google+ 1

Step 2. Enter the rest of your details – such as your employment and education information – on the Welcome page, then click ‘Complete your profile’. It’s worth reading up on how and where Google shares any information you provide or stores details of your Google+ activity, since its terms vary between services.

Google+ 2

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