6 Ways Brands Can Leverage Google Plus Communities

by Mark Traphagen on Jan 04, 2013

Google’s social layer, Google+, was busy unwrapping presents for it’s users in late December, but the one gift that promises most to “keep on giving” is Google+ Communities.

Communities are similar to Facebook’s Group function.

Any Google+ user can start a Community on any topic.

Communities can be public or private, and either open for anyone to join or by invitation (or moderator acceptance) only.

The big news for marketers is that unlike past feature updates, Communities were open to brand Pages from day one. That means that any Google+ brand Page can create (and “own”) a Community, and can also join and participate in any other Communities.

As an example Ford, a Google+ brand early adopter, has created the Ford Photo Community.

Social Fresh has also create a Google+ Community for social media marketers to share insights and ask questions.

Understanding the Opportunity

This is a huge opening for brand Pages to expand their reach and influence on Google+. That’s because until recently, Pages were prohibited from following, link-mentioning, or commenting on the posts of users unless that user had first added the Page to one of their circles.

This severely hampered the ability of Pages to increase their audience on Google+.

But now not only can Pages interact on Google+ like “real people,” they can do so with Communities. And it’s in the latter that I see the best opportunity for brands to use Google+ to increase brand awareness, build a following, and develop brand authority and trust.

How Can Brands Best Use Google+ Communities?

Having actively participated in Google+ Communities for a month now, both as an individual and a brand Page, I can offer up some tips and best practices for businesses and marketers to turn Communities to your advantage:

1. Build your own Communities owned by your brand page

Obviously you are going to be able to do the most with your own Communities. Think of the main topics that come to mind when people think about your brand, and build a Community for each of them. Then invite your current followers, letting them know that they can now interact with you (and others) about just the topic(s) that most interest them about your brand.

2. Post regularly both your own and curated topical content to your Communities

In the case of a brand-led Community, people will expect that they are there to get your brand’s expertise and unique insights on the topic of the Community. So be sure to keep it well-stocked with relevant content. Unlike a person-led Community, I don’t think you are in danger of seeming to overwhelm a brand-led Community with your own posts. Think of it like a targeted email list of your clients and prospects. They expect to hear from you there.

3. Build a strong moderator team

Proper moderation is key to the success of a Community. The #1 reason we’re hearing why people don’t join a Community is seeing lots of spam in the stream when they go to look at it. Moderators don’t yet have a lot of powers (but more should be coming soon), but they can remove off-topic or inappropriate posts, and if needed remove or ban the poster from the Community. Your obvious first choice for co-moderators are your own employees, but consider inviting partners or anyone you trust who can help your Community.

4. Participate as your brand in other Communities

Google+’s internal search has added a filter for Communities. Use it to find active, relevant public Communities and join them. Become a useful participant there. When appropriate, invite members to check out your related Community, if it isn’t in direct competition with that Community.

5. Invite the outside world to your Community

Anyone with a Google account can participate in a public Community, so promote your Communities on your web site, your blog posts, and to your email list subscribers. Let them know that this is the place where they can interact with you and other interested people about a particular topic.

6. Use Communities for customer service

If you have a team who is able to handle online customer service, consider starting a customer service Community on Google+. It can become a forum where not only can your team handle customer questions and issues, but other experienced customers and fans can pitch in to help answer the questions posed, saving you time and money.

—-

Those are just a few ideas to get you started. The great thing about features like Communities on Google+ is that they are flexible enough that Google+ users usually come up with ways to use them that the Google creators probably never dreamed of.

What ways are you (or will you) use Communities to build your brand on Google+?

Social Fresh Tips Newsletter

Our top social marketing tips, tricks, and tactics dropped in your inbox every week!

How To Make Your Social Customer Centric

Webinar

Sign up now to get this free training product
Post Author

Mark is Director of Social Media Marketing for Virante Inc. Adept at uses of all forms of social media for marketing effectiveness, Mark has gained a special reputation as an expert on Google+. He has worked directly in Internet...

  • http://www.dazeinfo.com/ Amit Kumar

    This is new feature for me on Google+ and i m enjoying while using this because i am connected to such a great community.
    Moderation plays a very important role in my opinion as they are the guys responsible for every post on the community.

  • http://profiles.google.com/trappermark Mark Traphagen

    Hi, this is Mark Traphagen, author of this post. I’ll be glad to try to answer any questions you post here in the comments. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  • http://www.VideoLeadsOnline.com/ Ronnie Bincer

    Good post Mark… My latest tactic is creating the post first inside the Community (GPC) and then while still inside the GPC, re-sharing that post to the “public” circle. That way the ‘social scent’ of the GPC stays with the post when it is further re-shared elsewhere… and may encourage others to check out the GPC via that ‘scent link’.

  • http://osakabentures.com/english-2/saulfleischman/ Saul Fleischman

    I believe no one wants to talk with http://ritetag.com or its G+ page, but they’ll gladly talk with me or my partners. I would rather create a community – as I have done – from my own account, thus. Also, I can then invite my own account’s followers, which are far greater than the brand’s followers, since it can only follow those who first follow it.

  • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian D. Hawkins

    I’ve been doing the same thing with my business page and personal profile. I post from business and re-share with my personal account (only sometimes) but I wasn’t sure how others felt about that.

  • Jason Petefish

    Very well written article. It helped me wade through the occasional convoluted psychology behind this misunderstood form of human behavior called “social media”. Thanks Mark.

  • http://hotblogtips.com/ Brian D. Hawkins

    Nice post Mark, I’ve been avoiding the idea of starting a community simply because I’m so strapped for time. Everything seems to point at the necessity of branded G+ community pages and I hadn’t really considered other moderators until this post. Finding moderators to help out and that we can trust would help out with the lack of time.

  • http://profiles.google.com/trappermark Mark Traphagen

    Wow, thanks Jason. I didn’t realize I was accomplishing that much in one post! ;-)

  • http://profiles.google.com/trappermark Mark Traphagen

    Saul, everyone is going to find their own use cases and what they feel most comfortable with. I happen to agree that if you have a personal profile that you are willing to use to represent your brand, that can be very powerful. But not everyone will be in that situation. My post was meant for those who do businees through Google+ primarily or exclusively through a brand page.

  • http://blog.cdginteractive.com CDGInteractive

    We haven’t created our own Community yet, but we are using some others. It will be interesting to watch the growth of this new feature. (And we’ve added this article as a resource to PowerUp Social, our social media for SMBs education site, at http://www.powerupsocial.com/content/75/en/How%20to%20Use%20Google+%20to%20Promote%20Your%20Business.html)

  • Abier M.C

    Hello Mark,

    How does the Community feature differ from the Facebook groups if we look at it from a business perspective. Aren’t companies able to engage as much on Facebook as through Google+ communities?

  • http://www.VideoLeadsOnline.com/ Ronnie Bincer

    Engagement inside a Google+ Community (GPC) has a few advantages over the equivalent Group concept in FB… the main one is SEARCH. The activity in a GPC can be found inside Google Search Results (assuming you allow that)… can’t do that in Facebook…. Automatic Indexing of GPC in Google Search (Winner!).

  • http://profiles.google.com/trappermark Mark Traphagen

    Ronnie covered one advantage well, but here’s a more fundamental one: Google+ Brand Pages can create and join Communities as the brand identity. Facebook Pages can neither create nor join groups. This is huge, I think. In Communities you have the opportunity to personalize your brand, to help people with their questions or fire them up with new ideas. While Facebook is taking away opportunities for you to directly engage with real people, Google+ is creating more of them.

  • http://profiles.google.com/trappermark Mark Traphagen

    Glad you found this helpful, Brian!

  • http://profiles.google.com/trappermark Mark Traphagen

    Glad you’re finding it useful, Amit. Yes, good moderation is crucial, especially if your Community gets large. When you become large, there will inevitably be spammers and trolls, and you’ve got to keep that cleaned out or people will not join or members will leave.

  • Ian Lyons

    Thanks for an insightful article, Mark. It’s definitely true that Google+ Communities are useful in terms of brand presence, but they don’t have the kind of wide messaging capacity that one finds in LinkedIn groups, for example. It’s a 100% on/off notification switch, it seems, which makes me wonder how brands might be able to leverage Communities beyond just another place to have a presence. Do you have a take?

  • http://profiles.google.com/trappermark Mark Traphagen

    Ian, I can only say that we are in the very early days of Communities. Google tends to put a product out there when they think they have enough basic functionality that people can play with it. Then they watch how we use it and listen to our feedback, test, measure, and improve. It’s been our experience that they really do listen to and measure feedback. (There’s a feedback link under the left sidebar of every community.) And we’ve been told by the head of the Communities project that they are feverishly working on new features for Communities, so I expect we will eventually have many of the tools you clamor for.

  • Ian Lyons

    First, thanks for the fast response, and you’ve done a great job of fostering a lot of genuine conversation here.

    I can honestly say that I hadn’t noticed the feedback link, and your analysis as to why it’s out with such a bare-bones version seems spot-on.

    It’s similar to the anecdote of the college president who doesn’t lay down walkways and instead waits for students to trample grass and lay their own pathways before paving over them. Google waits for people to use their tool, sees what functionality people ask for, then builds it.

    Thanks again for the insight.

  • http://twitter.com/RankWatch RankWatch

    Well yes, building a community on Google+ is surely the need of the hour with recent marketing trends for every business that wants to go about creating a brand presence online.

  • http://www.influential.com.au/ Dallas McMillan

    Thanks Mark, nice article – Its interesting to see how many communities there are even in “hot” topics like social media with only a handful of members, and the biggest ones with only hundreds of members. It is certainly very early days. I think its a great idea to create a community but I’m wary of creating another empty one, and know how much time it can take to do well.

  • Antoni Valls

    Great post Mark, I’m new in this G+ and am seeing very good opportunities, other than the SEO ones :)

  • Lisa

    Hi Mark, really useful post. One question I have is that I have noticed in some communities there is a ‘Created by’ box which sits above the ‘About this community’ box but I’m not sure how to replicate this. We want to set up a community but don’t want to give it the same name as our brand name but would like there to be an association. Any pointers on to recreate this would be most appreciated.

    Thanks in advance,
    Lisa

  • http://profiles.google.com/trappermark Mark Traphagen

    Hi Lisa. That is automatically generated by Google+ if a brand page is one of the owners of the community. For some reason, it won’t show any personal profile owners, just brand pages. So if you create the community from a brand page, or add a brand page as an owner after it’s created, then it will show for you.