What is a Google+ Community?
A Google+ Community is G+’s version of a group or forum, and is designed to allow individuals and organizations to congregate and collaborate together around specific topics they are interested in or passionate about. G+ Communities also provide a convenient platform for brands to share common interests, express opinions, share related content, and engage in meaningful conversations and discussions with their target audience. Any business or brand on G+ can create (and “own”) a Community.
Communities present an excellent opportunity for brands to engage with their customers and prospects, and significantly increase their reach and social influence on the Google+ network. Communities also enable brands to extend their reach by effectively engaging with other Communities.
G+ Communities are places where members can engage and share questions, comments or content relating to a specific topic with other users who are just as interested in the conversation. For example, if you are an online marketer with a focus on SEO and internet marketing, you would naturally gravitate towards Google+ Communities dedicated to these topics. You would simply look for a Community around that topic and share your expertise by answering questions and publishing videos and hangouts about social media, SEO, search marketing, etc.
Here are some examples of SEO related communities:
- Search Marketing for entrepreneurs
- Social Media Marketing for Small Business Owners
Community Admins can set up different categories within each community. By default, everything goes into the “General Discussion” category, however, you could have different categories for conversation. For example, in an Internet marketing Community, you could have different categories for SEO, Search Marketing, Social Media, Online Reputation Management, etc.
If a member of a particular community is posting spam or content that is unrelated to the chosen topic within the Community’s stream, a moderator can be called upon to step in and address that situation by removing off-topic or inappropriate posts, and if needed remove or ban the poster from the Community.
Participating in communities that are relevant to your chosen topic will help strengthen the relationships you have with your connections and expand your targeted network. Your goal on these platforms should be to add value, offer insight, and join in the conversation. G+ Communities are a particularly powerful way of strategically generating awareness for your brand.
There are four types of Communities available:
- Public – membership open to all.
- Public – membership upon acceptance by owners or moderators.
- Private – able to be found in searches for Communities.
- Private – hidden from searches for Communities.
All private Communities can be restricted to its invited members only, but can also remain discoverable by search. In addition, a fully private Community can be created, similar to a private YouTube channel, where it can be found only by knowing the specific URL of the Community. Furthermore, if you share a post to a private community page, it cannot be publicly viewed anywhere except in that private Community.
On the other hand, anyone can join a public community and create posts, leave comments on others posts, share content, or join a Hangout within the community. If you are the creator of the public community, you have the option of leaving the community unrestricted. You can also make community membership subject to an invitation, or approval from a community moderator. All of the content in public communities can be indexed by Google and discoverable on both Google Search and Google+, just like public “regular” Google+ posts.
Benefits of Joining a Google+ Community for Business
Connect with people in your target market.
Joining relevant G+ Communities make it easy to identify prospective customers for your business and make social connections with people who are most interested in your offerings. G+ Communities also allow you to begin building relationships with an already assembled relevant audience.
Your main aim, in these platforms, should be to interact, create and join in conversations with members of Communities related to your industry, particularly because these conversations will be about topics that are directly related to your industry. A brand that fosters a sense of community is more likely to develop brand advocates and loyal customers in the long term.
Drive relevant traffic to your website.
Inside a G+ Community you can post blog posts, articles, videos and other various types of relevant and valuable content. Keeping your brand-led community well-stocked with valuable information helps you build credibility in your niche and can help enhance your reputation as an authority in your industry. Often times people use these types of forums to search for answers, ask questions, get opinions.
Show off your skills and expertise by inviting and answering people’s questions or offering up insight that gets them thinking. And don’t simply post a link to your content. Be tactful by giving your audience clear answers that have value, build on the conversation, and then offer a link to one of your blog posts or articles that explains the concept in more detail.
Gain valuable insights.
Communities offer a great opportunity for you to learn about your target audience, their needs and challenges before you join the conversation. Treat this as an opportunity to research and understand your target market on G+. Find out what your potential customers are really thinking and use that to better craft the content you share from your business page.
You can also listen in on what they are saying and discover meaningful ideas for products or services that you can provide to them. For example, if you are an electronics retailer, you could listen to what people in your target audience are talking about within a tech-focused community, and use this information to make decisions on stock, products, user needs etc, and respond to those needs.
Establish thought leadership.
G+ groups provide the opportunity for you to build your brand as an authority and thought leader in your niche. People generally join G+ Communities as a way of finding answers. Industry experts tend to use Google Plus as an opportunity to build a reputation by providing meaningful answers to questions, and generally being helpful. G+ can also give you access to influencers who might not notice you elsewhere.
When you are recognized by people in your target market as a credible source of information, the dividends can be extremely valuable. You’ll be seen as a thought leader and industry expert which will help establish your credibility among your target customers. When you provide good information and advice, you gain the trust of people in your target audience.
Generate brand awareness.
You can create your own Google+ Community in order to generate brand awareness and recognition for your business among your target audience. The aim here is to build trust and authority and establish relationships, rather than to push sales. Generate useful content and start conversations that encourage participation. Content shared by both your business as well as Community members will play a key role in making the community a go to place for expert information.
G+ Communities provide superior functionalities.
Google, with the introduction of Google+ communities, has provided superior levels of functionality for a Business to develop its brand and attract a growing number of targeted followers to its audience. On G+, Community members can share files and documents from Google Drive both inside and outside their Communities. Members can both link to and distribute documents of all kinds with each other.
Using Google Sites, members can host a website from their from Google Drive. In addition, any community member can access Google+ Hangouts which can be scheduled by event and run from within a Google+ Community, with Hangout invitations sent to all members automatically.