Google+ has always been quite the mystery. With seemingly limitless potential, superior functionality and tools, and a generally exciting platform for users to connect, the search engine giant has somehow failed to attract the attention and reputation that many believe it should have. It’s no secret that with the launch of Google+ the company was attempting to claim its piece of the social media pie, but the problem was no real reason to invest the time and effort required in building a successful account. Facebook has the “keeping in touch with friends” angle, Twitter nailed the lightning fast, instant information idea, and Pinterest is the place for sharing interesting ideas, photos, and recipes. Instagram allows the average user to play photographer, and Linkedin is the go-to business portal. There is a common theme among all these successful social media platforms. While Google+ may have the pedigree and all the potential in the world, up until now they failed to address one vital question: why?
Well here it is, ladies and gentleman. Google+ on Thursday unveiled “Communities”, a conversation platform where specific interests, topics, or hobbies can be discussed at length. Found along the side bar of the Google+ page, the new feature is a coffee house-esque function that allows users to search for uniquely tailored subjects. Although conversation is nothing new among social media platforms, Google+ has tapped into an idea largely over-looked by its successors: focus. We are all accustomed to our Facebook feeds overrun with random thoughts and rants, links, and the infuriating amount of baby pictures which only seems to be growing. Recognizing this, Facebook released its “star” program where users can chose only those they see fit to appear on their front page. Even with the extra effort the randomness still exists, and luckily this works for Facebook. Generally users don’t log in to their accounts seeking specific info on specific people. The new Google+ Communities feature is more of a focused social media. Users can now join specific conversations, public or private, and contribute or learn in a way that has been absent in most social platforms. This type of organized conversation allows for unlimited topics, but partitioned and accessible on demand. Being able to jump into any Community and pick up a conversation gives Google+ the unique feel of a worthy social network they have been lacking.
This new feature seems to present an entirely new set of pros and cons. If done well, Communities can serve as the tie between the many underutilized functions of Google+, such as the Hangouts feature. Another intriguing thought is the use of custom push notifications. At the time of this writing, Google + Communities offer notifications to users every time their chosen conversations update with new information. Even deeper, though, is the opportunity to get notified for specific contributors. For local businesses, Google+ Communities presents an opportunity to remain active with their peers, and stay up-to-date with news within their field. On the other hand, the new function opens the floodgates on unregulated spam, bad information, and duplicate communities. Although Google has introduced an approval process for contributors to help eliminate some of this, these initial issues should be a focal point if Google+ Communities is ever going to grow.
The word “ghost town” is frequently thrown around when describing Google+, but taking a look at the numbers reveals this is simply not true. With 135 million active users and another 235 million that find themselves using the network in some regard, it seems that the problem isn’t the amount of people but rather the amount of activity. It’s as if everyone is looking at everyone else, waiting for the first move. Well Google+ Communities may be that fire lit under them that starts all the movement.
And for building a brand, whether nationally or locally, this could be big. Creating or joining communities related to something you specialize in gives you the chance to listen and share value related to your area of expertise.
Getting started with Google's communities is pretty simple and you could probably figure it out without a tutorial, but here is one anyway from Google.
Our team is excited about the potential of Google+ communities. You can connect with EZlocal in our newest community, Local Search Talk where we look forward to discussing and sharing various ways to increase online visibility in Local Search with a focus on Google+ Local. Let's connect!