Not too long ago, the online world was aflutter as Google launched its highly anticipated social network Google+.
Tech geeks, social marketers, and business pro’s alike found themselves wondering how it would fit in to an already cluttered social landscape and how it would help build their business?
Fast-forward a little over a year and the online world is once again buzzing about Google’s latest addition to its social platform, Google+ communities.
So how can you make Google+ Communities a part of your social strategy? Let’s take a look at the who, what and why of one of the fastest growing social circles, Google+ communities.
What Are Google+ Communities
Before we dive into the what and how of Google+ communities, let's first discuss what they are, what sets them apart from Facebook pages, and why they can be a real boon for your business.
Simply put, Google+ Communities are groups created for like-minded individuals to collaborate and discuss common interests.
They provide a space where anyone can create, build, and foster a community of fans eager to engage with their business or brand. In a world of noise, they are one more way for marketers to build credibility and establish visibility in the online sphere.
Similar to Facebook business pages, Google+ communities let members get actively involved in the conversation.
Members are able to +1 (the equivalent of a like on Facebook), share and comment on your posts.
Google+ Communities for Business
Are Google+ communities right for your business?
To truly answer this question, I looked to a power user who would be willing to share her experience in the early stages of communities as well as some very valuable insight.
Peg Fitzpatrick is a contributor to "What the Plus!" the unofficial Google+ handbook and co-moderator of the APE Google+ Community with authors Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch.
She is a managing partner of the popular blog 12 Most, founder of My Book Club a monthly online book club, and a passionate blogger on her personal blog.
As you can see, she is one busy lady and well qualified to help us identify opportunity in Google+ communities!
The Who, What and Why of Google+ Communities
Q: As an active moderator on one of the largest Google+ communities, how do you feel they've been received?
Peg: Communities really gave G+ a kick-start! Google+ is a passionate crew as a whole and they’ve whole-heartedly embraced starting and participating in communities. Day one of communities was an insane flurry of invitations and posts as people rushed to join in and check out the new toy they’d been given. I was impressed by many of the users who dove deeply into how communities worked.
I was lucky enough to score an invite to Peter McDermott’s community for Community Moderators, which has been a great source for knowledge, and to bounce ideas off other moderators.
Q: So now that you’ve had a little time to hang out, interact and moderate G+ Communities, where do you see the real value for businesses ready to take the plunge?
Peg: I believe businesses will use Communities very successfully. The goal of the community would need to be established and figuring out if there is time to manage it. A Community is like a puppy, you might want it a lot at first but you need to remember that it will need to be fed and cared for everyday.
If the business already has a thriving Facebook or LinkedIn community, you don’t want to bring it to G+ and replicate it. Your Google+ community should be unique and provide value to your members as well as your business.
Q; What advice would you share with your closest friends (and everyone reading this blog) that would have them quickly and easily using Google+ Communities effectively?
Peg: Absolutely! My top three would be:
1. Make sure you choose which type of community you create correctly: public or private. This cannot be changed.
When the APE Community was created on day one, it was set up as a public community; we quickly realized that all the posts from the community show on your personal profile as well as in the community. We decided to close this group and open a new private community. I think this was a very wise choice and I haven’t heard of any other communities that have done this. We accept everyone that requests to join our community but feel that the private community is a better choice.
Before starting a community, make sure you review the Getting started with Google+ Communities guide.
2. You can turn your community notifications on or off by clicking on the icon on a community’s page.
The notifications for communities can be overwhelming if not managed properly.
Notifications default to "on" in communities where the membership is moderated - that is, private communities, or public communities where you need to ask to join. It's also on by default for any community you create.
Notifications are default "off" in communities where anyone can join - that is, most public communities. They also default off, no matter what, when a community is large.
3. Moderators need to set the guidelines for the community and enforce them.
Many communities are being swamped by spam and self-promoting individuals. This is the quickest way to lose your valuable members. As a moderator, you need to delete spam and keep your community flowing.
Choose additional moderators depending on the size of your community so that it can be continually fed and maintained.
One large, thriving community is the Google+ discuss Community with 29,357 members. Their rules in the “About” section are:
Rules for Google+ Discuss - you may be banned or your post removed:
- Don't promote your community
- Don't post about your website, blog, band or brand
Our APE rule of conduct is:
- Please start with a "Hello, my name is" post.
- Here is the only rule of conduct: Posts must provide value to our community.
- If a post doesn't, then the first strike = delete post. The second strike = ban from our community.
Final thoughts on Google+ Communities
Q: As businesses decide whether Google+ is right for them, what final thoughts would you leave them with?
Peg: My hope would be that anyone interested wouldgive Google+ communities a chance. I highly recommend joining one or two communities prior to starting your own. You can check out any public community, see what they are discussing and see if it fits you!
Need more help? You can discover communities at the Communities icon on the left side of Google+.
Some additional Google+ Community resources:
About Rebekah Radice
Rebekah Radice, co-founder of BRIL.LA, has traded narcissism for purpose. When not driving growth, you'll find her tricking family into thinking she's Emeril Lagasse - likely covered in marinara. The spotlight was fun, but impact is better. These days she's using 20+ years of brand brilliance for good.