Just as Google Authorship start’s getting a good adoption rate, Google Communities opened up on Dec. 7th. and has garnered the attention from those who like to be at the “cutting edge.” Those who aren’t “early adopters” wait on the side-lines for the dust to settle and blog posts to be written on the best of things, best practices, best sources, best of everything. The good news? Not only can you get started with only a few clicks of a mouse, there are a number of best practices to steal from existing communities like LinkedIn Groups. In case you are wondering why Google Communities are “such a big deal” take a look at Google Strikes Back,
lets review the latest G+ stats: Over 500 million users, 135 million of which are active users. They engage. They post. They share. Compare that to Twitter’s 140 million (Twitter.com) users and you start to get a better glimpse of the big picture. That translates to massive exposure for your brand, your thoughts or even your kitty pictures.
Google Communities and LinkedIn Group Best Practices
LinkedIn Groups have been around long enough to glean solid practices that work. Although there may be some functionality differences such as Google Hangouts, the core elements of an online community remain. Here are some key take-aways from LinkedIn Groups to use with Google Communities.
Google Communities Should Have a Narrow Niche
There is a post from Social Media Examiner called How to Build a Thriving LinkedIn Group that discusses some “ground rules.” One of the first and most important is to choose a narrow niche and speciality category,
“This is probably the most important key to success for building a group on LinkedIn. You need to have a narrowly defined group in order to attract the right members!”
Having a narrowly defined group means you can attract the right members. Interestingly enough according to Mark Traphagen this is one of the primary problems facing Google Communities just getting started,
I’m starting to see a growing number of people in discussions about Google+ Communities saying that they are leaving communities because they are “out of control” or “full of spam” or “generating too many posts.”
My observation has been that the most common denominator in these situations of dissatisfaction is community topics that are way too broad.
Before you start a Google Community make sure you have a narrow focus. For example, instead of having a WordPress community consider having a WordPress Developers in Austin community. The first is too broad and the second specific enough to let people know what to expect. It is also a lot less likely users get overwhelmed by the quantity of posts from a larger group. Of course you don’t want to be so specific you don’t get any interest. Investigate what is out there already not just your own niche but all other niches to see what people have come up with.
Open or Closed Google Community?
Another important consideration is how open you want your group to be. You need to be sure about your choice because Google Communities clearly states it is a permanent choice. Before considering there are several levels you should know about. There is of course the official Google page describing each level but I found these color-coded examples to be exceptionally helpful.
Now that you know the levels you should strongly consider having to moderate who joins. Social Media Examiner has the following that is echoed by other people:
“When you set up your group to pre-approve members, it does take some maintenance to go through and approve or decline new member applications, but it’s well worth it and your members will appreciate it. If you let anyone and everyone in, you’ll undoubtedly end up with significant spam in your group, and you will lose engagement and members very quickly!”
Moderation is key from the start of any online community from who gets to join to what they post. There are many people who use online groups to advertise their own website or what they sell. Everyone benefits when the group is limited to people who provide relevant or real engagement not marketing.
Ongoing Considerations for Google Communities
There are cool features with Google Communities you don’t get elsewhere such as Google Hangouts. Once you do get a Google Community going there are some initial and ongoing considerations. Here is a list of some from SocialNotz for maintaining a healthy community:
- Write an initial post or two so that your new guest don’t arrive in an empty room.
- Welcome each person as they join and encourage them to introduce themselves.
- As people begin to join your community you may want to promote a few of them to moderator to help facilitate discussions and assist with community interactions.
- Manage members by clicking on “view all” in the header of the members section on the right of the discussion thread. Beside each members name on the right is a drop down menu with choices to promote to moderator or remove/ban from group.
- Promote your community as a place where people can gather and connect around common interests.
- Participate in as well as initiate conversations by posting, commenting and +1ing.
- Be sure to encourage and engage with all your members.
- Check in regularly, don’t leave your community unattended.
- Ask questions and listen to your community; keep topics relevant and focused on your community’s interests.
- If your email inbox starts running over with all the notices from the communities you can turn them off by clicking on the little bell icon under the community photo.
Google Communities are fun to explore with a ton of time possibly “wasted” in the effort. There is a lot of potential and some are speaking of this being a “game changer” for Google Plus. It will certainly help offset the common notion that Google+ isn’t going anywhere. Unless there is a significant push from certain legal directions, Google will continue to favor Google Plus in search. Do you really want to miss out on that?
The Little Guy Revolution blog is written by Wyatt Christman.