This brief article is written primarily for those who have set up/moderate communities (over 20,000 created in 2 weeks!) and also those interested in the psychology of Google Plus more generally.

Introduction

Since the arrival of communities within the Googleverse I believe many of us have seen attention shift from profiles and pages (as well as the stream) to Communities i.e. tribes, focused conversations, silos of content.

This is somewhat inevitable as, unless people spend more time within the platform itself, they will have to ‘move attention’ around as it is a fixed supply i.e. time and presence of awareness. But how have things really changed?

Communities vs. Profiles and Pages

Many of us live by the concept of engagement when it comes to Google+. We post relatable content and people who relate respond with +1s, comments, shares. In turn, our ‘connections’ form within our personalised networks.

With Communities, however, we go somewhere – to a central meeting place where topical content eddies around, as if part of the stream is diverted there. People post directly to the community where they would have posted into the stream beforehand; or new information flows into a community that would not have otherwise been posted. The more engagement, the more energy there exists in that part of the swirling eddie of information.

A community is a place for every member to post.

With a ‘profile’ or a ‘page’ on Google+ YOU, as the owner or manager, curate the content.  In a community, however, the content is member driven. Content is then regulated by the a) spam filters (moderators have final say on spam), and b) the owners/moderators. The latter two also have to discern what to ‘keep in’ and ‘throw out’ in terms of both content and members themselves – i.e. delete posts, remove a member and ban a member from the community.

So, when you have people from the community deciding upon the content in the community, quality and relatability will vary.

Here is my main point: people themselves ideally need to know how to engage on Google+ when posting into communities. If they don’t, they are on broadcast mode not on ‘conversation’ mode.

Now, here is the challenge. How to recreate engagement when it is within a community?

A few tips:

This is really early days on for me with communities, but here are a few ideas:

  • Use the strapline of the community page name to really grab people’s attention and set the context to the community
  • Have moderators who want to ENGAGE with any relevant content  - people will feel they are being heard.
  • Be tough on your community guidelines – e.g. I have removed ‘promotions’ as a category in the United Kingdom to reduce the spammy nature of some posts
  • Also consider stating in the guidelines whether it is inappropriate to promote other communities i.e. if people are all eating at a restaurant, having a good time, do you want the restaurant owners from next door arriving and drawing away their attention? (Thanks Jim Banks for that one!)
  • You want to have people keep ‘notifications’ on until auto off at 1000 members- do everything you can to make people feel welcome
  • Get rid of unrelatable content before people see it – this could help prevent the notification ‘bell’ getting switched off.
  • Engage, engage, engage – you can take a lead as owner, moderator or enthusiastic community member and post content yourself that ‘pulls people in’.
  • Also, as with all posts…one can use questions to engage the mind and use images where appropriate as well. That all helps.

Conclusion

Earlier this year I could see cultures of collaboration emerging on Google+ in a transnational, multicultural whilst increasingly being transcendent of the restrictions of language (with Google translate). I am personally convinced we are still at the initial stage of the world embracing this new form of online world. Communities will enable this to happen more and more.

2013 should be an excellent year for those who are already embracing the change. Happy Christmas to those who have made my 2012 one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. Thank you.

Want to know more about communities? Check out the Google Plus Communities Quickstarter Guide (includes video).

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