Ok, not a lot of people who use Google Plus know how +1’s (called plus-ones) work, and those that do know usually do not appreciate their value. A lot of people dig into the guts of their settings to find out how to disable one of Google+’s coolest features: +1 Sharing.

+1Time to go back to school on Google’s +1’s!

When you leave +1 sharing enabled, this is what happens: You see something cool in your Google Plus stream and show your approval by hitting the +1 button. Just as you would hit the “Like” button on Facebook. Then this +1 will potentially show up in the stream of anyone who has you in their circles.

Problems arise from two main things: treating a +1 exactly the same as a FB “like” (they are similar, but not the same) and laziness.

Laziness? What I mean is that a person may want to indicate approval of a post with a click, without getting drawn into a whole conversation about it. So instead of making a proper comment they just click the +1 button.

Plus one examples

Above you can see two examples of +1’s which I found in my stream. In this case Avery and Alexandra are in my circles. They +1’d something which was shared publicly by Brian and Numix, who are not in my circles, so normally I don’t see their posts.

Note: I will only see +1’s of posts which I have permission to see, in this case these were shared publicly. If they were shared to extended circles I would also probably see them. If they had been privately shared to a person or to a circle I am not in, I would not have seen them.

Now notice something else about the examples above. Avery +1’d someone’s picture of their dinner and Alexandra +1’d someone’s big announcement. One was really irrelevant because I don’t know this guy, what do I care about his trip to California or his dinner? A waste of +1 sharing opportunity, for sure.

The other, depending on my interest in the subject, is a lot more useful potentially for me, and definitely for this company Numix. I don’t follow Numix, but I might after seeing this, and I might click through to check out more about their big announcement.

Now some of you are getting that aha moment, realizing the huge potential, and some of you are probably mortified because you didn’t know everyone was seeing your +1’s like this.

For those of you who are mortified never fear, you can disable this feature and happily go back to +1’ing things with carefree abandon. Just click here and change who can see your +1’s on post activity.

For those of you who understand the potential a whole new world can open up to you when you +1 with care and consideration. The next time you see a picture of someone’s newborn baby you can hold back that itchy +1 trigger finger and don’t be lazy. Post a comment instead, to engage with your friend and congratulate them. But when another friend posts about the launch date for his new novel. BAM! +1 that sucker. And also comment, reshare, etc. to your hearts delight. All the things to give your friend that signal boost he was looking for.

Now you are using +1’s to their fullest. You are using it as a +1, the way it was intended, not as a Facebook Like.

A few more things you need to know about +1 sharing. Not every +1 you make will be shared and they won’t be shared to everyone. Google does it’s best to determine what people are interested in and shows them a handful of +1’s based on those interests. If you do your best to confound Google when it comes to your private life, you may find weird and irrelevant +1’s showing up from your friends because Google just doesn’t know you al that well.

You only see the +1’s of your friends in your “All” stream. If you look at the stream of “Circle X” you will just see regular posts. Period.

Only when you hit +1 for an original post does it get shared. When you +1 someone’s comment this is not broadcast or shared to your circles.

This whole thing may change. A lot of people don’t like it because they don’t understand it, and a lot of people misuse it, making it kind of annoying and useless for the most part. If people started to understand it better and use their +1’s in the most effective way, it would work a lot smoother. Google may just decide one day that this is a failed feature and take it away. Leaving us only the re-share to give a signal boost to a friends post.

But I kind of like what +1 sharing is trying to achieve. A manual re-share goes out like your own post, diminishing the original authors message a bit. And it goes out to everyone. +1’s retain the original post and the authors message stays forefront, and they are sent out selectively to people Google thinks might be interested. That is pretty cool to me. Though maybe it’s just a bit ahead of it’s time.