On December 6th, Google rolled out a new feature to its Google+ social network: Communities. As opposed to individual personal Profiles or business/organization Pages which allow users to broadcast content to those who “circle” them, Communities represent a self-contained eco-system of Google+ users who are interested in a specific topic.
Once a user joins or is granted access to a Community, they are free to start discussions, share links, comment and +1 posts, and even intiate Hangouts: integrated live-video chats. For marketers, Communities represent the possibility of a more interactive experience with an engaged group of customers, brand advocates or consumers who are simply interested in one topic, free the boundaries inherent in a corporate brand Google+ Page.
Here is a quick guide on how to get started with Google+ Communities.
Your left-hand menu should now feature a “Communities” tab:
This will take you to the main Communities page, from which you can view the Communities you belong to or search for other Communities you don’t yet belong to. You can also create a Community.
The “Create A Community” button will bring up the first step in the process:
Here, you’ll have a choice between creating a Public Community, which anyone can join, or a Private Community, which is invitation-only. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll create a Public Community.
Next, you’ll name the Community and set permissions. The name of your Community should denote the topic or interest that users will gravitate towards.
Note: whatever name you choose for the Community will not be exclusive. In other words, there can be many Communities of the same name centered around that topic. In addition, you cannot (yet) set a vanity URL for a Community – they hold the same numeric-based URL as profiles and pages (example: https://plus.google.com/communities/115758385206378551362)
Once you’ve created your Community, it’s now time to fill out some information. You’ll want to upload a photo, write a tagline and complete the About section. You can even create categories for future user discussions. Next, you’ll want to invite other users to join your Community:
That’s it! Once your Community becomes populate, you can encourage and moderate discussions. In terms of business uses, a retail company might consider creating a Community around “Coupons” while an investment company might consider creating a Community around “Mutual Funds.” Marketers should also be encouraged to create and join Communities centered around industry topics – like “SEO” or “Blogging” – that can help them hone their own skills. Hobbyists will likely gravitate towards Communities about their favorite past-times, like “Baking” or “Gardening,” while sports fans will gather around a team and commiserate over their latest heartbreaking loss. The possibilities here are endless.
A nice example of an active Google+ Community is the “Makers, hackers, artists & engineers” Community.
What are some Google+ Communities that you have joined and actively participate in? Let us know in the comments below!
For more information about how to use social media in your marketing efforts, download our Increasing Conversions with Social Media guide.