Google Plus Communities is an excellent way to bring like-minded people together, and in fact, we can imagine these communities being able to take the place of forums. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that if a forum is vital to your business, then keeping it on your own controlled domain is better than relying on a third party to provide the service. Google does get rid of its services from time to time, so consider that before deciding to host your forum there. That said, we can see some great advantages to using Google Plus Communities for your business, and we wanted to throw out some ideas for using this service – perhaps in ways you hadn’t imagined.
Private Work Communications
Set up a private, hidden community just for yourself and a select few co-workers or business parters. Very quickly, you can build any number of small, private communities that let you communicate work-related info, upload photos and videos, and coordinate events and meetings. With Google’s built-in “Search this community” feature, you’ll be able to quickly and easily find that conversation you had with your business partner or co-worker two months ago. And since G+ community topics can be subdivided into categories of your choice, you can even organize your discussions. For example, you can set up categories such as Clients or Marketing. If you occasionally need face to face interaction, just click the Start a new hangout button on the right side of the community page, and connect via webcam. Think of this as a way to replace Skype for much of your private work discussions.
Training and Support
Another good use of a community is to give customers or employees a place to get training or support for your products or services. For customers, a public, moderated community would likely be best, whereas a private, hidden community would be a better fit for an employee support community. In either case, you can make good use of the community events feature to announce training events or community hangouts.
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I can envision a possible use of a private community as one piece of a bundle of Google applications that could be used together for project management. By utilizing hangouts, docs, and events, along with community threads, this may be a free, down-and-dirty way to manage projects. It certainly wouldn’t compete with the likes of Basecamp, but it may be sufficient for basic project management needs.
Set up a private community for each client you serve. Share information, photos, events, links, etc. with the client as you work on the project. You can even share files by linking to shared docs in Google Drive. This could be much easier than relying on email which can be difficult to search through, and no more worrying about attaching files that are too large to send via email. In addition, and perhaps the best reason of all…the client can’t use the excuse of “I never got your email!”
Establishing Niche Authority
Of course, one of the most common uses of Google Communities will be to discuss topics and answer questions within your niche that serves to establish your authority and credibility. For this use, we suggest setting up subcategories within the community, and then seeding each category with a few relevant topics. Each topic thread could be treated much like a blog post, presenting information that members would find interesting and useful, while concluding the information with a leading question designed to encourage interaction and engagement on the topic.
Are you using Google Plus Communities in unusual ways? We’d love to hear about them! Tell us how you use G+ Communities in the comments below.