The great thing about Google+, and other social networks, is the ability to find interesting content based on your interests – and in the process meet new people. If you’re like me though, you post a lot of stuff about a lot of different things, and not everyone who follows you is necessarily interested in most of what you post but perhaps only one or two topics. Google just made it easier to regulate what you see from the people and pages you follow with new Google+ Collections for desktop and Android devices. As with most Google launches, Google+ Collections will be rolling out to everyone on Google+ over the next few days.
What are Google+ Collections?
So what exactly are Google+ Collections and how do they work? The easiest way to think of it is as a way to organize your posts, photos, and videos into categories. Once you have Collections set up, when you create a new post or share an existing post, you can set it to a specific Collection rather than sharing it to Public or a specific group. If your Collection is a Public Collection, the post can be seen publicly and users will see that it is part of a Collection. If your post is a Private Collection that you’ve set up to share with only a few other users or circles, then only those users would see the post.
So what’s the point in categorizing your posts? With Collections, those who follow you can choose to follow or unfollow your Collections on a per Collection basis, thus getting only posts from you based on the content they are interested in. Alternatively, someone can follow a Collection you set up without following you as well.
Personally I think this is a brilliant idea and instead of the poster being the one who decides which of their followers see what posts, their followers – the content consumer – gets to decide what posts they want to see in their stream. For example, I have a circle labelled Xbox One. Whenever I post or share Xbox related content, I share it to Public as well as my Xbox One circle so they get notified. Thankfully no one has unfollowed or blocked me (as far as I know), but that is a very big possibility using the circle method to share specific content. With Collections, I can simply create an Xbox One Collection, and move all my Xbox related posts into it and then it is up to my followers who are interested in it to follow that Collection. By default, if someone follows you they will automatically be set to follow any new Collection you create until at which time they choose to specifically un-follow that Collection.
Collections also solve an age-old Google+ user dilemma: saving posts to read later. There are a few workarounds for this: some users choose to “/sub” in the comments on a post, some simply reshare to their stream, and perhaps the best workaround I’ve seen (and personally use) is to create a private community with only themselves as a member and sharing posts to that community. However, with Collections all a Google+ user has to do is create a private Collection and share posts into that Collection. It’s much easier to access in my opinion and you also have the option to create multiple private Collections which you can then share to a main My Bookmarks type of Collection for easier viewing.
Google+ Collections 101: How To Setup and Use Collections
Now that we know what Collections are, let’s take a look into how to setup and use Collections. Note that some of these steps and functionality are likely to change over time and we’ll try and keep this updated!
Create a collection
Once Collections have been enabled on your profile, you can access them in two ways. When you visit your profile or Google+ page (yes Collections work for pages too!), you will see a new Collections tab between Posts and Photos.
Alternatively you can use the Google+ menu and select Collections from there.
If accessing it from the button on your profile page, you’ll see a Collections overview and a link to create a Collection.
If accessing it from the menu, you’ll be taken to your Collections home page, which of course will be blank but once you add a few Collections you’ll see something similar to the screen below.
To create a new Collection, click on the Create a Collection button or the Create a Collection box in the upper left corner of the Collections home page.
In the box that pops up, enter a name for your Collection. NOTE: You cannot start your Collection name with a hashtag (#).
You can also set the visibility of your Collection to Public (everyone will be able to see and follow your Collection), your Google Apps domain (if you have one), Your Circles (only those in your Circles can view your Collections), Only You (great for having a Collection to use as a Google+ bookmark system), and Custom. In Custom you can set a Collection to be visible to a specific circle or even group of individuals. You can also pick a circle and add a few people as well.
NOTE 1: Once you set your Collection visible to only you, you CANNOT CHANGE IT and will have to delete and re-create the Collection if you wish to change who can view it. This is due to Google’s privacy settings and works the same way as setting visibility of posts.
NOTE 2: If you are using Google+ with a Google Apps account, using Your Circles or Custom will only let people within your GApps domain access it. So if you have a circle with people from your GApps domain and other domains or Gmail account users and choose to restrict your Collection visibility to Your Circles, a specific circle, or select individuals, only those in your GApps domain will be able to see your posts. Hopefully we’ll see GApps accounts work identically to regular Gmail accounts for setting Collection visibility down the road. Also, if you are using a GApps account on Google+, the default Collection visibility is set to your domain so be sure to change it to Public before creating your Collection.
After you click Create, your Collection will be created with a random image and colour and you should see something similar to the screenshot below.
To change the featured image and colour, click on the Customize button to the right of the header area. The current size of the full image is 1080×607 pixels, but Google+ Collections “folds” the top and bottom of the image when viewing the Collection page and viewers will have to click on it to expand to see the full image. If you create a 1080×607 image, the top and bottom 124 pixels will be cropped in the “folded” view. Alternatively, you can use a 1920×1080 image keeping in mind that the top and bottom 230px will be cut off. A good rule of thumb to remember is the main Collection image will lose the top and bottom 21% of the height when in “folded” view, so create your images accordingly.
Once you click on the Customize button, you can change the Collection image and main colour of the Collection page. You can select from a sample set of images, or you can click on Add your own to upload an image or select one from your Google+ Photo library.
Once you’ve made your changes, click on Save Collection and your Collection will be refreshed with the updated image and colour.
One would think that being able to rename your Collection would be in the same menu, but instead it’s under the Edit menu (gear icon) to the left of the Customize link.
Here you can rename your Collection or set the default behaviour.
If you check the “People that have you in circles automatically follow this collection”, then anyone who follows you will automatically see posts that you have in your Collection. If you deselect it, then your followers will have to explicitly follow that Collection in order to see anything you post to it. Personally I’d recommend on letting people opt out of specific Collections but there is a case where you may want to temporarily deselect it as I’ll discuss further below.
The current limit on the number of Collections you can create is 50.
Moving Posts to Collections
Because Collections are brand new, you may want to create a few based on what you post and then move existing posts into those Collections. The move functionality was added in order to help people migrate old posts which allows you to move your post and keep the original posting date intact. When you move a post, it will retain its original visibility settings and until someone unfollows the Collection you moved the post to, they will still see the post.
When you move a post there are a few caveats. If it’s a post you originally created or a post you reshared from someone else, it will be moved to your Collection. If it’s a post from a community, reshared from someone else who shared it to a community, or already moved to another Collection, it will be shared to the Collection. You also cannot move private posts into a Collection.
IMPORTANT: Before we get into moving posts, there are a few tips before you start moving your existing posts into Collections. As mentioned in the previous section, you may want to use the Edit collection dialog and disable the “people that have you in circles automatically follow this collection” to reduce the possibility of them seeing a flood of reshared posts in your stream, especially if you are planning on “moving” posts originally shared to communities to a Collection. After you’ve completed moving the posts to your Collection, you can re-enable this. Google has also added a coalescing feature which rolls up multiple posts from the same Collection. If you move 15 posts to a Collection, or create a few new posts in a relatively short time, people who follow that Collection will see a message showing how many you posted to the Collection instead of each individual post.
Unfortunately you’ll have to move your posts one at a time and the easiest way to do this is simply to go through your stream and start at the top and work your way back. Alternatively, you can search on a specific keyword and restrict it to posts for you to narrow down the number of posts you may want to move to a specific Collection, but this doesn’t always catch all the posts you may want to move.
You can tell if a post is in a Collection as it will have a new header on it indicating what Collection it is a part of.
To move a post to a Collection, select the drop down triangle to the right of the share button on your post.
After you click it, you will get a list of your existing Collections at which point you simply click on the Collection you want to move your post to. TIP: check the text at the top of your Collection list, if it says Move you’re moving your post, if it says Reshare then the post meets one of the requirements that will reshare it instead of moving it to a Collection.
NOTE: After you click on the Collection name you want to move the post to, you will see a notification at the top of your stream but the post will not update with the Collection header. Once you refresh the post or stream you’ll see the Collection header the post has been assigned to.
A second way to move a post to a Collection is using the drop down menu at the top of the post where you would access the edit, delete, and other post options. The Move post to collection option sits at the bottom of the options list.
Unlike the previous method, you’ll see a dialog box asking which Collection you want to move it to. Select the Collection, click the “Move to collection” button and as before you’ll see a message at the top of your stream verifying that the post has been moved.
Removing Post From Collection
Removing a post from a Collection is pretty simple. Using the drop down menu at the top of the post, select the “Remove post from collection” option.
You’ll receive a confirmation prompt and if you click “Remove” then you’ll receive a confirmation that the post has been removed.
Creating New Posts For Collections
As with creating a new Collection, there are two ways to create a new post. The easiest way is to post as you normally would, and in the To: box, type as you normally would to select a circle except you select the Collection you want the post to be a part of.
The second way is to go to the actual Collection you want the new post to be part of and create your post that way. If you choose to do it this way, the To: box is preset to the Collection you are in and you can’t change it.
NOTE: You cannot create a post and and specify both a Collection and a Circle, you must choose one or the other. You can however create a post and specify both a Collection and specific individuals.
Sharing Posts (or Collections) To A Collection
When sharing a post to a Collection, simply share as you normally would but instead of selecting Public or a circle to share to, select the Collection you want the post to be shared to.
A couple of things to note here. If you use the share button, you’ll get the reshare format which allows you to add your comments to the share and select what Collection you want to share it to before sharing.
If you share with the drop down beside the share button, you’ll get a list of your Collections. If you select a Collection from this list, your post will be shared without giving you the opportunity to add your comments before you share is posted. If you select the Reshare link at the top you will be given the opportunity to add your comments.
You can also share a Collection to another Collection by going to the Collection page you want . The shared Collection will appear as a post with the Collection information in it allowing viewers to click through to view the posts in that Collection.
NOTE: As with creating a new post, you cannot share a post to both a Collection and a Circle, you must choose one or the other. You can however share a post to both a Collection and specified individuals.
As a Collection creator, you have the option to set a Collection to be followed by everyone who follows you, or inversely not followed by default. Unlike sharing to a specific Circle, the big bonus about Collections is that it gives your followers – and people who don’t follow you – the ability to follow Collections that interest them (as well as unfollow Collections that don’t). In order to follow or unfollow a Collection, head over to the Collections tab of the Google+ profile or page that owns the Collection. If you are already following a collection, you’ll see FOLLOWING in that Collection card, if you’re not then you will see FOLLOW in the card. Simply click on FOLLOWING or FOLLOW to unfollow or follow a Collection.
NOTE: Your choice to follow or unfollow a Collection only affects your Google+ stream. When you visit a users profile, you will see all Public posts under the posts tab regardless if you follow the Collection they belong to.
One of the many great things about Collections is that once you are following a Collection, you can go to that Collection page and enable notifications so you’ll never miss a post that’s posted to or shared with that Collection.
At this time the current number of Collections that you can directly follow is 1000. The Collections that are followed implicitly through your circles do not count towards this limit. If you want to get a jump start on following some great Collections, you can check out the Featured Collections list – be sure to refresh as there’s quite a few and you’re sure to find at least a couple that appeal to you.
Using Collections With Google+ Android App
Unfortunately Collections is being launched with desktop and Android support only, with iOS support coming at some point down the road. The way you move and share posts to Collections functions pretty much the same as it does on the desktop but there are a few differences in creating a Collection on mobile.
When you first see a post that is part of a Collection on the Google+ Android app, you’ll see an info box indicating that the post is part of a Collection.
Once you select “Learn more”, you’ll be taken through a series of overview posts and then prompted to create your first Collection or explore existing Collections.
After you select “Create & Customize”, you can create a Collection by entering the title and setting the privacy.
After you add a title, you’ll be able to edit your Collection by adding a custom image or swiping to change the colour of your Collection.
After you’ve chosen a colour and selected a photo, your Collection is live and ready to use.
You can now share posts to your new Collection in the same way as you would create or share posts to circles. To edit or delete a Collection, navigate to the Collection you want to modify and select the three dot menu for a list of options.
And there you have the condensed look at creating, editing, and deleting Collections on the Google+ Android device.
And there you have Google+ Collections in a (very big) nutshell. As mentioned above, I’m excited to see this functionality coming to Google+ and while it has a few issues, it’s pretty solid so far and I can see multiple uses for it. In the end, I plan on leaving my Collections public and letting people choose which ones to follow or unfollow, and for private or targeted posts I’ll continue to use Circles or tag individuals as opposed to creating private Collections. The only Private Collection I plan on having are for my Google+ “bookmarking” system which will replace the Private Community I have to bookmark favourite posts.
Let us know what you think about the new Google+ Collections and how you plan on using them, or post some of your favourite Collections in the comments below, or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.
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