Google Plus Takes Another Thoughtful Step Forward with Communities

Photo from G+ Communities page

Last week, Google+ introduced another fantastic feature—Communities. If you’re not convinced on moving your business over to Google+, read J.C. Kendall’s persuasive and detailed argument on why Google+ beats Facebook in his article, “Using Google+ Communities for Business.

How Communities Work

The Communities feature works pretty much as you’d imagine. The focus is on getting people with similar interests together for closer and more in-depth interaction.

Screenshot of communities choices

Earlier this year, I created a Writing Circle page to help create a writers community on Google+. But the interactive features weren’t there yet, and coupled with the restrictions on how Pages interact with others, it was difficult to build a community. I feel like Google+ read my mind and understood my frustration. Communities is the perfect solution.

Public and Private Options

Here’s where Communities takes a page from LinkedIn Groups, with a bit more flexibility.

Public communities are indexed by Google for search. And you have two options here.

  1. Allow anyone to join, create posts, share content and comment on other posts.
  2. Keep the group invitation only but still be found through search.

Private communities can also be set up two ways:

  1. Restrict membership as invitation only but still make content discoverable by search engines.
  2. Close the group entirely so that membership is controlled and content is viewable only through a private URL.

Be careful though, once you set up your group, you cannot change this public or private setting.

Google+ was Thoughtful, You Should Be Too

Many people are so excited by this new feature, they’re rushing to set up their own communities. Take your time though. Make sure you have a well thought-out idea for your community—how you’ll moderate and manage it, how you’ll help it grow, etc.

Search and see what communities other people have created, and as always join a few and monitor others. Learn from others’ mistakes. If you want to create a community around your business, make sure it fits your brand, your goals, and offers value to the members who join and participate.

Struggling with reach on Facebook due to the ever so cranky EdgeRank algorithm? Encourage your Facebook fans to join your community on Google+. You’ll reach all of them, not just a selected few.

Integrate Other Features

Google+ Hangouts and Communities seem like they were made for each other. And with Hangouts, you can give your audience a close-up and personal experience they still can’t get anywhere else.

Be creative and remember, the more you use interactive features like this, the more you get to know your audience.

Stealing Families and Friends from Facebook

Communities aren’t just great for businesses. Google+ now seems more family and friend oriented as well. Currently on Facebook, you don’t get to see posts from all your friends because Facebook decides which ones appear in your feed.

Create a private community on Google+ and stay even closer to family and friends. Set up your phone and tablet so all the photos you take load onto Google+ and then choose which ones to share. You can have Hangouts with far away cousins, siblings and friends and still share the posts and content you’re used to sharing on Facebook.

Full of Possibilities

I’m so excited about this feature, and I hope you are too. Think of all the possibilities. If you are already a fan of Google+, you’ve probably already heard of how virtual photo walks have changed lives of people who can’t travel or explore nature on their own.

Now, nonprofits can hold support groups in a new, private community. Friends around the world can hold virtual book clubs and interact while they’re reading and then hold a hangout when they’re done. Someone send this post to Oprah—she did just revive her book club and would love this idea.

Start exploring for yourself. You’ll see—the ideas will keep coming. There are a ton of ways you can use Google+ Communities. So, what do you think? Will this make you use Google+ or, if you’re already there, will you use it more?

Advertisements

Even Abe Lincoln Likes Google Plus

Screenshot of Hangout with Spielberg, Gordon-Levitt & fans

Tonight, after a busy day, my plans got changed and I ended up home a little before 7pm. Lucky me, I remembered that Google Play was hosting a Hangout with Steven Spielberg and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Marketers, Google+ is the place to be if you want to throw some cool events and interact with fans. This particular event was to promote Spielberg’s upcoming film, Lincoln.

Lincoln movie ad

Five lucky people got to actually ask questions and chat with Gordon-Levitt and Spielberg. Three used their personal computers, while two others joined from Times Square–where the Hangout was also broadcast. (Think possibilities here, marketers.)

We saw the trailer for Lincoln and got terrific insight into the film from both director and actor. Spielberg called it “One of the most compelling experiences I’ve had making a film.” As Gordon-Levitt pointed out, that’s no small statement coming from the legendary director.

And for those of you who don’t normally like historical films (kind of like me), this film seems to have quite a bit of resonance for today. Spielberg was asked what he wants audiences to take away from the film. His answer was to understand “the burden leadership requires,” which is something we often forget.

“The country fell apart,” he added, “and Lincoln had to put it back together.” Much of what he said sounded like things we could say about the state of the country today. Very compelling indeed.

I could go on with my review of what I think looks like a fantastic film, but my point of all this is that many marketers could really use Google+ to their advantage. You can actually talk to your audience–in a fun, casual way.

As Spielberg said:

“It used to be hard to find an audience…It might still be hard to get them to the movie…but it’s easy to start a conversation.”

Marketers, the more conversations you start, the more people get to know, like and trust you (if you’re being genuine and other-centered). Get on Google+, start using the tools there, and be creative in how you engage.

Who knows? Google+ could become your favorite place to hangout. What are you waiting for?

***************

The video should be available online soon. Check back at Google Play’s Google+ page. As I post this, it says the video is private, so they’re probably still processing it.

For the Love of Guy, Help Promote More Than Just Yourself

On Tuesday, I wrote about how author Ann Patchett promotes not only herself but her whole industry, and why you should follow her lead. As I was writing that post, Guy Kawasaki was launching a focused effort to promote the use of Google+.

Guy Kawasaki's photo from the #EvanG+ subscribe page

Guy has been an avid promoter of Google+ since its beginning. After using the site for a few months, he decided to write an e-book about it—What the Plus: Google+ for the Rest of Us. His goal was:

…to help you to derive as much joy and value from Google+ as I do.

Who is this Guy?

So, let me back up for a second. In case you don’t know, Guy Kawasaki is a gregarious darling of the social media world. He’s a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures and the creator of Alltop.com.

Back to “For the Love of Guy”

Now, Guy is recruiting fellow evangelists to help promote Google+, using the tag #EvanG+ to give us some cohesion and visibility.

How It Works

I could tell you how it works, but Guy’s own message explains it better:

You’ll receive an email a few times a week with stuff that I hand picked. I will send only material that I think makes for good posts. In a perfect world, you will take the info in my email, craft a post, and share it with your followers. There are more than 1,500 subscribers after forty eight hours. I figure that the total number of all the followers of subscribers is 3.5 million or so people.

Two suggestions when you post this material:

1. Add a tagline such as: Become a Google+ evangelist by signing up here: http://eepurl.com/n1auX
2. Add the hash tag “#EvanG+”

Incidentally, in case you’re wondering, Google is not paying me to do this nor did it come up with the idea. This is something I’m doing out of my love for Google+.

Key Points of Promotion

Note the last sentence above. He is going to all this effort to promote Google+ out of his own love for the site. Will it help Google? For sure. More than 2.5 million people have Guy in their Circles, and he has a little more than 1 million followers on Twitter.

Will his efforts help him? Absolutely, and that’s the whole point I’m trying to make.

Oftentimes, people hesitate to help promote their industry because they don’t want to help benefit their competitors. We live in a more connected world now, people. Those days are over!

I’m not asking you to join the #EvanG+ movement—though it would be great if you did. I’m asking you to be more aware of your surroundings and all the points of your connected network. Start promoting more than just yourself and your business. Promote your industry. Promote things related to your business and industry. If you do this very well, you’ll become know as a thought leader and will likely attract more business as a result.

Who can argue with that?

***************

I started my own promotion venture last Friday. I wanted to find a way to help build a thriving writing community on Google+, so I started +Writing Circle. If you’re a writer—author, poet, screenwriter, playwright, etc.—please follow +Writing Circle.