The community feature is exactly that – an ability to discover, interact and become a part of various communities in the Google Plus world.
With a wide variety of interests and groups to choose from, it’s a great way to increase interactions with others, while learning more about a subject that interests you. If you’re just discovering the Communities function, Google automatically generates subjects of interests that it believes will interest you.
In addition to the generated list in the Discover Communities, there is an ability to discover more specific communities by using the search function, located in the top right of the screen. You can search almost any subject you want: Keto diet? Yes. Cats and Kittens? Of course (this IS the internet!). Firefly? Absolutely!
How to use the Communities feature
Regardless of the search topic, you’ll be provided with up to 20 communities to choose from. The search parameters also show differentiation within those basic search parameters, giving you the chance to find exactly what you want, or find things you didn’t realize you were looking for. Like canines? Search for the term ‘dogs’. You’ll find results for Newfoundland dogs, Shelter dogs, cute dogs: the search results can help you discover ideas beyond the basic terms.
With an ability to start discussions, post links and ask questions, the Communities function includes several functions that make interaction more user friendly and an automatic sort function within the specific Community posts that allow you to quickly access the desired information.
You can gain information about the Community in the left and right columns. In the left column under the photo, you can determine the number of members, the type of group (public or private), a list of filters, and a small About section that better explains the reason for the group.
The tags list is a particularly useful feature. Similar to filters, they are tags that are applied to posts for easy access in the future. It makes searching for relevant subjects easier in a sea of posts, especially when the community is large.
On the right, you’ll find the actual list of members and their photos, as well as a list of Hangouts and Upcoming Events that are relevant to the group.
Why does it matter?
Part of the genius of the Communities feature is the fact it increases user time on the platform, allowing more ad impressions and possibilities of conversion. It also creates the possibility that the G+ platform will become more essential to people’s day-to-day needs. And with Google incorporating G+ pages into Search results, it is an opportunity to increase your rankings. But it also depends on your needs.
As an entrepreneur or business, the Communities function is an ideal place to research current and potential markets, gauge customer interest and create interactions that form lasting, positive impressions. It’s an opportunity to create and manage branded online content. As a consumer, it is a community with similar interests and concerns to yours. It is an opportunity to find news, products and like-minded people.
How can this help your business?
As we enter 2013, social media interaction is becoming more important to search results. The industry is moving away from basic traffic or links, but instead is moving towards content marketing as one of the most valued metrics in Search.
Part of the opportunity social media presents is genuine interactions with current and potential clients, while increasing brand awareness (and hopefully your bottom line). But it is a double edge sword: you can put yourself, your business or brand out there, but if you create an online presence and then ignore it, your brand will suffer. Consistent, quality interactions will set you apart from your competition. Interactions are also a good metric to measure for brand interest and potential success.
For instance, if you search Communities for ‘Vacations’, you will see 20 results. But look more closely at the result list: in addition to listing the title, it also lists the members, amount of posts and amount of followers. What does it say to you as a consumer if you see a brand start a group and then do nothing with it?
One of the challenges with e-commerce is consumer trust: having a legitimate site, with decent branding, consistent interaction and secure fiscal processing (where applicable) are all elements that online brands should take into consideration when increasing their customer base. It’s safe to say that if a customer doesn’t believe in your brand or product, they will not support you or your website. Consistent content is one of the best ways to increase customer’s trust for a site, as it is assuring sign of legitimacy.
GreatBritishVactions.com is an effective example of this: They have only four members (three, not including them), and have contributed nothing to the page. There is a tonne of opportunity for this group (there’s lots to see in the UK), so why aren’t they doing something? And if that’s how they ignore this opportunity, what else aren’t they doing? That sort of doubt is the difference between abandonment and conversion.
Conversely, Costa Rica Vacation group has interactions AND members. The numbers might not be huge, but genuine interactions don’t have to have huge numbers to be that influential. Consistent interaction is often more beneficial than huge numbers, and it also provides an opportunity for them to improve (but that in itself is a whole other post).