Getting Started With Google+ Communities

tips-for-google-communities (2)

On Google+, you have the ability to manipulate your circles to control the groups of people you want to receive information and content from, but there’s no guarantee those  users will circle you to receive your updates.

This is where Google+ Communities come in, Google’s version of a group or forum, built to bring people together around particular topics. Launched in December, the types of Communities available to the Google+ audience seem endless — ranging from scienceanimalsdevelopment and more.

Communities are places where users can share specific questions, comments or content relating to a particular topic with other users who are just as interested in the conversation. For example, if you’re a member of a cooking community, it’s likely each post will contain something related to food. And if there is a user who is posting content unrelated to the chosen topic, a moderator could step in and police that person.

Where to Start

After logging into Google+, you’ll see an icon on the left rail for “Communities.” This will bring you to the Communities homepage, which will give you a sample of the types of public communities available to join. You can choose to enter a community from here or search for a topic that may not be represented on the main screen, using the search bar at the top-right of the page. The Communities landing page is made up of two sections:

Your communities

When you start joining communities, they’ll be populated here.

Communities you belong to
Communities you belong to

Discover communities

The discover communities section should be pre-populated with suggested communities based on the information filled out in your profile and the posts that you’ve published.
Ready to search? There is a handy search bar on the right-side of the “Discover communities” section.

Discover communities you may have interest in
Discover communities you may have interest in

 

Say you’re interested in joining a community focusing solely on Biology; you’d be ecstatic to discover there are already a number of communities devoted to the science of Biology. While public community pages allow you to access and explore the content, you must join the community before you can comment or post. Many public pages will allow you to join immediately, but some are dependent on moderation.

Private communities work differently from public communities in that they are, ahem, private. When a user creates a private community, as we’ll discuss below, he or she can decide whether a private group appears in Google+ search results. If you’re interested in joining a private community you found through search, you must ask the community’s moderator to join before viewing or interacting with any of the content.

Posting to Communities

tech-coffee-640x458

Sharing content to a community is much like sharing to one of your circles. While you can post to your respective community directly from the community’s page, you can also post from basically anywhere on the platform. If you find a story on a website you’d like to share with your community, but you’re not on Google+ at that time, use the +1 button  Plus_One_Logo_128x128 - Edited from the story’s webpage and select your respective community.

At this time, Google+ prohibits you from sharing to multiple communities. Also, when you do choose to post to a community, you will not be able to share that same post through the public feed — meaning you’d have to post your content twice for it to show up in the community and in the public feed. If you do post your content to a public community, though, it will still be visible to users who navigate to your profile page. But if you share a post to a private community page, it cannot be publicly viewed anywhere except in that community.

Many community pages have added categories in order to organize the discussion. You will be prompted to choose a category within the community when you share a post. In the Google Apps For Education community, for example, users can post to “Discussion,” “Discovery,” “Tutorial, Training, Conference” and, for new community members to introduce themselves, “Introductions.” You should determine which category is the best fit for your post.

Notifications

While discussing a particular topic may be your life’s passion, you may not wish to be notified every time a new post has been shared in one of your communities. Or maybe you do. Either way, notifications can be toggled on or off by clicking on the bell icon on your community’s page.

notifications

Create Your Own Community

So you’ve browsed all the public communities and you didn’t find that exact community you hoped to join. Or maybe you want to create a private group for your department or your class, for example. Google+ gives you the option to create your own community, and it’s a breeze to do. When you’re on the main Communities page, you’ll see a red button on the top-right that says “CREATE A COMMUNITY.”

publicprivate

You can then choose to create either a public or private community. On its FAQ page, Google notes that users cannot change a community page from private to public, or vice versa, once it has been created, so choose accordingly.

If setting up a public page, choose what you want to name the community — names do not have to be unique — and then decide if you will allow anyone to join, or if you’d like to moderate memberships. For a private page, you can decide whether you want to hide the community from search or allow people to find the page and ask to join.

love-mashable

Once the page has been created, there are still a few things to complete:

  • Enter a tagline, why would someone want to join your community?
  • Pick a suitable and relevant photo to front your community
  • Complete your about section, write a few rules to keep things in order
  • Add some discussion categories for better more focused discussion

Invitations

When you think you’re ready to start letting people know about your community, go ahead and click the “Invite people” button, which will be located on the top-right of your community’s stream.
Screenshot 2013-04-04 at 11.28.32 AM
Please use the invitations feature with consideration for others, you should generally only invite people who you think would be interested in the community. You don’t want to look like a spammer, and if you are careless with invites you may end up being muted/blocked and even reported, be warned…

Communities on Your Phone and Tablet

Google+ Communities are not only available on the web, you can also catch-up with the conversation on your phone and tablet. To access Communities, tap the Google+ icon on your mobile device, and select Communities.
app-drawer        communities-app
You’ll then be able to select from your communities, look through your community invitations and see ones suggested to you, just like on the desktop.

Download

If you don’t have Google+ installed on your devices yet, download links for both +Android and iOS are below.

google-play_00FA000001228971-1  Apple-App-Store (2)

Last Word on Being an Effective Community Member

Google+ Communities are for users who are more interested in vibrant conversations around topics than they are about self-promotion. Quality community members are those who share relevant content that sparks conversation or debate, and who participate in conversations by leaving comments and +1’ing posts. Users whose intentions are to promote themselves or spam the community will most likely be removed by a moderator, so be careful how you approach your communities.

The next post will tackle how to share content you find on the internet to your circles or communities.