How To Use & Set Up The New Google+ Communities

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google plus community groupLast week, Google rolled out a new tool for Google+ users, called Communities. It is mainly another social networking space, both public and private, which is topic-based rather than user-based. Communities are similar to individual Google+ Circles, but with these community groups, you opt-in to a group rather than being added to a circle.

Within days of its launch, hundreds, if not thousands, of communities have already been created around a wide range of topics and interests, from food, Star Wars, and Landscape Photography, to a group about Science, which already has over two thousand members. If you’re a Google+ member, it takes just a few clicks to join or create a new community.

Though the features of Google+ Communities will probably be expanded over the weeks and months to come, the following are some tips for getting the most out of Google+ Communities.

google plus community group

Joining & Participating

The Communities button can be found on the left side of your Google+ profile page. Clicking on the green and white button reveals several dozen existing communities.

google plus community

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To search and discover more communities, you don’t use the regular Google search box at the top of the page. You use the smaller Communities search box right across from “Discover communities.” The box is easy to overlook, so that’s why I have pointed it out.

google plus community

Just as with your main Google+ stream, you can add posts, comments, photos, and links to Community pages. On the left side of Community pages is a drop-down Actions button for inviting people to a community you’re a member of, and sharing a community with people in your existing Google+ Circle contacts. This is also where you can leave a community or report abuse.

google plus community

The goal of Communities is to hold discussions rather than just post links and spam, but invariably Community pages will sometimes get populated with posts you would like to ignore. You can mute/hide a post by clicking on the little circle and triangle button on the top-right side of a post.

google community

When you add a post to a Community, it’s a good practice to select an appropriate category for your post; that is, if the moderator has created sub-categories for the community. The drop-down menu under your post will list all the sub-categories setup for a particular community. They are also listed on the left side of the page.

google community

As with regular Google+ pages, you will receive notices when people respond, favor, or re-post your posts. You can also of course share Community posts to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and to your Google+ Circles.

Creating a Google Plus Community Group

Both public and private communities can be created with a simple click of the red “Create A Community” button on the Communities page. With Public pages, you just need to add a name for your community, and then a tagline about what the community is about. You get the option to allow people to freely join your community, or require approval from you for each member to join.

google community

You will want to pick a photo for you community; its measurements must be a minimum of 250×250 pixels. As a moderator of the group, you should also create a sub-categories (see screenshot above) to encourage users to add their posts to an appropriate category. As of now there’s no other way to manage posts.

google plus community group

You use the same steps for creating a private Google Plus community group, with the options to hide your community not only from Community searches, but also whether or not your community can be found through a search and request to join.

As a moderator, you will want to watch for spam posts and encourage members to add their posts to appropriate sub-categories. If Google identifies a post as possible spam, you as the moderator can remove a post, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way to move a post from one sub-category to another.

Limitations

As of now, Google+ Communities are a work in process. There are lots of comments, questions, and suggestions on the Google+ Discussion Community that are no doubt being read by Google. Some of the biggest issues include the problem of managing posts and controlling spam.

Another issue is that when you add a post, not a reply, to a community page, it also gets posted on your main public Google+ page. There should be an option for this not to occur. In addition, because of the linear layout of Google+ streams, posts will get buried and basically disappear from the main page. Updated posts should appear at the top of the stream so they are kept alive.

For other Google+ related articles, check out these:

There’s much more that can and will be said about Google+ Communities in the coming months. But let us know what you think of the tool so far.

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