Google+ Strikes Back: The Rise of Google Plus Communities

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We’ve all felt that something big was coming. The apocalypse-leaning camp attributes it to an ancient Mayan prophecy about the end of the world. The Tea Party attributes it to the re-election of Obama. Surely, even my Star Wars loving friends have felt something. Well, it is here. Google is calling it Google Plus Communities and they have exploded onto the scene.

It has been quite a while, if ever, since I’ve seen such a feeding frenzy in the social realm. Google has essentially gone bionic on us. They have taken the limited functionality of Facebook Groups, and rebuilt it. Better, stronger, faster. Those in the know immediately started creating new communities in an attempt to gain a foothold in what could be the cornerstone of Google’s social foundation. Most people, though, had no idea Google had quietly rolled out it’s latest and greatest offering. For some, their first clue was an overflowing inbox full of Google+ community invitations.

What is very significant to me is that Google+ has been called a ghost town, a wasteland. Even I wrote a post referring to it as the Just In Case Network. I felt like people were joining Google Plus in the hope that it would be the next best thing, but that it was not yet living up to our expectations. However, I believe now Google has given us a game changer. Indeed, there’s been a disturbance in the force. The Force, of course being Facebook’s compiled domination of all things social. The Evil Empire.

In case you are wondering why Google Communities are such a big deal, lets review the latest G+ stats: Over 500 million users, 135 million of which are active users. They engage. They post. They share. Compare that to Twitter’s 140 million (Twitter.com) users and you start to get a better glimpse of the big picture. That translates to massive exposure for your brand, your thoughts or even your kitty pictures.

Now, add in the ability to create categories within groups. Let me give you a comparison to illustrate the significance of this one little feature: We have a group on Facebook called Social Swap. Like minded social media folk can help each other share their content, etc. The problem is that it gets messy, sloppy. Someone has a tweet they need shared on Twitter. Someone else has something to re-pin on Pinterest. You have to endlessly scroll to find what you are looking for. Now, compare that hot mess to our new Social Swap community on Google+. We have separate categories: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, etc. Looking for new content to tweet to your followers? Simple. Go to the Twitter category. Need a new pin for your board? Go to the Pinterest category.

Another feature that differentiates Google+ communities from Facebook groups is the fact that on Facebook, anyone can be added to any group at any time, without permission. There is no opt-in process. If you do not want to be in a group, you have to specifically leave the group. Google+ is much, much more respectful of our time by requiring an opt-in. You have to specifically accept an invitation or request to be added to a community, if the specific community requires approval. To me, that is the single best feature that puts G-Com in a league of its own. It addresses and remedies an aspect of Facebook that I personally find reprehensible. Those are just two simple examples of the vast improvement in functionality offered by Google+ Communities. If you would like a comprehensive overview of the new communities, please see Carece Slaughter’s excellent post.

Now, I am not so naive as you think that all of the Google Plus critics will suddenly wake up to a new dawn and declare Google+ king. However, I am pretty certain that a few of them will rethink their position, perhaps even do a little back-peddling. For the die hard Google Plus evangelists out there, it is a time of celebration, backslapping and perhaps even a few well deserved “I told you so’s”. For those of you who understand the irony (and you are probably the G+ early adopters) I will quote Marie Antoinette and say, “Let them eat cake”.

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Kimberly Reynolds
Kimberly Reynolds is a social media and mobile marketing consultant that transforms ordinary websites into powerful marketing machines.  A serial entrepreneur since she was 12, selling books door-to-door, she now trains small business owners on how to leverage social media and the mobile web to attain financial freedom.  If you are interested in how to use social media to outshine your competition, visit her website for a free social media analysis and social media training. Also, visit her on Google.
Kimberly Reynolds
Kimberly Reynolds
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  1. I enjoyed this read, Kim (of course ;-).
    The examples you cited; "categories" and "opt-in feature", were excellent examples of how Google thought this out before launching. That's not to say that it's perfect; there's some issues with posting choices, but I feel Communities is much more professional than FB groups.
    This isn't to dump on Facebook, some of my friends are there:-), and it is supposed to be about friends after all.
    Definitely shared.

  2. davidbranded says:

    Kim, you had me with the visual. Love it! I am curious to see how these communities play out for G+, as always I am skeptical of Google's ability to capture the interest of the marginal SM user. Their new toys seem to entice the experienced and heavy user.

    • Hi David – I fully agree with what you say. The early adopters all seem to be the seasoned users, which is pretty typical. What I think users are going to find is that Communities are not just the shiny new toy but rather they are the best new toy…and the must have gift of the year.

      Thanks regarding the graphic. I’m no graphic artist but I was pretty happy with how it turned out!

  3. Kim, good stuff! I'm really liking the new communities feature on G+ so far. I'm able to get more out of G+ and I feel more organized when I'm on there. However, I'm disliking the communities that I'm in that have grown to over 1,000 members. They seem to be full of people just dumping content (not necessarily spam) but have no intention of engaging. I prefer the smaller communities right now. Maybe I'll have to start/seek out some private communities to get my fill. :)

  4. Alright, time to ramp up my Google + strategy. You've convinced me.

  5. Thanks Ray. I agree. Facebook has its place, but at least now Google can say that it does also. I just feel that for a long term perspective, G+ really needed a great feature like this. Yes, there are kinks, but wow, the potential!

  6. I haven't tried much on Google+, but this does sound appealing. Thanks for the share!

  7. Amanda Socci, Freelance Writer says:

    Absolutely fascinating perspective, Kim Reynolds. Perhaps my favorite part of this blog post ws in your phrase "social swap," which I understand as being a friendlier way of saying "sharing information such as URLs, blog posts, photos, etc."

  8. Scott Scowcroft says:

    Nice article, glad someone wrote it and you did a good job.
    It must have been hard for Google to always be a bridesmade, never a bride. Not that Facebook is going to go away, but from what I've seen of GComm, FB's field of play is going to narrow as SIGs (Special Interest Groups) see just how easy and productive GComm can be.

  9. Google Plus Communities are a great place to interact with others who you share common interests with. It enables you to meet new people as well as have the possibility of driving more traffic to your own social media pages.

  10. I also think people should "do it" when it comes to participating with Google+. Especially when it comes to participating in communities. I come across people who say, "I need to get on Google+ and play with the community functions." Saying and doing are two different things. It's only up to the person to decide whether they want to benefit from a community that can provide valuable resources. I have met quite a few amazing podcasters on Google+ Communities and I learn something everyday when i jump into the community and participate. :)

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  1. [...] Communities are phenominally powerful.  You can read all about them here, on SocialNotz, or in my article for Steamfeed. [...]

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