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Building a community on the cheap with Google+

September 16, 2013

Google+ Communities

Google+, the social network in waiting, has rolled out features regularly since it debuted in 2011. Its Communities featured came out Dec. 6, and I had the Birmingham G+ Community up and running by Dec. 7.

Some Communities have tens of thousands of members. This Community has more than 300.

I set it up with a simple rule: Play nice or be banned. As the sole admin, I can make rules like that.

The other rule: no spam. A few groups I’ve joined on Facebook and LinkedIn tend to be link dumps and spammy.

(I’ve bent over backwards to follow that second rule. I may put a lot of my links on the Birmingham Pinterest board, but I have not shared any of my posts in the G+ Community in its 9-month existence.)

I had no goal other than to see how the Community feature worked. I haven’t been using G+ much for myself, because it’s challenging to schedule posts, which is my default method for sharing to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Like other social networks, G+ Communities can be public or private. They can share links, videos and photos (a nice feature about Facebook Groups is shared documents).

For whatever reason, I never created a Birmingham Facebook Group, just a couple of Interest Lists. And the Pinterest board has done well, but is solely powered by me (co-pinners dropped out over time, and no new volunteers stepped forward).

This Birmingham G+ Community has reached an important milestone: I no longer have to sustain it on my own. Each person has an equal voice in this group, and several have made great contributions.

I like to share current news about my hometown. And I appreciate seeing what others enjoy reading and sharing. It’s interesting to read members’ comments, whether in reaction to a story link or hearing about how they receive (or don’t receive) their news.

Sadly, Google does not provide metrics for its Communities (beyond Ripples for viral posts), nor can users or admins schedule posts. But posts are public for this Community, so even nonmembers can see them (and hopefully embed them someday).

In starting a G+ Community, I have a few quick tips to do it right:

  • Don’t make it about a company or brand. It’s my pet peeve, but I’ve seen over and over how trying to elevate the brand over people fails as a tactic.
  • Invite people on a regular basis. I invite friends and followers on other networks to check it out and join.
  • Post a description and a set of guidelines. This helps participation from the start, as new members know what’s allowed.
  • Post new items regularly to start the conversation flowing. No one will post to a seemingly deserted or inactive group. Admins can pull back once others start jumping in.
  • Hit the “+1” button a lot, for every good question, post, photo, comment and more.
  • Create categories so users can label their posts correctly.
  • Police the Community regularly, to weed out trolls and spam. If a user breaks a rule, an admin should message them privately to explain why a post or comment was removed (often, it’s an unintended oversight by a newbie).
  • Add a moderator if needed, but define their duties and role clearly.
  • And have fun!

Build a Google+ Community to meet people, to learn from them, to debate ideas and to make the world better.

Visit our Birmingham + Community and learn more about Birmingham
and the people who make it special.

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