|Image by YMBD Scrapbooking|
Etsy already has a good tutorial for using your Circle, so I won't duplicate their efforts. They also have this article about the value of using circles and activity feeds on Etsy. It's not the same as a social network like Facebook or Twitter. Including someone in your circle means you can watch their activity feed - see if they added items to their shop, marked other shops or items as favorites, created treasuries, etc. It's a little bit stalkerish, but the Etsy tutorial on circles also tells you how to block someone (in case it really is a stalker).
Crafting an MBA wrote a great article about using Etsy's circles and activity feeds to research your ideal customer. You can learn a lot about your customers' preferences and buying patterns by studying their Etsy activity.
The other nice thing about these activity feeds is that with every connection you make, whether by adding someone to your circle or making them a favorite shop, more of their activity shows up in front of you on Etsy. You'll see more of the items they add to their shops as well as the items they mark as favorites. I often see items there that I want to look at more closely. It gets you clicking over to their shop.
Other Etsians who have added you to their circle will have that same experience, seeing your activity. If they "favorite" something in your shop, that will be seen by others who have included that person in their circles. It's like having the friend of a friend of a friend recommend something. Your shop and items will be seen by many more people than by searches alone.
I'm relieved that the Circle concept isn't really some new social network. Used wisely, it makes a helpful research tool and can make you aware of activity on Etsy. Even if you don't create a circle of your own, the people who add you to their circle are helping you market without even knowing it.