Google has implemented a new feature for the Google+ social network experience. Not unlike Facebook Groups or LinkedIn groups, the new Google+ Communities allow Google+ users to gather together and discuss a specific topic. It is the further evolution of the old discussion forums and bulletin boards (BBS). By integrating discussion forum capability into existing social networks, users are more apt to spend more time on a particular network.
From that perspective, it’s a brilliant move by Google, and one wonders, frankly, what took them so long. All of the major social networks have expressed an understanding of the fact that in order to increase ad revenue, they must find new ways to increase time spent on site by their user base. LinkedIn, for instance, recently implemented the ability to endorse other users, resulting in more minutes spent on the site mindlessly clicking endorsement suggestions.
Motives aside, Google+ Communities could be quite valuable for small business owners looking for new ways to engage customers online.
Small business owners who realize the value of digital networking should be encouraged to join or create communities that discuss topics related to their business. An aquarium specialist, for instance, might create a group to foster discussions on exotic African Cichlids. The immediate goal is to help and educate people on that topic, and like other forms of content marketing, present yourself as an expert in your field for future potential sales.
You can access Google+ Communities by clicking on the “Communities” icon in the left sidebar while in Google+. If you would like to create your own community, just click the red “Create a Community” button.
Once you start your new community, you will be asked whether you want the community to be public or private. If your new community is going to be used for marketing purposes then you’ll want to make it public. However, the option of making a community private definitely lends itself to a variety of business uses. Businesses might create communities for clients or groups of clients and leverage Hangouts and Google Docs to communicate and share.
Once you’ve chosen permission requirements, you’ll decide what to call your group and complete additional profile information. You’ll enter standard information like a log, About and tagline. It’s recommended that you create a set of guidelines for the group and put them into the About page as well. You’ll then select a discussion group category.
After you save the new group, you can start inviting people from your Google Contacts. You can also enter email addresses, or send invites to entire circles!
Congratulations! You’ve just created your first community! Be prepared to post and respond to topics, and to foster RELATIONSHIPS through your community. Groups and communities are not effective places to spam ads, and that goes for other communities you might join as well.
If you go back to the Communities icon, you’ll see the communities you’ve created, as well as some others that are recommended for you. There’s a search box you can use to look for other communities and topics that interest you and may be of interest to your potential clients.
Do you think Google+ Communities can add value to your internet marketing campaign? Do you have any other ideas on how you might use this new feature?