If you’ve been on Google + recently, you might have noticed Google’s latest feature called Google+ communities. It’s probably too early to judge its success just yet, but based on my personal Google plus news feed (so not scientific at all) I am certainly seeing quite a lot of engagement on the platform.
The concept and the objective behind launching Google+ communities is to create a platform within Google+ where individuals, organisations, and business can meet and engage, based on shared interests and passions.
This is meant to enhance a user’s ability to find others with similar affinities or interests, and be able to connect and learn from experts. Organisations, businesses, and brands can leverage topics, interests, and causes that they’re passionate about and share them with their audience. Thus, communities provide a place for all of these groups to converge.
As a business, here are some of the benefits of setting up Google+ communities:
- Find and connect with people whose interests relate to your business
- Start engaging in discussions with prospects and individuals that share a passion related to your business
- Host Hangouts and Events to engage face-to-face
By creating a community that’s relevant to your brand, you can quickly begin to build a community based on topics of interest to your customers and act as a guide or moderator for discussions within your community.
You can also engage with other communities that are related to your business. In addition, your Google plus page can engage with community members, whether they follow you or not, using Hangouts and Events.
Engaging in communities related to your business is another great way for businesses to listen to and learn from their customers and target audience. Communities can be a rich source of market research. Try joining a community related to your business or industry and stay connected with your customers, even when they’re not directly engaging with you. For example, a major e-commerce electronics retailer could observe what people are talking about within a gadget and tech-focused community, and use this information to make decisions on stock, products, user needs etc. and respond to them.
Setting up Google+ Communities
The set up process is pretty simple; you can choose one of four community types:
- Public communities – this is a community where anyone can join.
- Public but moderator approval needed to join – this is a community type where anyone can join upon a moderator’s approval.
- Private but people can find you through search and request to join – similar to the above community type where anyone can request to join, but unlike the previous community type, only members of the community can see existing members and their posts.
- And finally, private communities hidden from search – people can become members of a community only via invitation, members and their posts are viewable only to existing members, and the community is hidden from search.
The key to remember is that once you have selected one of the four types of communities you cannot later change it. So be sure to think long and hard about which community type suits your audience best.
Setting up your community:
Name – pick a unique name that clearly conveys the purpose of your community.
Photo – pick a photo that’ll make a good impression
Tagline – make sure to include a descriptive tagline to attract the right audience.
About – this is the section where new members will learn about your community, so use this space to describe the purpose of the community, what types of posts you’d encourage users to share, and add any relevant information.
You can create discussion categories to help your community members find topics that they’re most interested in. So if you have set up an ‘online marketing’ community, you can have categories such as SEO, Paid Search, Social Media, CRO, Email Marketing etc. Categories can be added, renamed, reordered, and deleted fairly easily.
Posts and moderators
Unlike Google plus pages where you mainly broadcast information about yourself, communities are meant to encourage discussion and sharing of ideas by community members. If you find yourself doing all the posting, it might be a good idea to identify some of the most active members within the community and make them moderators so as to get them involved in managing and posting content.
- Remove posts made by members
- Remove members from the community
- Ban members from the community
Lastly, here’s a check-list with setting up and managing a Google plus community:
Setting up your community
- Pick a unique name that communicates your community’s purpose clearly
- Include a 200-pixel-wide by 250-pixel-tall photo that makes a good impression
- Add a clear and descriptive tagline to attract the right members
- In the ‘About’ section, add additional information relevant to your community and set expectations for members
- Add discussion categories to help guide conversations
- Write a first post to welcome members
Promoting your community
- Share your community publicly from your profile or page
- Share your community on other social networks
- Send out emails announcing your community
- Promote the community on your blog and include a link
- Link to your community from your website
Engage with your community
- Participate by posting, leaving comments, +1’ing posts, and creating hangouts and events
- Install the Google+ mobile app to keep up with your community on-the-go
- Check in on your community daily to make sure that the right kinds of conversations are happening
- Update and add discussion categories if necessary. Invite moderators to help you post content and manage your community
I hope you‘ve found this post useful. Have you set up a community on Google plus yet? If so, please feel free to share your thoughts and experience within the comments below.
Image credit: steven w