Google+ Community Member Guide
Google+ is gaining popularity every day. Google+ is now the second largest social network (even though it really shouldn’t be directly compared to Facebook or Twitter, but that’s another story entirely). If you came here from the Social Media Strategy community, we do have a community specific guide in the works, but this one will explain how to be a great community member, no matter which community you are in.
Thanks to Google+, you have the ability to fully control the content you see. You can circle just about anyone, adding people and public circles who you find interesting, and target people you hope find you interesting as well. However, it is never guaranteed that anyone will ever circle you back, or even notice you or your content in the first place.
So wait, how can you ever hope to reach new people interested in something specific? Well, Google has given us a great way to reach each other, without resorting to spam and hashtag abuse.
Be the best Google Plus Community member you can be.
The complete guide to being a productive and cherished member of any online community.
Table of Contents
Sharing to Google+ Communities
• Community Policies and Guidelines
• How to Recognize Post-worthy Content
• Posting to Communities: Step By Step
• Sharing a Post to Multiple Communities
• Google+ Community Post Privacy
Google+ Community Options and Settings
• Show/Hide Public Community Posts on Profile Page
• Google+ Community Invite Notification Settings
• Google+ Community Post Notification Settings
Google+ Community Basics
About Google+ Communities
Google+ Communities are Google’s version of an online group or forum. They are great places to come together with other people to talk about particular brands, topics, and trends.
Launched in December 2012, the types of Communities now available to the Google+ audience seem endless — with communities on such varied subjects as marketing, law, politics, or local communities, like this one for the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and much much more!.
Within any one of these Communities, members can share content relating to a particular topic, directly to users who are just as interested as they are on the subject. For example, chances are if you were to join our Social Media Strategy community, you would never see any cat gifs, recipes, or discussions about last night’s baseball game – you would see posts and questions directly relating to Social Media and Internet use for business purposes.
Types of Google+ Communities
Public Google+ Communities
Who Can Join?
Anyone approved by moderator
Who Can See Members & Posts?
Who Can Find the Community?
Meeting people on Google+ who share your interests
Sharing content publicly, but limiting who can create it
Private Google+ Communities
Who Can Join?
Anyone approved by moderator
Anyone invited to community
Who Can See Members & Posts?
Who Can Find the Community?
Creating closed communities for specific public organizations
Small groups to have more private conversations
Joining Google+ Communities
Depending on the community type (public or private), you may have to wait for approval before you are able to become a member.
Browse Recommended Google+ Communities
Search for Google+ Communities
Choosing Your Google+ Communities
There are tens of thousands of Google+ Communities, on every possible topic you can imagine. You will, more often than not, find more than one community for your chosen interest or topic. As each community will have it’s own approach to the subject, be sure to pay attention to each community’s focus and their guidelines as well. Take a look around, looking at the way that others post and interact within the community. Take time to be sure that the community looks like a good fit. If you are confused about a community, send a private message to an owner or moderator with any questions you may have.
Sharing to Google+ Communities
Community Policies and Guidelines
Before you even think about a new post to the community you just joined, you need to STOP and take a look around.
Is there a posted community policy?
Be sure to read it first.
Usually you can find these in the “About” text of the community or linked by moderators in a special category. Look for the following categories in order to catch up on community matters quickly: ‘Announcements’, ‘Posting Guidelines’, ‘Moderation’, ‘Community Guidelines.’ You could even use the search function in the community to just search for the terms “community policy,” “community guidelines” or “community rules.”
Please remember that some communities may have stricter posting policies than others. If for any reason you are not sure if what you want to post is acceptable for the community, send a private message to any owners or or moderators of the community in order to find out if you should proceed with sharing.You’ll find moderators always happy to help, so long as you ask first! However, to be completely honest, most of the guidelines are very similar, based on widely accepted internet etiquette (netiquette).
After that, check out categories available for posting, look at previous posts, see what posts are most popular within the community. Do you notice any patterns? Keep these insights in mind once you get to composing posts for communities. Here is an example of the policy we have for our Social Media Strategy Community: Community Policy.
How to Recognize Post-worthy Content
Is it useful?
Is it something that will interest the audience?
Is it relevant?
Is it answering a question, solving a problem, sharing insight, or provoking debate?
Is it informative?
Is it providing informative content from a new perspective?
Is it educational?
Is it a tutorial, how-to, DIY guide or Infographic that can expand abilities, interests, knowledge or skill in some way?
Is it entertaining?
Is it entertaining, engaging or inspiring to the community?
Remember, some communities focus on informative content, or entertaining content, or sometimes somewhere in between. Ensure that posts and links are relevant and of value to the community you are posting in. If there is one crucial thing to remember about posting links, it is that Links will only be clicked if they are relevant to their audience.
Posting to Communities: Step By Step
STEP 1: Start Your Post
Sharing content to a community is much like sharing to one of your circles. You can post to a community directly from the community’s page (either from the main page, or even within a category (the post will automatically be categorized with that topic, so please look before sharing). You can also post from basically anywhere on the platform by simply adding the community and selecting a category in the share box. If you find a story you’d like to share with your community, but you’re not on Google+ at that time, use the +1 button from the story’s page and select your respective community.
STEP 2: Compose Your Post
Provide context for the content and links that you share. Please, describe the content of the posts (3-5 sentences). Let us know what we are going to see when we get there. Tell us exactly what we will find, and include some of the information from the target link, either summarized or quoted, at the least. Well described posts ALWAYS have a better click-through rate than a post with just a single line title, or no additional text/commentary at all. If you still need some more help with your Google+ posts, be sure to check out the Google+ Posting Guide after this.
STEP 3: Categorize Your Post
On the left hand side of most communities, below the community profile image, member count and notification settings, you will find a list of categories. These categories allow community owners to organize the community into subtopics or threads with specific rules. (This is why we tell you to read the community policy first!).
The categories are a great way to find whatever you want within the community, and to help the right people find your posts as well. You can post to a category by posting from the main community stream, and selecting the category from the drop down menu at the bottom of the share box, or by clicking on the actual category name on the left hand side of the community and then posting from there, or, from any new Google+ post window, by typing the name of the community in the share box, and selecting it from the responsive drop down search. Once you select the community, another drop down appears with a list of category names.
If something matches multiple categories, check the category list, and send it, if possible, to a category labeled “General,” or “Miscellaneous,” and if those are not available, just pick one category. Do not post the same share into multiple categories, as they are all visible by default in the community, and are viewed as spam.
STEP 4: Review Your Post
Double-check your post. Test the link. Make sure to double-check spelling and grammar. You never want your posts to seem rushed or lazy. Why should someone spend several minutes on the website you are linking, when you can’t take a few moments to review your post? Ready to go? Click Share!
Sharing a Post to Multiple Communities
Google+ prohibits you from sharing to multiple communities at once. Also, when you do choose to post to a single community, you will not be able to simultaneously share that same post to the public stream.
The beauty of communities is having an audience that is already interested in what you are sharing. Sharing to a community of even 5,000 relevant individuals can be way more powerful than a public post likely scanned and skipped by the average user. And chances are, if the post is relevant, users in the community will re-share it for you, allowing your post to go viral organically, even if your own personal audience is still small.
If you still want to post some content both publicly and to a community, be sure to space out and vary the content within the posts to ensure the most engagement without looking like a spammer (or being auto-flagged by Google as spam). Also, never copy paste a post to multiple locations. Either create a truly unique version of the post for each community, complete with different graphics and introductory text, or reshare the original publicly shared or community shared version of the post. Try not to share to more than 1-2 communities on a single subject within a 24 hour period, and even then, NEVER DUPLICATE CONTENT! Many members of one community may be a member of the other communities as well. Remember, the definition of spam is to send the same message indiscriminately to large groups of people. So, never, and I mean never, copy and paste identical posts to public and communities. Instead, re-share the post over an extended period of time to get the most benefit, or create different versions of the post, focusing on different aspects of the content, to be able to share out without looking like a spammer. As an example, do one link share, and one image share, using an image from the blog post. This way, you get the benefits of each type of share, as well as posting to more than one community.
This can be further facilitated by what +Paul Maplesden calls a Post Rota. A Post Rota is a simple spreadsheet with names of communities and the names of your posts. This spreadsheets gives you an easy way to schedule and spread out your posts, which will increase engagement for you over longer period of time, allowing you to reach more communities, but still be a good community member in each!
Google+ Community Post Privacy
Posts you share to a public community will not show up in your friends and followers’ public streams, unless the people following you are also members of the same community. Your public community posts will be visible to people who view to your profile “posts” page, unless you have set your settings for them not to appear. Visitors will be able to see that it was not only posted to a community rather than public, but they will also see the name of the community and the category in which is was posted. With private community posts, even on your profile, they will only be visible to other members of the community, regardless of your community post visibility setting.
Google+ Community Options and Settings
Show/Hide Public Community Posts on Profile Page
1. Hover over the home icon on the top left of the main Google+ page to open the Google+ main navigation sidebar.
2. Select Settings from the navigation sidebar.
3. Scroll to ‘Profile’.
4. Check or uncheck the box next to Show your Google communities posts on your Google profile according to your own preference.
Google+ Community Invite Notifications
You can control the people and pages who are allowed send you invitations to communities, as well as whether you receive those invitations via email or mobile phone. To control this, visit the Google settings page and adjust the “Who can send you notifications” control. To turn off emails and mobile notifications for community invitations entirely, visit the “Settings” page (via the drop-down sidebar on the left), scroll down, and turn off the “Invites me to a community” setting. Even with community invitations enabled via email or mobile, you won’t receive community invitation from anyone you haven’t allowed notification privileges.
Google+ Community Post Notifications
You may not want to be notified every time a new post is shared into the community.For open public communities, notifications of new posts to the community is off by default. For private communities as well as moderated public communities, and communities you start yourself, notification of new posts to the community is on by default. If notifications are on, you will get a notification by email, on your mobile device or by the Google toolbar when someone posts something new in the community (dependent on your Google notification settings, also available within the Google settings page).
Six Keys to Google+ Etiquette
Interact With Your Community
Respond to any comments or questions on your posts in a timely manner. Even if the audience disagrees with you, invite the debate and remain professional in your conduct. People will respect you for it.
Share Unique Content
The best way to do this is to generate your own content. Of course there is also derivation, and compilation, such as this article, but at least present the information in an original way. Before you post, make sure no one else has posted the same link recently. You’d be surprised. Great minds think alike.
Properly Categorize Posts
Make sure to look around before posting and check the categories. Google+ communities use categories to keep organized. Look carefully through the selection and choose the community category that is closely related to the keywords, that best describes the content you are sharing.
Capture the Audience’s Attention
Provide a post description (summary, title and quote, etc) that is long enough to capture the audience’s attention and inspires them to read more, and gives enough information so as not to feel like there is an incoming bait-and-switch. If you can answer the question: “How will this change my life?” in more than 160 characters, you are on the right track.
Give Credit to Creators
When linking to someone else’s content, always be sure to give them credit for their work by linking to the source material via HTML. Also, if the creator is already on Google+, and they are not already in your circles, be sure to find and add them before composing your post, so that you can +mention them into the post as well.
Use Relevant Hashtags
Use hash tags sparingly and only when appropriate to describe fundamental principles of your image, post, link, video. Try to limit to 3 hashtags on a single post.
We suggest using hashtags at the bottom of a Google+ post, to allow people to use them if they want, and help your post get discovered, without compromising the integrity of the post. Remember, there is no character limit like there is on Twitter. Inline hashtags were a function of necessity, not beauty or legibility. Why would you want to give a reader a chance to navigate away from your content before they even finish reading? Just seems like common sense to me. Leave the hashtags at the bottom of the post.
Be a Community Member, Not a Broadcaster
Communities are not your chance to “broadcast” to a larger audience. They are your chance to communicate with people who have similar interests and drive traffic to and bring attention relevantcontent. Surely, there are a myriad of business applications to communities, but when you are a member of someone else’s community, you must follow their rules, not your own. As individuals and businesses interacting in other people’s communities, to avoid having posts removed or facing the threat of the banhammer, any time you post to the community, as well as following all the other guidelines, make it a point to interact on at least a few other posts in the community. Strike up a conversation in the comments, +1 a few posts… but remember to give back to the community. It really doesn’t take long to comment and follow up from time to time, and you’d be surprised as what you learn. You are receiving a free relevant audience to deliver content to, people will appreciate you going the extra mile and actually being an active community member, rather than a broadcaster.
Worst Members Ever: The Thoughtless Three
Nearly every single one of a community owner or moderator’s least favorite community members fit into at least one of the three following categories, a list that I like to call “The Thoughtless Three.”
This type of member is rather self-explanatory. They join communities only to broadcast, not to take part. This would be like someone showing up to your party, handing out business cards to everyone in the room, and then running out the back door. Sometimes they are individuals, and sometimes they are businesses, but either way, they are the bane of every community moderator’s existence.
Some people post just bare links, or a copy and paste of the title, and if you are lucky, maybe 2-3 words like “This is great” or “Share this link.”This is the worst possible way to try and get your audience’s attention, especially when they are bombarded with hundreds (if not thousands) of other posts, constantly moving in their public stream throughout the day. By simply describing posts, you increase your engagement, and make your posts easier to find through search.
These users will have profiles that were obviously written with one hand patting themselves on the back. They like to call themselves such titles like:expert, guru, ninja, etc. They love to do things like: regurgitating out-of-date or false information, plagiarizing other people’s hard work, top-five or top-ten lists spanning multiple pages, and of course, ads covering most of the real estate throughout any of those sites.
Derived, compiled, written using several sources, including:
• +Paul Maplesden‘s Guide to Google+ Communities on HubPages
• +Martin Shervington‘s User Guide to Google+ Communities
• Official Google+ documentation
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below, and I can always add it in afterwards!