Growing your network through Google Plus Communities is good practice in today’s social media world, how things have evolved…
First came Bulletin Board Systems
First, there were BBS’s, Bulletin Board Systems. For those old enough to remember the 9600 dial up modems, some even had a cradle for the phone to sit on whilst the electronics squealed down the phone line like teenage girls fighting over a guy neither of them should date.
Those early bulletin boards were created for groups of users to chat online about common areas of interest.
Then came Forums
As with all things Internet, these evolved into forums. Webmasters could create a chat forum and divide them into sections leaving moderators to make sure everyone behaved and followed the rules of the forum.
It’s probably fair to call both of these Social Media. There were just far fewer users back then.
Then came Social Media as we know it Today
More recently, LinkedIn created Groups on its platform mirroring this functionality. Moderator roles can still be assigned to different users. Groups can be joined by anyone or membership restricted by request or even by invitation only.
In either case, once membership is obtained users can see posts, comments and share their own content but all of that interaction is monitored (usually) by a moderator to make sure users post and engage within the spirit of the Group and keeping it on topic.
Google Plus Communities
Google Plus Communities are much the same.
Rules of Membership
You’ll find that most Google Plus Communities include background about the group in the About section, along with some guidance on what’s cool and what’s likely to lose you friends or a rap on the knuckles from the moderator, or even banning from the moderator or owner if you’re not careful.
Almost any Communities you’ll want to be a part of will share this common rule; don’t just dump links without engaging or adding any value to them. We covered some of those same rules in our post on Google Plus Etiquette.
You should be on Google Plus and in these Communities to meet new people with whom you share a common interest, to network with people you can collaborate with on projects or who you might share common clients or gain or give referrals, they might even be customers that want to buy your product or service.
Do NOT wade in pitching without adding any value to the community. Your sales won’t be too great if you interrupt people in the street and we all hate those cold callers on the phone too, right? Google Plus and Google Plus Communities are no different.
Don’t share your latest blog post to 15 different Communities and hope for the best. Anyone viewing your profile will see all 15 in a row and think you’re a spammer – you are!
Rather like the BBS of yore, moderators will set categories of posts which you should try your best to fit your post into. Take care with this as incorrect categorising will probably upset the moderator who may take your post down.
If there isn’t a category that is relevant to your post, double-check that this is the right place for your post.
If you must share the same post to different communities at least spread those reshares across a few days, or share it to your business page and have different users each responsible for engaging and sharing in different Communities if you have the luxury of a team.
Your motivation for joining a Community might be to learn rather than to engage. That perfectly fine. There are some amazing Communities on Google Plus that are full of great content, guides, video and chat. If you’re learning, post a question – describe your problem, what you’ve tried and what you’re struggling with.
In my experience, people in Communities are supportive and will happily answer questions and provide links to answers for you if they can. Sometimes you’ll find that some questions can create a lively debate amongst different users in the Community too.
If you’re there to learn just read posts, comment if you wish, or ask questions.
You’ll find that those engaged in a Community will reshare other content they’ve found interesting from other Google Plus Communities, from users they follow or from other social platforms or blogs.
Contributors create a brand around themselves, positioning themselves in the middle of the conversation around this particular area of interest. Their content will be consistent but not necessarily frequent – quality of content and the thoughts and considered opinion will win you more friends and influence than 12 reshared posts per day.
Contributors will also gain trust in their opinion (and probably followers) by answering queries from members of the Community who post their queries and problems, offering advice and links to content, or even inviting others into the conversation who might be able to help too.
Publishers will post their own content to the Community, the effective ones adding commentary to their post with supporting arguments and links to other posts or content around the web which is relevant to the piece being shared.
Well-connected and respected publishers will also include other users in the post who may have contributed or inspired the post, or simply that the publisher values their opinion and wants them involved in the discussion thread.
Everything in moderation. Just publishing is likely to be seen as spam. Striking a fine balance between Contributor and Publisher will gain you credibility, followers and respect for your own posts when you do share them. Don’t be afraid to learn either. Not everyone knows everything.
Ask not what the Community can do for you, ask first what you can do for the Community.
Sharing in Communities
If you’re sharing a post to a Community, that’s it. No other circles, no other Communities, just this one post to this one Community. If you want to share it publicly or to another Community, you’ll have to reshare it.
Communities can be set to public (everyone can read the post, it’ll be shown in your public history and Google will index it), but only members of the Community can comment.
When you share into a private Community, only members can see it there or on your posting history. Google won’t index it.
Private Communities are pretty useful for internal project discussions and other social sharing you want limited to a specific group.
If you really want to be attentive in a Google+ Community, supporting members and answering questions quickly to build your credibility, you can also choose to be notified whenever a user’s posts to the Community.
Consider this carefully. Although it is pretty easy to switch off the notifications, you might find your phone pinging and vibrating a lot for a busy Community.
Contribute. Answer questions. Reshare relevant content you find elsewhere, but don’t over share. Share your own content, but whenever you’re posting or resharing, add your own opinion and reference other Community posts when it’s appropriate and relevant.