What You Need To Know About Google+ Communities
If your Google+ experience has been hit and miss, its new answer to Facebook groups could get you back into it again. Communities has been designed to let like-minded Google+ users come together through common interests and considering the overall experience is rather fragmented, it’s something that the site has needed.
It’s best to think of Communities as a cross between a group and a forum, acting as a message board and a place for discussion. With there being only a few groups with over 10,000 members so far – the concept is off to a decent start considering it’s only a week old. We take a look at what they have to offer and how you can start your own community.
Why You Should Invest Time Into It
While it’s still very early days, the potential for Communities to play a major part in social search is huge. When people search for an answer to a problem, they’re normally brought into random forums and sites. Communities could have the potential to be the new type of forum, a place where if you don’t find an immediate answer, you have a group who can answer it for you.
Granted, LinkedIn and Facebook offer this as well, but their search functions tend to be hit and miss so Google+ may offer a viable alternative. Considering that Google already incorporates posts into its search results, it’s likely that it will go in this direction.
It Gives Context To Your Opinions
One of the criticisms aimed at Google+ was that you could post something, but you’re not entirely sure who you’re talking to or if it would get a response. You could enter in a search term and post a status update, but this method of posting often felt disjointed.
Communities gives your conversations and updates much-needed context so when you do post something, you know the people reading it are interested and willing to respond.
It Could Potentially Bring Everyone Together
Admittedly, Google+ has been classified as a place for either photographers or geeks. Now anyone can be catered for through these groups, no matter what their interests are. There are features that Google+ offer – such as hangouts, and constant real-time updates – that will appeal to people and could potentially help expand the platform.
Getting Your Content Out There
If you use Google+ regularly, then you could give yourself a significant advantage by setting up a group ahead of your competitors. If you run a community group, the opportunities to slip in your own content and get noticed is greater. However, like all good social media strategies, you should keep this to a minimum.
Setting Up Your Community
To set up a community on Google+ and get started, go to the Communities homepage. Click the red “Create a Community” button in the upper right hand corner and enter your community name. Community names do not have to be unique.
First of all, you will need to choose between a public or private community. It should be noted that the setting you choose is permanent and you cannot change the privacy later, so choose carefully.
If you choose public, you can select if it will be a community where anyone can join or if a moderator approves the requests. Selecting private will let you choose if people can search for the community and request to join. Unlike the public community type, only members can see existing members and their posts.
Alternatively, you can choose to have your private community hidden from search and have people join via invitations. At this point, you’ll need to create a unique name that communicates your community’s function. This should define the purpose and interest of the community ensuring that it stands out.
Next, you will need to include a 200px x 250px photo that makes a good impression and catches the viewer’s eye. It’s generally a good idea to use the same image that you use on other social profiles for strong personal branding and so people can recognise you. Make it complementary with your logo while also relating to the name and purpose of the community.
Write a unique and descriptive tagline to attract the right members. This is the description that will help users decide if a community is suited to them. The more focused and specific this is, the better, as broad topics only generate competition with other communities and lack focus.
You should expand on your community’s purpose in the â€˜About’ section. Add additional information that conveys the message of your community and outline what members can expect. Choose appropriate keywords that will show up in searches and attract potential members. If your community has a physical location, you can add that in too.
For a community to thrive, it needs to be nurtured. It’s important to keep adding content at a consistent pace, and encouraging others to do likewise.
To help facilitate discussion, you should start a few discussion topics to give members an idea of the type of content that will feature. Post provocative content that will stimulate discussion and keep them interesting. If you do that, members will begin to post and return to share news on your community page as well.
To get your community active and running, you will need to start inviting people to join. Alongside friends, invite people who are natural community builders and will add value to discussions. Spread the word in your Google+ profile and relevant networks.
Many people leave groups and communities due to an influx of spam and potential overload, so keep an eye on the content and block spammers if necessary. On a related note, community notification are off by default, but you can switch them on by clicking on the bell icon on a community page. Once a community has more than 10,000 members, notifications are turned off permanently.
Another important section to keep an eye on are the categories underneath your group image. When you first visit a community, the news feed features every post made in that group, but categories can help direct conversation and make it easier for members to find relevant posts. It also allows members to find topics they’re most interested in.
Categories can be changed, deleted or reordered so you will be able to edit them as the needs of your community changes. A good idea is to keep the number of categories you have at five or less. Any more and you risk making topics too specific with little interaction occurring. If your community grows over time, you can gradually add more categories, but keep it simple when you’re starting off.
Notable Google+ Communities
Already within the week, there have been a number of different communities set up on the site. While there are many to choose from, here are the best ones to learn from:
Social Media Marketing
Social Fresh’s community is relatively small in comparison to the other Google+ groups in this list, but Social Media Marketing is a good example of keeping the discussion concise and relevant. Alongside the obligatory Google+ and Facebook categories, it also deals with analytics/ROI, which is bound to come in handy for many marketers.
One of the largest communities out there, Google+ Discuss does exactly what it says it does: Provide a place for users to share ideas and meet new people. With some ground rules, a nice mixture of fun and serious categories and a regularly updated feed, it’s a good place to start if you’re still getting the hang of Google+.
Another Google-centric community, but these groups tend to have the most passionate users so it’s worth analysing. Created by Android Central, this community allows members a section to introduce themselves (in case you’re looking at the feed and are puzzled by the number of people saying hello) as well as more specific areas such as hacking and development that cater for the more hardcore members.
Building A Company
Created by one of Google+’s biggest fans, Robert Scoble, Building A Company is designed to help those with startups get their venture off the ground. Providing tips on PR, funding, infrastructure and business plans, practically every aspect of developing your startup can be found here.
Google+ is well known as a place for photographers to show off their images and it’s no surprise that some of the more popular communities involve images. We chose HDR Photography not because it’s one of the biggest communities on the site, but for the amazing images its members post regularly. It’s an encouraging and receptive group, catering towards new members with their own section and offering constructive criticism for anyone who wants their work critiqued.