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Google Plus Communities – An Idea with Wings?

On December 6th, Google launched their newest innovation to Google+, perhaps the piece of the g-Puzzle that will give G+ the juggernaut status the folks at the ‘Plex are hoping for: Google plus communities

Early reception was enthusiastic, and Communities started appearing almost immediately. Predictably, there were a lot that appeared with SEO in their names – at least 20 as of this writing, 15 of which were all identically named “SEO”.

There were similar duplications in niches such as Marketing, Design, Coding, Development, Optimization and undoubtedly in many others, distributed among the predominantly technical denizens of the G+ playground.

Those same technical denizens, of course, often tend to look at such things in their own peculiar fashion, which, depending upon the individual, might include:

  • How can I use this?
  • How can I abuse this?
  • How long will this last?
  • Is there a downside?
  • WOOT!

Some Feedback & Chatter

A lot of interesting discussions have taken place, so I thought I’d highlight some of the points noted by various community members:

  • One particularly industrious soul noted that he’d discovered a way to promote a community to the larger public audience by creating the community from a company page that had been linked to Local, causing the Community to appear in the SERPs. Suhweet! Nice catch, Tony!
  • Many have noted that some communities have been created in extremely broad niches, such as SEO or Marketing, and logically predict that such communities may become so large as to be unmanageable. Smaller, specialized communities such as Semantic SEO or Local Marketing may make more sense. I agree that smaller niche communities may have a better survival rate.
  • It’s also been mentioned in many communities that the number of invitations and notifications can quickly reach an annoying level. Boy, howdy! I feel your pain on that one! There’s a simple solution, though, if you don’t mind having to check in periodically to be sure you haven’t missed anything important:

Directly under the image for the community, next to the Actions drop-down, just click on the little bell icon and toggle notifications for that community off or on. As for the invitations, if there’s a solution, I haven’t found it yet.

  • I’ve seen a lot of evidence of cross-posting, too. Someone belongs to a dozen communities, so they drop the same post in all of them. I know my reaction to that – spammer!  And from comments I’ve seen from a number of moderators and community owners indicate I’m not the only one that feels that way.
  • Another point made is that closed communities may have a shorter life, and may be high-maintenance in terms of keeping the flow going. I definitely can see some validity in that. Personally, if I wanted a closed community, I’d simply set up a Skype chatroom.
  • In general, the popular wisdom seems to be that laser-focused communities will be more easily managed, more likely to survive the test of time and provide more relevant, in-depth posts. That makes sense to me.
  • I also saw mention of several suggestions for future additions/modifications. Amanda Krause offered these:

1. The ability to ‘lock’ a category from anyone posting in it.
2. The ability to quickly move a post from one category to another.
3. The ability to add a sticky ‘Category Description’ at the top of each one.
4. The ability to “turn off” spam notifications.

Charles Carrigan had these suggestions:

  • To be able to turn OFF community email notifications but keep community red box notifications ON.
  • To be able to post to multiple communities and to circles at the same time.
  • For the numbers that indicate new posts in Community topics to not all disappear when I click on just one of them.
  • To be able to have new posts from saved searches automatically show up in my stream.

Phillip Maddick (and many others) voiced a desire to see community posts shown separately from his profile posts.

A LOT of people are complaining that there’s no way to bookmark a community post so it can be found later. I feel their pain, too. I spent nearly an hour scrolling down through the Discuss community to find a post from 5 days ago!

One that I’d add is a listing of Communities (at least those that aren’t private) on a member’s About tab. However, I think members should be given the option to hide or show those to others.

I think another great addition would be the ability to browse existing communities. Presently, if you try to create a community with a name that already exists, it doesn’t notify you of the fact. I would really prefer to be able to browse communities, and the search that exists now only displays 20 results. If you want to create a San Diego SEO community, it would be nice to know beforehand that your best mate already started one.

As with any social platform, there are those upon whom the meaning of social and community are totally lost… they see it only as a broadcast channel, and are dropping self-promoting posts in many communities. So far, most of the owners of the communities I’ve been monitoring are keeping close tabs on things, and a lot of folks have found themselves on the outside, looking in.

Such antics are inevitable, but in communities comprised mostly of SEOs and marketers, they’re ill-advised. In that regard, self-policing should be adequate to control things. In all probability, Google intends to let things sort themselves out for a while anyway, before making any changes.

In general, the G+ denizens seem to feel that Google’s Communities are a great addition. More than once, I saw it referred to as a “Facebook Killer”. That may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but I do think Google+ just became much more of a player in the social media game.

google community

I could go on and on with all the complaints and suggestions, but the above are the highlights from just two days of probably 100 posts each. If you join the Google+ Discuss community, you can kill a few hours reading from the 11th forward to catch up. I’m quitting.

You may have some of your own suggestions you’d like to share with the engineers at G+… if so, use their Submit Feedback link and maybe you’ll get lucky!
If you’ve already jumped into the Communities pool, we’d love to hear your impressions in the comments. Do you think it’s a fantastic addition, a resounding MEH or just a different twist on Circles? Sound off!



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