6 Ways Brands Can Leverage Google Plus Communities
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+?