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Though there was a lot of hype surrounding Google+, a lot of people who tried it out ended up returning to their usual social networks, like Facebook. However, if you thought that Google+ was dead, gone, and buried for good, you may be pleasantly surprised. It’s still kicking and some communities are actually flourishing on the platform.
Never heard of Google+? That’s okay! You may want to check out Maggie’s Google+ guide for a great introduction to the platform. But for those of you that want to start a Google+ community (or maybe you already have one that isn’t taking off), I have a few tips and pieces of advice to give you that might just propel your group to a whole new level.
Define Your Target Audience
When starting any kind of community, whether it’s on Google+ or not, you need to keep a single thought in mind at all times: which niche am I going to fill?
People flock to a community because that community fills a void that no other community can fill. After all, if you’re starting a new community for chefs, why are people going to join your community when there are dozens of other chef-based communities out there already? You can create a community of chefs, but you’ll need to target a specific type of chef to which no other community caters.
If you aim your community at a niche that has no coverage, those kinds of people will want to join you. They’ll have no choice but to join you since there’s nowhere else to go. So instead of targeting chefs, you can try to target chefs on a budget or self-taught chefs or anything else.
Set Up the Community
Once you’ve created a Google+ community (which is as easy as clicking on “Communities” in the sidebar and typing in a name for your community), you’ll want to set it up so that all of the details are informative. That way, whenever someone stumbles upon your community, they’ll know all they need to know to make their decision: “Do I want to join this community or not?”
Use a catchy name. If you want people to remember your community, pick a name that is: short, easy to say, easy to spell, and unique. If you’re really creative, try to create a pun or double meaning with your community name. Also, use a catchy tagline that describes your community in a dozen words or less.
Set a community picture. When you see the profile of a person or community and see the default blank photo, what is your first thought? “This community is brand new OR the manager doesn’t update it.” To prevent others from thinking that same thought about your community, make sure you use a community picture. It can be anything as long as it’s not the default!
Description and location. Google+ lets you set a description and location for your community. The description is crucial for anyone who passes by and sees your page: it’s the one chance you have to hook the user and intrigue them. The location is more for localized communities centered in a specific area.
Categories. Like forums, you’ll want to create different “categories” for different types of discussions within your community. Be careful that you don’t create too many, though, otherwise you’ll spread your discussions too thin and your community will seem barren or abandoned.
To do any of the above, just click on the “Actions” button on your community dashboard and select “Edit Community.”
Moderate and Prune
Depending on the size of your community, you may want to promote some of your members to moderator status. A moderator can add and edit categories, delete posts, kick or ban members from the community, and promote others to moderator status.
Why are moderators important? As any avid forum user can attest, there are always bad apples in a community, no matter what kind of community you’re talking about. These bad apples will instigate fights, insult other users, post illegal or inappropriate material, and just cause mayhem. Moderators are there to keep order amidst the chaos.
Similarly, moderators guide and prune your community. If you want your community to be about a certain local sporting phenomenon, then your moderators can steer your members whenever they go off topic. Therefore, it’s important that you pick the right people as your moderators.
To promote a member to moderator status, simply click on “Members” under your community’s profile photo. Find the member that you want to promote and click the drop-down arrow next to their name, then select “Promote from member to moderator.” That’s it!
Get the Word Out There
Once you have a proper idea of what you want your community to be, once you’ve set up your community details, and once you have a proper moderating force, you’ll want to advertise your community to those who haven’t heard of it. There are a couple of ways to do this.
Personal invitations. If you click on “Actions” on your community dashboard and go to “Invite People,” you’ll be able to invite specific people directly by entering their Google+ names or email addresses. This is great if you already know people who would have an interest in your community.
Public announcements. Visit other communities that are similar to yours but not exactly the same. Find different interests that might overlap with your own. For example, a forum for new college students might be a good place to find users that are interested in your chefs on a budget community. Announce that you’re open to members and people will gradually trickle in.
Word of mouth. The best way to grow your community is to be so great that your members advertise on your behalf. Word of mouth is probably the most potent form of marketing so take advantage of it. Work hard, amaze your members, and they’ll tell everyone about your awesome community.
Engage With Members
Once you’ve invited people to your community and you start seeing some growth, don’t stop! You need to keep interacting with your members, keep discussions going, and keep the momentum rolling. There’s a point when the community will be self-sustaining, but you won’t reach that point for a while.
Engaging with your community members is the best way to keep them interested. If they’re interested, they’ll keep coming back. The more they come back, the better the chance that they’ll post and reply to other members. If people keep posting and replying to each other, the community seems active, which entices new users to stick around. It’s a vicious cycle.
On the other hand, if you disappear, the users will wonder where you went. Did you abandon the community? If so, then why should the members stick around? They’ll begin to leave one by one until your community is a ghost town. Stay engaged, create a hardcore group of diehard members, and build on that with more engagement.
Again, Google+ isn’t dead. Will it still be here tomorrow? That’s something for the experts to ponder and predict. Just know that right now Google+ is definitely a valid platform for building and growing a community. If you don’t like using the other social networks, give Google+ a shot.
In case you weren’t aware, MakeUseOf has our own community area on Google+ [no longer available] so go check it out and engage with us! As for your own community, take the above advice to heart and you’ll build it up, slowly but surely.