Google+ introduced its new Communities feature in December, which allows G+ users to connect to build networks around shared interests, activities, and more. Communities can be private and by invitation only, or they can be set to public so that anyone can observe or join activities and discussions within the community.
The key difference between Communities and Circles is that while users can add any people or pages to their Circles, Communities creates a specific page for a group of people, and users must opt in to a community. Think of Circles as more of a ‘macro’ way to organize people and pages, and Communities as a ‘micro’ approach for people to share specific interests. There are a lot of ways businesses could use the Communities feature, such as building private office communities as a place to share and discuss ideas. In this article however, I’ll focus on how Google+ Communities could help you improve business or brand visibility with public communities and niche interest groups.
How Businesses can Use Google+ Communities
Communities works best for small, niche groups. Unlike Circles, where business pages should try to garner as many +1′s as possible to expand their range, communities allows you to build a much more specific group to share relevant ideas and information with.
Communities can be a great platform to build a network of people in your specific industry. This can allow you to build relationships and discussions about your industry with others that can use this information (and will be more likely to share it). If you set this community to public, any interested parties can follow along, and your posts and discussions will rank in search results.
Communities could be a forum to build a network of influencers – that is – people who want to like, share, and propagate your content. Whether this network consists of brand ambassadors or people in related industries, you can gain a lot of visibility by being a part of an active public community.
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Share Content with a Relevant Community
Not only will user engagement on these networks increase your SEO value – connecting with others who work within your industry or are fans of your business can provide very useful feedback about your business or your content. This niche audience is likely to share your ideas and your business, so it’s best to consider their feedback and keep them on your side!
Building discussions about your industry can provide good SEO visibility, and help you establish yourself as an industry thought leader.
Private Communities for B2B Marketers
Private Communities can be very valuable to businesses as well – especially those that rely on B2B marketing. They may not increase your public visibility, but it can allow you to build relationships with leads and clients. You can share and discuss ideas with them and figure out how to provide better service to them and other clients.
Create Events with Google Hangout
A great feature about G+’s Communities is that it can sync easily with other google features, like Google Hangout. You can use Google Hangout to create public or private online events. This could be a way to meet with clients or industry professionals, or it could be a place to share ideas publicly.
You could host a webinar to discuss aspects of your industry; these can be set as private or public so that anyone can watch along.
Google+ Communities Vs LinkedIn
Communities offers businesses many of the capabilities of LinkedIn groups, making Google+ an even bigger competitor for the social network of professionals. G+ has placed a big focus on businesses, and it continues to unleash tools and features that make it a great forum for business, whether public or private. With Communities, you can focus marketing efforts on very niche groups, and if you can establish a strong network of influencers, it will help you gain a lot of exposure for your business.
Have you been using Communities? How have you seen others use Communities?