Google+ recently introduced Communities, its latest feature designed to connect and group together like-minded users to share content and discuss subjects they are truly passionate about. There is a lot of room for growth with Google+ Communities and it could mean not only an excellent resource for all manner of passionate foodies, fishermen, knitters, yoga enthusiasts, gear-heads, etc. but a cross-promotional tool for brands and an overall increase in engaged Google+ users.
What it can offer to Google+ Users:
From a user standpoint, the new communities may be a welcome alternative to many people who are burned out from the more pervasive social channels. It can be positioned as the social network offering for those who are looking for a more meaningful social experience. A more active experience where you can find personal value and engagement, rather than a stagnant parade of ill-targeted Sponsored Stories and condescending corporate pandering, something that Facebook is becoming more and more aligned with.
Why your brand should join:
A self-segmenting audience that is passionate about a subject enough to spend their time sharing content and engaging in discussions; what marketer could ask for more?
Businesses that tailor to lifestyle or recreational activities can take the most advantage of this new social media tool. Similarly, blogs can foster a wider audience in an environment that not only allows additional promotion and links for their content, but offers an alternative to the more traditional, static nature of their blog's comments section.
This distinction is partly thanks to a Community's unique ability to foster genuine discussion and interactions that are more conversational and have a presumably longer shelf-life than the more transient nature of the constantly shifting Facebook Newsfeed and Twitter stream. Plus, the user endorsement of someone joining your Community, versus simply clicking 'Like' on a passing piece of content is much more valuable for your company.
The very conversational nature of a Community represents more of a two-way relationship, allowing users to contribute a more significant investment of time and emotion, because it is much more about what they want to share and discuss, compared with the less natural, often one-way Facebook/Twitter posting relationship. Content is broadcasted and often passively consumed on those channels, whereas Communities are comparable to an open discussion forum that breaks down the traditional power relationship of brand and consumer, page admin and casual consumer.
As a brand, wouldn't you rather have a social media follower that makes a conscious effort to actively engage, create and/or post content, in a conversational format, rather than passively clicking 'Like' on a piece of content that you pushed out to them? The value of this higher level of consumer engagement is not the traditional business sense of 'value' because the ROI will most likely be just as elusive for Communities as it is with most other social media. However, there is a lot of value intrinsic in a positive brand reputation, top-of-mind awareness, etc. that can be derived from an active and conversational brand on this type of forum.
Another advantage of this feature is that Community members will view and interact with other people's content, not just the brand's; therefore making it a holistically different experience than the traditional social network, where user's content contributions are generally relegated to visually small, awkward-to-find sections of profiles. This type of engagement endorsement routinely provided by users that they can relate to, will bring a wholly different level of experience than Facebook and Twitter can even hope to offer.
The set-up process is simple, with probably the biggest decision being what level of privacy you want to place on the membership. It's also crucial to optimize your Community name for Google+ search and the description clearly outlines why it is valuable to become a member once they've found it. Once the entry barrier level and name is established, Community admins can create categories, begin to post content, initiate discussions and promote Hangouts.
How to Promote Your New Community:
- Post links on your brand's social profiles
- Create an e-blast announcing the new Community
- Add an 'invite' to join the Community in your staff's email signatures
- Utilize your site to draw people to the Community with buttons and links
- Use your company's blog to announce your new Community
- Encourage your social media savvy employees to join, share content and promote it through their personal pages
Google+ Communities have great potential to offer aggrieved social media users a true alternative, with the promise of a less cluttered, more relevant and socially-valuable content stream. I like to think it's more about the genuine roots of social media: Bringing people together to interact about the interest and passion surrounding your brand's subject matter.
What are your first impressions of Google+ Communities?