When talking about social media marketing, discussions often focus on decisions about promoted tweets and Facebook ad campaigns.
But how much do you consider Google+ to drive marketing ROI?
I’m not talking about crafting an eye-catching author bio, promoting your Google+ page, or increasing your circles – although those matter, too. Rather, I’m talking about an aspect of Google+ that is often overlooked by social media marketers…
Google+ Communities offer a great opportunity for marketers to engage, network and promote businesses. With over 150,000 communities and continuously growing members, it’s about time that you start giving Communities a serious thought.
Types of Communities on Google+
There are two types of Communities you can join/create – Public and Private.
Public Communities: Allow you to post content that can be seen by everyone; the doors can be kept wide open, or you can set the community as ‘ask to join’.
Private Communities: Just like Secret Groups on Facebook, the content in private communities can only be viewed by members. The ‘Search’ function can be used to hide the community.
A community can’t be changed from Private to Public, and vice versa.
Interesting Communities for inspiration
Here are a few Communities making a big difference on Google+ – they’ll make you itch to get involved:
This is the place to be for the web’s coolest creations, such as building your own WiFi network.
The projects posted in this community are links to how-to videos and web articles detailing DIY projects. It’s an inspiring idea for anyone running a DIY business (hint: make-up artists should take notes).
Curious about providing bootstrapping advice on the web?
Maybe you should contribute to Startup Bootstrappers, where Saul Fleischman has done a great job. The community is a small group of dedicated Google+ members adding as much as they can to early-stage internet applications. It’s a great place to get your feet wet in the startup world.
This is one community that is really offbeat and makes you want to come back for more the next day. It’s filled with imagery of the most exotic, wonderful and strange places that you would want to visit once you see the pictures. In terms of promotion, any photographer or travel enthusiast will find this community inspiring.
Performing good deeds with social media seems like a lonely crusade, right? It doesn’t have to be when a passionate tribe of like-minded individuals are willing to back up your endeavors… or at least motivate you towards the cause. Inspired by the mind of Gabriel Reynoso, this community talks about the association of social media and cause marketing.
What experts/influencers/industry leaders have to say about Google+ Communities?
Communities solve the stage fright problem with Google+. If I post something in a community, it feels far less consequential. Posting publicly in a stream can be unnerving, like talking about your steak dinner in front of people you suspect might be vegetarians.Posting in Communities, on the other hand, is like talking about a book at a book club, talking about sports in a sports bar or talking about tech at a tech trade show.
Participating in Google+ communities can be a terrific way to gain exposure for yourself and your business. The great thing is that unlike Facebook pages or LinkedIn company pages, you can use your Google+ page just like you would your personal profile to create, join, and engage in communities.
Like any other area of social media, these communities are hugely important in terms of interaction and relationship-building. There is value in digging into these places daily, posting your most relevant and well-timed information, and being available to comment and give back to the conversation.
By mining your Community’s content, you will gain a better understanding for how people talk about your company and its products. Their phrases and words can be incorporated into your marketing communications, your SEO, etc. I remember when I presented to Scott Cook, the Founder of Intuit. He would always say “don’t tell me the numbers, share the verbatim”. In other words, he wanted to know what were people saying and how they said it.
Now you have the basics on Communities and the benefits they offer, let’s look at the steps that will help you get started using them, especially in relation to your social media marketing strategy:
Discover your ideal community
There isn’t a directory to discover relevant communities; you need to log in Google+ first and then click on ‘Communities’. This section will include ‘Recommended Communities’ (based on your Google+ circles) and any community invites you’ve received.
The ‘Community Search’ bar is the most useful tool; you can search for communities by the topic/niche you’re interested in and choose ‘Communities’ in the drop-down menu. After you’re discovered your desired community/communities, click the ‘Join Community’ button. The best way to discover communities for your business is to search for topics your target audience is interested in, or search for keywords important to your business. Then you can start contributing useful posts in these communities.
Or create your own Community
If you’re a big corporation or have a big social media marketing department, you can slam dunk Google+ with your own branded community. In the Communities section, click on ‘Create a Community’ button. Then choose whether it would be a private or public community.
Next, add a tagline and a unique profile and cover photo for your community. These needs to be consistent to your brand and should be eye-catching. Community names can be edited and changed later.
Tip – when you select a tagline or community name, choose keywords that people may use when searching for your business.
Now select ‘Edit Community’ and fill in the ‘About’ section with the description of your business. This can include your business address and phone number (if there’s any). Hyperlinks can’t be inserted in the About section, but you can still include your site’s URL. If you’re marketing a local business, you can ‘Add Location’ by choosing the option below the About section.
Moving on, you’ll want to include categories specific to your business. Follow these engaging post categories for the best results:
Contribute something new
Tips & Tricks
What we don’t know
These categories will engage anyone who joins your community.
With any community, you can set up some roles on what you will allow (or not allow) to prevent spam and moderate discussions.
If you need help with moderating discussions and flagging spam, you can ‘assign a moderator’, which can be a random community member or someone on your team using Google+. A rule of thumb is to pick a moderator who is an active participant.
Actionable tips to drive engagement in G+ Communities
1. Post your own and curated content
People will expect your brand’s unique insights and expertise on the topic. So be sure to keep it well-stocked with the best content. Think of approaching is as a targeted email list of your prospects and customers. They expect you to contribute all the time. Neil Patel on QuickSprout advices posting the most popular content at the best times, such as sharing videos related to your business on Fridays. Quotes, images and GIFs are some other popular content types. Hashtags can also complement some of the content.
2. Use the community to offer customer service
Your community can become a forum where not only your team handles customer queries and issues, but other experienced participants and fans can pitch in to help with answers, saving you money and time. In this case, you can get close friends on board with helping to grow and manage the community as a customer service platform.
3. Participate in discussions
Communities are all about discussions; participate in them to drive engagement. Join other communities and get to know other businesses and influencers through participation. You can ‘+mention’ anyone by name in community discussions to let them know you are engaging them in a conversation. Try out different communities, but don’t spread yourself too thin, or you’ll have a hard time identifying people who benefit your business.
4. Add some emphasis to your posts and updates
It’s a great tip from Amy Lynn Andrews: just *follow this’ for follow this. Just_follow this_ for follow this.
Bold, italicize and add strikethrough to add some emphasis to parts of your updates and posts, just as you would do in emails, blog post promotions, and other content marketing campaigns. You can also use the bold command on titles to make them stand out even more.
5. Use Hangouts
Google+ video Hangouts offer a wonderful way to add more intimacy to real-time connecting. There are many creative uses of Hangouts, such as: live product demonstrations, eight-hour concerts, live cooking… the possibilities are endless. With community members, you can have interesting conversions, meetings and discussions; being more visual and having a voice will let you build even stronger relationships. An integration with YouTube makes it possible to have an archived replay ready when the Hangout is over.
Over to you
If you want to start with Google+ communities, the above tips and insights are as good a place as anywhere. The great thing about these communities is that they are flexible enough for users to come with creative ways to use them (that even Google+ founders never dreamed of).
What has been your experience so far with Google+ communities? Have you tried any of the above advice? We’d be real interested to hear what you have to say.
Article by Dan Virgillito
Dan Virgillito is a professional blogger and content strategy consultant who loves working with startups, companies and nonprofits and help them tell their story better, engage fans and find new ways to drive business through content. You can learn more about his work and get in touch with him via his website. Connect with Dan on Google+ / Dan Virgillito and Twitter / @danvirgillito