Now that the waters have calmed and the Google+ communities hype has reduced, we can analyze the benefits of how as users we can gain value from it.
Like many of us out there, I’ve received dozens of invites to be part of numerous communities. I’ve joined a few; mostly to be informed on that certain topic and network with the experts who are in them. It’s a well-known fact that Google+ can play an essential role in your networking & social media strategy, but like any other tool one must learn to operate it correctly for best results.
Create your Community
If you are interested in a certain subject or topic but haven’t found a community for it, the best thing to do is to create one. Here is a How to Create a community to help you get started by Zac Grace.
Your community can be about anything you want. I’m sure you will find people interested in joining. Just remember this; One of the frustrating aspects in Social Media is that people tend to create many communities around the same topic. If you look for broad subjects like SEO or Content Writing you will find a long list of communities already established, consider joining them before creating another one.
There are two types of communities that can be created: public or private. General topics like Star Wars or Animal Lovers tend to have public communities where anyone who is interested automatically joins and interacts with all the users. In regards to Public communities these tend to be more niche and personal. One or two moderators have the power to invite and accept members as they see fit. Max Minzer has a hangout for Internet marketers. He also created a community for it with a very specific purpose. It has a few unique members who privately discuss topics and ideas that will be incorporated into public hangouts. This way he is able to share information privately, before the actual #maximpact hangout airs.
Categorize Topics in The Community
Certain subjects can and should be divided into different categories. Organizing sub-categories in your community helps separate discussions, and lets people focus on the topic at hand. The categories you add will help members find the topics they’re most interested in. Categories can be easily added, re-named, re-ordered, and even deleted, so don’t worry about picking the perfect categories right away. You’ll be able to update the categories as discussions evolve.
Invite People That Enrich
Once you have created and designed a proper forum to discuss your topic start inviting the right people. Having a social network doesn’t limit you to only family and friends; the real knowledge comes from meeting and networking with complete strangers who have diverse opinions and ideas.
Find people that are talking about your topic and using related #hashtags; Remember how it was when you created Google+ Circles. Communities shouldn’t be about who has the most members, its about getting quality active users. Consider that many people including yourself will be in numerous circles so having to read and search for content in communities with a lot of people will defeat the whole purpose.
It’s natural wanting big names in your community. Everyone wants the experts and knowledgeable players in their team, just remember you are not the only one. An expert in any field has probably received hundred’s of requests to join numerous communities and is overwhelmed. They probably wont be able to join and keep up with all of them. If you want to follow an expert find out what Community they are most involved in and join it.
Gain Credibility As A Google+ Author
People in Google+ are very friendly and helpful, but to build a relationship and get your name known within the community is a task that takes time. Investing in quality friends and resources is a process only gained with: Hanging out with them on Hangouts, read everything they post and give a real opinion, respond to people who share posts with you, write comments if someone mentions you in their comments and ask questions. The key is positive interaction. Slowly you will become more involved in various communities and noticing your circles growing.
Creating quality content for your community and sharing it helps you increase your author rank and if you have a strong presence and ranking, people are more likely to interact with your content. Here is an excellent article from AJ Kohn about Author Rank.
Make the Right People Moderators
Managing a community at the beginning is simple but as it grows and more people interact it’s likely to become difficult keeping track and answering all the members needs. Making a reputable or knowledgeable user a moderator will lighten the load. There is no limit to the amount of managers you can create. The people you designate, as Mangers will be able to do everything an owner can do except delete the community. This gives people a sense of growth and they will be more likely to put more effort into the community.
Check and respond to notifications
If you find moderate several Communities you will receive notifications daily. You should check and respond to as many notifications as possible. Take this as an opportunity to let people know that you are active and you care about the community.
Talk About Other communities and People
Communities are not clubs to seclude us from others; they are pipelines of knowledge where one can share information. You will encounter many times questions or comments that are not related to your community or topic. Take that opportunity to mention other people and communities that can better answer that question. Mentioning other people and brands in your posts, and linking to blogs or community members will increase the chances that they will reciprocate, leave a comment, +1 or share it.
Manage well and Smart
Keeping up with your community doesn’t have to be a strenuous effort, but if you want to have a respected and recognized community you have to constantly manage it. Answer peoples questions. If you don’t know the answer, refer to a user that might be more experienced. Not everyone is constantly checking the community but if you tag them they will be notified and will assist you in finding a solution.
You might only have a small community, but it is still important to be actively engaged if you want to grow.
[Tip] Turn the notification Bell Off to not be overwhelmed with Notifications and Emails. Some communities will have them off by default. If the community is a very large public community it can over-saturate your inbox as well as your notifications.
Don’t Spam Your or Other Communities
Try to keep your posts and comments related to the community. Don’t become that person that is posting with no value to the topic. People will get annoyed and remember you as a nuisance. If you really want to add value to your community think about everyone. If your posts are stimulating the audience will take you seriously, if not they will leave your community, kick you out of theirs and stop interacting with you.
As you start to become more involved with the community, you will be able to see great growth and an increase in your profile and brand. Use communities as the tool it’s meant to be. A forum where people that share a passion: gather, discuss, analyze and solve questions that as individuals we may not have the ability to answer on our own. Communities strengthen ideas. I foresee that many great things will come out of them. How is your experience with communities been so far?