I've been a little slow to jump on the Google + bandwagon. But I was slow to get on Twitter too, so I'm determined not to be left behind (again). And so in an effort to be smarter about this latest social media tool, I recently snapped up a free autographed of the book\u00a0 Google + for Dummies by Jesse Stay (@Jesse on Twitter), while at BlogWorld. The book is an introduction to the Google + platform.\u00a0 It\u00a0 can help you decide if Google + is something you want to invest time in. The book is a beginner's guide to creating a Google Plus account, adding people to Circles, and using more advanced features, like Hangouts (video chat), mobile apps for Google + and photos. It doesn't, unfortunately, cover Google + Business Pages, but to be fair, they hadn't launched when Stay released the book. Maybe he'll write another one! Like all the Dummies series, this book breaks down the steps so you can follow along, and gives key illustrations throughout the text. I really enjoyed Stay's tips, which gave me a little more insight into how to use Google + effectively. For example, I didn't know that you could view your profile the way others see it by going to your profile page and clicking "View Profile As." You can even select which Circle of friends or followers you'd like to view your profile as (since you can control who sees what on your profile, and you might only display certain information to your closest Circles). And I'd all but forgotten about Sparks! I heard about them when I first signed up, but hadn't really played with them. It's actually not obvious: You have to search for a topic in the search bar, then select "Sparks" to see a stream of articles including that keyword. You can save the search so that at any time, you can click on the left toolbar and see what the latest articles on that topic are. However, Sparks aren't, says Stay, available on any of G+'s mobile apps. How to Read Google + for Dummies If you've already created an account on Google +, skip ahead to the chapters you know less about. \u00a0If you're like me, you can dogear what interests you, or stop in the middle of reading it and go online to apply it!\u00a0Stay covers privacy, what to post, Sparks and backing up your G+ data, so there's something for everyone (not just beginners). Privacy is a big part of Google +, and succeeds where Facebook fails. You can create lists in Facebook to stream your posts toward different groups, but the feature isn't very user-friendly. Stay says: "It's up to you to decide which way you want to consume content. Google+ is likely to add even more filtering options in the future, so you may also have other options at some point. Regardless, using the Circles list makes reading your stream of such a diverse group of people much easier." It never occurred to me that I might want to back up my Google+ data (as well as everything in my Google account), but it is possible. You can save every article that you have +1d, your Google Buzz posts (remember that?), all your Google contacts and circles, your photos (including from Picasa), and your profile and stream data. In the event that you ever delete your Google account, you can store all of this on your hard drive by going to Account Settings and then Data Liberation. Good to know! Who Should Read This Book Stay doesn't try too hard to convince you to use Google + (I guess if you bought the book, the idea is that you want to use it), but I'd say if you're on the fence about it, this book will give you an indicator of how you can use it so you don't have to spend time reading on the site to figure it out for yourself. My two cents on Google + : because Google is the largest search engine in the world, and because Google currently appears to give priority to search results from G+ (something people find a bit unfair), you'd be a dummy not to have at least a basic presence on the site. Plus, all the cool kids are there, so give in to peer pressure and get on there!\u00a0 And get Google+ for Dummies as a guide to help you.