Communities are similar to Facebook or LinkedIn Groups: they are organized by topics or general interests. From a marketing perspective, Google+ Communities are an underutilized tool for starting and participating in conversations that matter.
What are the benefits of being an active community member on Google?
One thing I’ve noticed about Communities is the global exposure. When you look at any given page, it’s unusual not to see at least one post in a foreign language that isn’t spam). It’s an interesting reminder that social media is far-reaching and that we really do have a unique opportunity in front of us.
Wait a second, my business doesn’t need to market globally. True, but the point of a community isn’t to sell- it’s to exchange information. This article from Social Media Examiner suggests “As you discover communities where your target market is located, join them and listen in on what they are saying.” In doing so, you discover what your target market has to say about your industry. There may be trends in questions or concerns, which makes great blog post or newsletter material. In other words, it’s a chance for you to research potential customers, and even help them out from time to time.
By contributing to conversations that are related to your industry, you show others that you’re knowledgeable and ideally trustworthy/helpful. Occasionally this does translate into sharing your own material if it’s relevant and can help solve a problem. For instance, if someone posts a question asking about finding the right hashtag for a Twitter post, I could respond with a link to this blog post on that very subject.
What if the community you want/need doesn’t exist?
If you want to start your own community, the steps are pretty straightforward. You get to set up the rules and facilitate conversations among community members, but aside from that, it’s relatively hands-off.
Below is an example from The Marketing+ Community Page is full of people sharing articles and other helpful information about social media marketing (new features, tips they have found to be helpful, etc).
When you set up a community, you have a few decisions to make. Will it be public or private? If it’s private, will it still appear in searches? What are the rules for participating in this community? The description and rules will be displayed on the left sidebar of the community page.
You can post in your own community from time to time to start a conversation (if you have some questions for followers, this is a great way to get them answered), but the ultimate goal is to create a community built around user-generated content. Below is an example post from the Marketing+ Community from KeyMedia Solutions. You may notice that this is an article from their own website, but a) it’s relevant to other community members and b) isn’t overtly selling anything.
Communities are another one of those online resources that may inspire new ideas or ways to connect with your businesses. You may also forge some new connections with people you would never have met without this tool. Whether you decide to use communities for business or for fun, they’re unique educational and networking opportunities.
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