You’ve received an invite for Google+ and now you are all signed up. To really get started with Google’s new social network, you’ll want to update your profile, change your privacy settings, and then set up and manage Circles. You’ll then be ready to start sharing updates and engaging in conversation with other Google+ users. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you use Google+.

Formatting and Shortcuts. Google+ features the ability to use several formatting shortcuts to create bold and italicized words. For example, *this* becomes this. To make a word italicized, pad the word with underscores. For example, _this_ becomes this. You can also strikeout a word by padding the word with hyphens. For example, -this- becomes this. To navigate through your Google+ stream, try keyboard shortcuts, such as the following:

j: In the stream, you can click ‘j’ to navigate down to the next item.
k: Navigate up.
q: While on the Home tab, press twice the q letter on the keyboard to search and add people to your chat list.
Space Bar: Scroll down stream.
Shift + Space Bar: Scroll up stream.
Tab: Scrolls through comments/users on a post.
Enter: Hitting Enter when focused on a post opens up the comment box.
Tab + Enter: End comment.

change google plus privacyPrivacy Settings. You can choose what information on your profile is visible to the public by clicking on Edit Profile button when viewing your profile. Hover over any area of your profile to change visibility settings for that module. You can change settings for almost any information about you. You can also set the visibility of the button which allows people viewing your profile to email you. Just hover over the button when editing your profile and then click on it to choose whether to Allow people to email me from a link on my profile. Then, choose who can email you. (Note that your actual email address will be hidden from the sender.) If you want to remove your Google+ profile from being included in search results, this option can be found at the bottom of your profile. Hover over and click the Search Visibility module and uncheck the box to Help others find my profile in search results to be excluded from search. Click here to read more about other privacy settings you can change in your Google+ profile.

Circles. After you set your privacy settings, navigate to your Circles page to see who is in your circles, people who have added you to circles, and the link to find and invite people to Google+. This last link will show you people you may know on Google+, based on your contact list in Gmail. You can click on each name, even multiple names at a time, to add them to circles, which are groups of contacts. These circles act as lists and filters for content your read and publish. When you share an update, you can choose which circle or circles can see what you share. (There is also an option to default what you share to public, too.) Google+ starts you off with a few circles, but you should feel free to micromanage circles and create as many specific sets of people as possible. This is beneficial not only control who reads your Google+ updates, but Circles act as lists for you to read, similar to Twitter or Facebook. If you only want to read updates from your family, you can create a family circle and click on that stream on the Google+ homepage to only see updates from your parents or little sister — granted that they share those updates with you.

Notifications. By default, you will receive notifications both in your Google toolbar and via email when you are mentioned in a post, when someone shares a post directly with you, or when someone comments on a post either you created or after you comment on someone else’s posts. You will also be notified when you are added to a circle, tagged in photos, or when someone starts a huddle conversation with you. You can turn these notifications off by either muting a post, disabling email notifications, or blocking Google+ notifications. Here’s how you can change your notification settings in Google+.

Adding Content. You can add photos, videos, or links to your posts by dragging content directly to your share box. Just drag a file from your desktop or a link from into your share box. You can also click the camera button in the share box to add photos from your computer or from your Android phone. You can also add a video manually by clicking on the video button, or add a link by clicking on the link button.

How to tag someone on Google PlusTagging Someone. Like other social networks, Google+ features the ability to tag someone. Just start start typing @ or + followed by their name. A dropdown list will appear, suggesting people you’ve already circled first and then moving on to people you haven’t circled if no matching names from within your circles are found.

Direct Messaging. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Google does not have a way to directly or privately message someone. Since some Google+ users have disabled the ability to email them, you may need to share privately with this person. To do this, start typing an update in your stream on Google+ and then choose to share this update with only the person whom you wish to receive your private message. Then immediately after you share the post, click the triangle in the upper right hand corner of the post you just sent to reveal options for the post, and select Disable reshare. This will prevent the private message from being shared and becoming not private. Disable reshare works for all other types of posts you share, too.

Block People on Google Chat. Google+ integrated Google Chat into the social network. However, you may wish to block certain people from chatting with you on Google Chat. Here’s how you can learn how to block people on Google Chat.

Import Photos. There are several ways to import photos from Facebook, Instagram, or other services to Google+. Here’s how you can use Fotolink to import photos from Flickr or Facebook to Google+, as well as use Instadrop to import photos to Google+ from Instagram.

Group Chat. One of the features most unique to Google+ are hangouts, or video group chats. A hangout is a video chatroom where you can chat with up to 10 other Google+ users using your webcam. This feature is free, just like the rest of Google+. To start a hangout, click the blue Start a Hangout button on the side of your stream in Google+. You may need to install a plugin, and then test your microphone and video settings. Then, once you’re ready to chat, click on the green Hangout button to broadcast your video feed and start chatting, or to join a hangout already in session. You can also find ongoing chats in your stream by looking for posts that include a button that says Join This Hangout.

Once you have these basics down, you may also want to learn how to upload pictures to Google+ from your iPhone, as how to post animated GIFs to Google+.