If you want to really start enjoying the benefits of belonging to an online community, Google+ is the place to be! Once Google+ started their communities feature a few months back, I jumped in right away and have been spending a lot more time on “The Big Plus,” as it suddenly became a lot more relevant to me.
Developing rich social experiences and fruitful relationships is what good online engagement is all about! With Google+, one size does not fit all — there are communities to discuss all kinds of topics, industries, hobbies and interests — with highly-focused conversation. My re:DESIGN community is for people interested in design, creativity and innovation.
Sort of a cross between Twitter and Facebook, Google+ has a great blend of engagement and smarts: quieter and deeper than Twitter, yet more alive, better focused and less clutter than Facebook. The Google +1 has also recently begun to take on a whole new meaning — more powerful than a Facebook “Like,” it promises to boost engagement, online influence, and search rankings.
I enjoyed discussing some of the virtues of being on Google+ with New York’s Newsday recently. Right now though, I’d like to make the case for why G+ is the best social platform for starting or participating in an online community:
1. Nicely-organized streams
Cleaner pages with multiple columns yet more white space and less clutter than the other social platforms. This allows quicker scanning and access to good content by distilling the information down to what you want you want to see. More good stuff and less junk — and that can only help your overall engagement, too. Happier, more inspired community members makes for a happier, more inspired community.
2. Controlled environment
Google+ has nicely engineered mechanisms for moderating and managing communities. Communities can be made either public or private, depending on the intentions. It is also important to bring in the right people, and Google provides a couple of ways to promote communities that help set the foundation for a good social experience:
• Share the community — similar to inviting, this button lets you promote both public and private communities by sharing them with a broader group of people.
• Invite people — just click this button in your public Google+ community and it’s a nice, easy way to bring other people whom may be interested. This feature also pairs well with your curated circles, where people may already be grouped according to certain interests and possibly also a good fit for a particular community.
3. Speak freely
You can say as much as you want on Google+, yet you see only the first few lines until you click for more, similar to Facebook. When you want to pursue deeper conversation, it’s nice not having the 140 character limits of the Twitter hashtag communities.
4. Categorized discussion
I find that the Categories feature really helps organize the community and, along with Search, lets you filter the content better than the other social channels. Anything that helps you decipher what’s what quicker is a community benefit in my book.
Details about the community are readily available and clearly posted — not buried like on the other social channels. Knowing the ground rules right upfront is critical for any smoothly functioning community, and Google+ provides a nice spot to make those crystal clear.
6. Strong identity
A well-branded community visually identifies the space as “your community.” Having a familiar place to engage on a daily basis with people you know creates a virtual home, and a clear identity makes it easy to find while igniting a sense of community pride.
Posting within public communities is visible outside the community too. Time spent in the community doesn’t mean you are totally isolated — your influence can still spread. And it’s great knowing that your engagement in a community, especially if frequent, is still getting the highly-coveted Google rankings juice that helps get you found in search. Posts on G+ rank similarly to blog posts, so together with Google’s increased emphasis on the importance of +1’s and their secret algorithms, your online influence will spread as you gain influence among your peers in the community. Sweet!
8. Stunning images
Great visuals will help any stream by making them more interesting to look at. Google allows for bigger, crisper images than the other social platforms, and that makes for a much more pleasant experience overall.
9. Well-crafted, nicely-styled posts
Bolding, italicizing and even strike-throughs are all fair game on Google+ — it not only looks better, it draws the eye to what you want to emphasize and aids in communicating how you mean to say something. Together with a beautiful image, some hashtags for better search and… BINGO! Better visibility and better communication — and that helps any community.
10. Ability to edit
On Google+, you can edit whatever you say at any time. There’s nothing like being able to fix a typo or revise the way you said something to make what you are saying clearer. Try that on Twitter! Heh.
11. Video calls
This option, called Hangouts, is available right within Google so it’s a seamless community experience. Being able to see and speak with members of your community make the bonds stronger for richer and deeper social engagement.
12. Stay in the loop
It’s great being able to stay abreast of comments and updates. Google+ notifications does a good job with that, and if you really don’t want to miss anything, you can also get emails whenever there’s a new post. I make sure I get these with the re:DESIGN community I run. Well functioning communities are happy communities.
I think you can see how these twelve points help facilitate a well-oiled process for online communication and relationship building. As people become more experienced on the social networks, it’s the depth and quality of these relationships that they crave. Developing rich, online, social experiences drives deeper engagement — this is as true for individuals as it is for businesses and brands delving into engagement marketing. Communities facilitate this, and I don’t think you’ll find a better place to do it than on Google+.
Do you belong to any communities on G+ or want to join one? Or maybe you’re interested in starting a community yourself?
There’s lots more to say about Google+ communities so hit me up in the comments section below.