I don't know about you but I've gotten more than a dozen invitations to Google+ communities in the last couple of days. In case you're not aware of what that means, Google+ launched a new feature, Google+ Communities on Dec 6. As more and more people use Google+ we are finding a need to filter the stream a bit to focus on the content that matters the most to us.These communities allow you to filter by the topic of the community-and even more important-allow you to create sub-categories soa user can choose to filter the discussion down to the specific area of interest they want to see.
Here's a video from Google on what these new communities are all about:
What Do Google+ Communities Offer My Business?
The new communities effectively replace the old Google groups, Facebook groups, maybe even Facebook Pages and offer a lot of features we like about all of them. Document sharing, Hangouts, easy addition of video and photos, and connecting with other people. What's not to love? Add to that the very important fact that anyone can create a Google+ Community. One of the biggest organizational issues we find when managing Facebook pages for our clients is often the page was created by someone who is no longer with the company and now nobody has the login information the account was created with. Sometimes the page was created with a fake profile which is actually against Facebook's Terms of Service.With a Google+ Community anyone can create the community, even a brand.
Better Visibility Than Facebook Pages
Even Facebook will tell you that only 16% of the users who opted in for news from your Facebook page ever even see it. And, many say even then it's only if you pay to promote the post, or run an ad. Many are coming back with numbers far less than this for posts that are associated with ads.
Facebook is still largely a place for friends and family. Conversations tend to be casual often focus on the sharing of jokes and gossip, movies and social gaming. Google+ has much less of this and-to me at least- the people are more interesting. Maybe because social media is my business and I like geeks. Google+'s demographics are technically more savvy, tend to be more male than female (69/29% as found by SocialStatistics.com.) Although Perez Hilton is listed as one of the top 5 users by SocialStatistics.com, he's closely followed by the New York Public Library, Fox News, the Washington Post, and Jaguar USA. The largest group of users on Google+ is still engineers and designers although there has been a remarkable upswing of photographers and scientists of late. A very different demographic indeed.
Thinking of making the move from Facebook Pages to Google communities?
Here are some things to think about. Like Google+ Business Pages, there are still some things Facebook pages do a teensy bit better. On Facebook you can create tabs and then iframe in content from websites or create apps that display specific content to the user. This comes in really handy when running a promotion or a contest. Facebook has Facebook Insights, which, although meager at best, does give you some data about who your users are, how often they share your content and some other minimal statistics. Right now with Google Communities you get zippo.
The thing is, if you really are in this for the community and not driving metrics to please the C-suite, then you may not care too much about that. Google+ communities are a purer form of community than Facebook pages. They are about connecting with people who are interested in the same thing. Lively discussion is already prospering on several of these communities and with a little nurturing they could be quite powerful.
Wanna get specific? Learn more about how to create Google+ Communities on the Tatu Digital Media Blog.
The future of Google+ Communities
We can hope at some point Google, and it's infinite data mines, will see their way clear to share some of that data with the people building the communities. Hey, we're doing it for them!
We can also hope they will open up the API for developers so tools can be created to monitor and administrate communities remotely. Being able to add and view content from a tool like Hootsuite or Sprout Social and maybe add some analytics would be a boon to keeping the C-suite happy and seeing which content the community really wants to discuss.
Within a community if you add your comment on an older discussion it doesn't move to the top, so unless you are watching that discussion carefully you could completely miss new comments. A workaround for this is to tag people in the post, but it's not a perfect solution.
Please, please Google, allow users beyond the big brands to create unique user names! My username is 110761519353364759379 fer gosh sakes. I did a workaround for this too by creating a short URL http://gplus.to/jfouts but sheesh. Make it easy for us to love you OK?