Google+ is growing. According to a Google executive, more than 500 million people have set up profiles, 235 million actively use Google+ functionality such as Hangouts (its video chat feature) and sharing links (via the +1 button), and 135 million use Google+ as a stand-alone social networking service.
Google+ recently launched a new component called Communities. If you are active on Google+, you likely have received invitations to join a few of these.
Google+ Communities resemble Facebook and LinkedIn Groups, enabling users to filter the ever-increasing stream of posted content and focus on relevant topics.
"Google+ has always been a place to crowd around common interests and meet new people…With Google+ Communities there’s now a gathering place for your passions," said a Google blog post announcing the new feature.
In terms of functionality, Google+ Communities let users create and join public or private groups, add discussion elements, plan events, conduct Hangout video chats, and post links using +1 buttons on external websites.
Why Google+ Communities Matter to Merchants
Many well-known brands have jumped on the Communities bandwagon. But anyone can create a community to discuss most any topic — that includes ecommerce merchants.
The benefits to merchants who wish to create a community are two-fold.
Introduce a brand. Communities enable focused conversation around topics of shared interest. Merchants can use Communities as yet another channel to introduce new people to their brand — recognizing Communities are not for promotion.
Findable in search engines. Content from public communities are indexed and discoverable through search on Google and Google+.
A best practice for merchants may be to couple Communities with Google+ businesses pages. While Google has yet to devise a mechanism where the two actually intersect, a business page can serve promotional functions, while Communities focus on topics of shared interests.
How to Create a Google+ Community
Step 1. Go to your Google+ profile and look for the Communities icon in the left-hand column. Click the icon to begin.
Step 2. You will be taken to the Communities page, where you are presented with several options.
- View Communities you currently belong to.
- Discover new Communities.
- See invitations from Google+ Circles members.
- Create a community.
Click the red "Create a Community" button located in the upper right-hand corner of the page.