Google’s Brilliant Shared Circle “Friend of a Friend” Strategy

Google's Brilliant Shared Circle "Friend of a Friend" Strategy

If you’re on Google+ there’s a good chance that over the past few days you’ve noticed a huge bump up in your number of followers. For some it’s just double or triple would you’d normally get on a given day. For others it’s like someone tied a rocket ship to their G+ account and sent it soaring into the atmosphere.

Alot of people are wondering what’s going on. Why has everyone’s follower account just skyrocketed — BLOWN UP. The answer is simple. Shared Circles.

Two days ago Google launched their latest feature for Google+, the ability to share your circles with others on the site and even publicly. When someone shares a circle you can add the entire circle at once to the contacts that you follow on the site, or you can pick and choose from different people in the circle.

All kinds of circles are being shared. Louis Gray shared this circle of people who work for Google. Paul Allen has this shared circle of VCs. Jeff Jarvis shared his circle of journalists on G+. Michelle Marie has this Cool Chicks on G+ circle. Robert Scoble has this circle of tech execs and entrepreneurs.

And then of course there are the photographers. Here’s Leo Laporte’s Photography Circle he talked about today on TWIT Photos. There are way too many photography shared circles bouncing around Google+ right now to even try and keep up.

Circles are limited to 250 people so I had to break my Kick Ass Photographers on G+ into two circles. You can find A-K here and L-Z here (by first name) — and totally sorry to people I may have left off my photographers circle list. I’m super unorganized and *know* that I’ve left off some amazing photographers. I’m already kicking myself hard in the shins for forgetting about some of my very best photography friends on this list.

I think my favorite circle shared so far is this one by Micah Wittman. Something about the Breakfast Club coming out when I was in 10th grade gives it a special place in my heart.

Anyways, circle sharing is exploding on G+ right now — and what is this doing? This is BLOWING up everyone’s follower account. People are discovering hundreds of new and interesting contacts and they can add them all in one fell swoop.

This is so, so, so, smart on Google’s part — for a number of reasons.

First, it just generates a ton of buzz for the site. People are happy and excited to see their follower counts grow. Many people are commenting that for the first time their follower counts on G+ are more than flickr or Twitter or Facebook or wherever else they hang out. If they weren’t invested in Google+ two days ago, they sure are now. The past two days have also been pure *fun* on Google+. Everybody’s in the best mood and loving seeing this happen.

Second, the way that followers are being added is ensuring that the *right* followers are being added. There is nothing like the recommendation of a friend when it comes to a high quality follower. Lots of sites have friend of a friend feature, but I’ve yet to see any site turn it on with turbo like Google+ has done here.

Who better to turn to for recommendations on entrepreneurs and tech execs than Robert Scoble? Who better to turn to find journalists than Jeff Jarvis? You know these people and trust their recommendations and by giving you access to their circles it *blows* up whomever they list. But even if you are not on these high profile lists, *everybody* is sharing circles — so the long tail kicks in — even someone with only 20 followers may end up on sister Sue’s my family members that I love the most shared circle.

Third, it builds community. People are thrilled when they are added to a circle. I’ve gotten so many thank yous today, bonds are strengthened — more of that feel good super positive pixie dust that gets sprinkled all over Google+.

Finally, I think this once and for all puts those lame “Google+ is a ghost town” articles by clueless disconnected journalists to rest. The activity over the past few days on G+ has been nothing short of explosive. If you’re missing it at this point, you really do have your head buried in the sand. It’s also a strong signal to anyone who is not on Google+ yet that this product is a winner and a big part of the future of your online life on the internet — you can keep waiting if you want to, but if you do you’re missing out on the best party on the web right now.

The end result is that we all get more interesting accounts to follow (in one fell swoop). People are excited. This feature was a home run by Google. People are far more invested in the network than they were 2 days ago and pretty much everybody in their own way is blowing up their numbers on the site.

Google+ continues to roll out innovation after innovation. Shared circles is a hit. Want to know why your follower count blew up the past 2 days, thank Google+’s shared circles.

By the way, I’m approaching 150,000 followers now on G+ myself after only a little over 3 months. G+ is the best place for social interaction on the web today (especially for photographers). That’s almost 8x the number of followers I have on Flickr after 7 years. Woah!

If you’re a photographer and want an audience for your work, you simply have to be on Google+.

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  1. You and Romain Guy made my followers list go all ‘splody today by adding me to public circles. It’s been awesome! I’ve more than doubled the number of followers in less than 24 hours, and I’ve discovered all kinds of new photographers to follow. Thanks, TH!

  2. Chris Sullivan says:

    Great post +Thomas Hawk, I agree with you, this is much better than the recommended people list they tried. This is the most exciting G+ has felt since the first week it opened.

  3. Thomas Hawk says:

    Chris, the great thing about shared circles is that almost every single person on G+ gets to participate. It really is a stroke of brilliance.

  4. Daniel James says:

    I just wanted to tell you that this was a fantastic article, I really enjoyed the read! As far as I know, I wasn’t on anyone’s public list, but I still got an extra 33 followers just today! I can sense that a lot of people are getting more and more excited about G+…its best days are still to come. I can’t wait.

  5. Raul Rios says:

    So when are you going to make the switch and point your blog to your G+ profile instead, and post there?

  6. Thomas Hawk says:

    Raul, I like having my own domain at for longer form articles. 🙂 It’s also where I’ve kept my archive of my longer form thoughts since 2004.

    But I know what you mean. I’ve been tempted more than once.

  7. Bryan says:

    Thomas, thanks for an insightful post once again. I wondered where all the new people were coming from, and when I stuck my head up from editing and stopped by here was the answer!

  8. Thomas, It is so funny when I think of that first photographer list that Trey started on G+. I remember having to mouse over each name and add them to a circle. This sharing of circles really allows new users to get into turbo drive FAST! You hit the nail on the head with that one.

  9. Great post by a great guy. The catchphrase on your profile nailed it, you really makes this Google+ experience even better. Thanks for your commitment to the G+ community, thanks for Kick Ass list, and many thanks for skyrocketing my number of followers too!
    Keep it up Thomas, you rock!

  10. Peter Tsai says:

    Great article Thomas and thank you! I’m one of the people who has seen their G+ numbers skyrocket by 2-3 thousand in just 24 hours thanks to being in your Google+ Photography Circle.

    I agree that this is a brilliant move by Google – I’m definitely excited to be on G+ and being able to interact with so many talented photographers from around the world on a deep level has reignited my passion for capturing images.

  11. Ben Collins says:

    There is a conundrum with this very positive development. Indeed, the signal to noise ratio on G+ is generally high at the moment, but now with so many new and interesting personalities generating content, how is it possible to tune it even further?

    As a broadcaster, it’s a huge boon. As a reader, it’s a new and interesting challenge.

  12. Amy Heiden says:

    Google gets more and more brilliant by the minute. They have got me hardly even posting on Facebook and I am most certainly not the only one of my 150 friends doing so. Your photog circle was responsible for a 30% gain in followers for me within the last 24 hours. It really is amazing how many people are being active on the site. Google+ has definitely been consuming all my free time lately. This of course is a great thing, but also a dangerous thing.

  13. Gordon Laing says:

    You nailed it there Thomas – I’ve been on such a high over the past 24 hours watching the numbers increase, although I’m not sure all my non G+ friends have appreciated my almost constant updates!

    Once again thankyou for including me in your circles and sharing them. It’s also been great to grab fab groups of folks in one go.

  14. Miku says:

    I just posted my small circle of iPhoneographers in Google+:

  15. Thanks for sharing this, have got them added 😛
    You and Google made it so easier!

  16. Jim Nix says:

    very true Thomas and well said! Shared circles is a brilliant move, and it’s making everyone happy. Thanks for including me in a shared circle – my follower count has trounced all those other sites combined!

  17. Steve Hale says:

    While mine hasn’t exploded by any means (maybe 40 total this week) it still has been awesome to meet some new people. I’m having a blast going through streams and articles. G+ def knocked this one out of the park!

  18. David Hunter says:

    Thomas you are a very profound member of the digital world. Your legacy will live long.


  19. ramadhan says:

    just want meet a new friend in G+

  20. Pradeep says:

    Thanks for this post. Found some amazing peers here. Love the lists!