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.
Step 3. You will be presented with a pop-up window that asks whether you want your Community to be Public (viewed by anyone) or Private (only invited members can join and see what’s shared).
If you choose the public option, you will be presented with a form field where you can input the name or title of your community, along with an option to determine whether anyone can join without the need for approval or whether approval from the community moderator is required.
Once you make your selection, click the blue “Create Community” button located in the lower right-hand corner. Google+ will then create your community. However, there is still one more step that needs to be taken.
Step 4. After your Community is created, you will be shown a page that asks for several pieces of information.
- Tagline. This is optional.
- Photo. An image that represents the community
- Discussion categories.
- About. This section includes a place to provide a description of the community, including a location if it geographically-based.
Once you have completed your edits, click the “Save” button.
Step 5. You can invite other Google+ members into the community, as well as post a notice about it on your Google+ profile. You will be notified when people who join the community share items and participate in discussions.
Those are the steps required to create a Google+ Community. All that is left is to kick-start discussions and invite others to join.
Here is a video from Google+ that talks more about Communities.