Google has added a new feature to its social network, Google+, which aims to allow people to share content in a more effective way and communicate with users who have common interests. For the 500 million users of Google+ this is a welcome addition and thousands of Google+ Communities sprang up overnight when the new feature appeared on the dashboard late last week. From a user perspective, it makes Google+ look more like a social network, rather than just an SEO tool and somewhere to stage the odd hangout.
The network has always been promoted as the place where people can crowd around common interests by adding people to their circles, attending hangouts and sharing their own content in hope for +1s. The Communities feature now provides a place where people who share common interests can simply connect en masse, making networking and content sharing far easier.
How does this feature compare to Facebook and LinkedIn groups?
Google+ Communities are very similar to Facebook groups. Google has even introduced a ‘suggested communities’ feature to help guide users towards relevant groups, similar to Facebook’s ‘suggested groups’ tool. The big differentiator at first glance is that there are actually more ways of communicating with fellow community members than provided by Facebook or LinkedIn groups.
Hangouts can be participated in and viewed by community members and, through the +1 share feature, users can share content directly with a relevant group. So, if I write a blog about Google+, I can share it with the ‘Google+ Discuss’ community rather than just my own circles. Plenty of opportunities for PRs there.
Google has also flexed its muscles by adding a powerful search feature to the community pages, an area that Facebook has been looking to tackle the search giant on. Community posts can be filtered by topics and discussion categories – so you can find the relevant information in the relevant group in seconds – trust Google to raise the bar on this one.
How can this benefit my business?
Community pages are not to be confused with branded profiles. Using Facebook as a comparator once more, branded Google+ pages are similar to a company page that users can like and engage with. Brand pages can join the relevant communities and gain access to a larger, more relevant pool of people than through the circles feature which can be rather painstaking.
The knock-on effect of this is simple. Sharing information with more people and more relevant people increases your chances on getting higher amounts of shares and interaction with your content, whether you’re an individual or a brand. Given Google’s influence over SEO, more shares and engagement means a higher author or page rank for users and companies.
With that said, given the advances made in Google AuthorRank this year, we would still recommend that individuals make better brand influencers than a company profile itself. After all, people want to talk to people on social networks. Communities provide a more effective way of your brand influencers getting involved in relevant conversations and increasing their profile.
Google has provided this short video to explain the concept of Google+ communities.