google plus communitiesOnce you get a feel for how to use Google Plus for your business, you may start looking for a way to accelerate your G+ marketing efforts. When you hit that point, Google Plus Communities may be exactly what you need to push your results to the next level. With this component of G+, you’ll be able to network within your industry, engage with potential customers and ultimately help continue building your business.

The simplest definition of a G+ community is it’s a place where multiple users can come and engage with each other about a topic that interests everyone involved. What’s cool about participating in communities is you don’t just get a chance to discuss great topics. You also get to build relationships that can benefit both you and your business.

As with most features of Google Plus, you can opt to make a community public or private. But before you think about launching your own community, it’s worth taking time to participate in some that already exist. That approach is useful for two major reasons. First, it’s a really simple option for getting a feel as to how these communities function without needing to make a major upfront investment of time.

Second, because communities are a popular feature of G+, a lot already exist. If you do eventually launch your own community, you’re going to want it to be unique enough that people want to join. What participating first will do for you is give you a strong idea of what currently exists. Once you know what’s already on Google Plus, you can start looking for gaps and eventually use a prominent gap as the launching point for your own community.

While those are the key reasons to participate before starting a community, other general benefits of being involved with any G+ community include discovering interests and challenges within your target market, getting ideas for blog posts or even new products, positioning yourself as an industry thought leader and increasing the amount of relevant traffic your website receives.

After you feel like you have a strong grasp on what Google+ communities need in order to thrive, if you want to take a shot at starting your own, there are some best practices you can follow in order to maximize its odds of success. The first is to be as focused as possible. While broad may seem like it will appeal to more members, you’re going to have a much more active community if it’s on a highly focused topic that really interests the people who join.

You’ll also want to take time to establish a strong visual brand for your group. This will make it stand out to members instead of becoming just another community in their list. You’re also going to want to be very active. While it may eventually make sense to enlist the help of one or more moderators, at first you need to put your energy into the community so it rubs off on others. In addition to sharing great content and always looking for opportunities to engage other members, don’t be afraid to lay down some rules. The last thing you want is for a couple of bad characters to ruin your entire community. Finally, consider using Google Hangouts to build even stronger relationships.

Original post published at Social Apps Match.