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Become A Great Google Plus Community Member
You can be a great Google+ Community member
Google+ is one of the fastest growing social networks with an active and creative user base. In late 2012, Google added 'Communities' to Google+, which has made it even better. If you want to make the most of Google+ Communities, it really helps to understand what might be expected of you, how you can interact effectively and the steps you can take to be a valuable community member.
Since joining Google+ and becoming a moderator on one of their larger communities, I've observed how community members engage with each other, how communities can benefit all of their members and the type of behaviour that gets you noticed for the right reasons.
In this article, I have shared the key parts of what I think makes a great Google+ Community Member; it's not an exhaustive list, but following some of these hints and tips can really help you make a positive impact on any community that you're a part of, whether it's Google+ or elsewhere.
There are four main areas to focus on if you want to get the most out of your Google+ Communities, they are:
Understand the guidelines of the community that you're joining
Join in and interact with your community in a positive way
Post valuable, relevant content that's worth sharing
Treat other community members with respect and consideration
We'll cover each of these in more detail below, but first a little bit more about Google+ Communities, what they are, how they work and what you can get out of them.
What are Google Plus Communities and how do they work?
Google+ Communities are a vital and vibrant part of the Google+ social network. The best way to think about them is as an active forum or message board on your favorite topic(s) that updates in real time and allows you to actively interact and engage with other members, content and discussions.
They work through fostering good connections between Google+ members on common topics; they allow people to share photos, videos, text, links and discussions.
Google+ is now second in size to Facebook and will only continue to grow as it gets linked to more Google services and the whole concept of Google Authorship really takes off. It makes sense to have a presence there; it's easy to use, clutter free and has some fantastic communities.
You can also follow me on Google+ if you want to.
What are the advantages of being in a Google+ Community?
There are many benefits to being in an active G+ community including:
- Finding out what others think about the topic
- Discovering exciting, relevant and timely information on your community's subject
- Building up connections and relationships with others that share your interests
- Getting involved in active discussions
- Asking questions and getting answers
- Sharing information and resources
- Lots more...
The rest of this guide shows you how to make the most of it.
1. Understand the guidelines of the Google Plus Community that you're joining
One of the most important things you can do is to understand the type of community that you're joining and the expectations of members. Most good, well-established communities should make this information quite easy to find. The key points to remember are:
- Find the right community for you
- Read the posting guidelines and stick to them
- Post in the right areas / sub topics
- Find out who the moderators are and listen to them
Finding the right community for you
There are thousands of Google+ Communities available, on every possible topic you can imagine. Each community will have their own approach, areas of interest, rules and guidelines.
You can search for communities easily; just go to the search box at the top of Google+ and type in your topic of interest; when the search results come up, click on the arrow next to 'Everything' and select 'Communities', that will give you a list of communities and posts in communities that talk about what you're interested in.
The chances are that you'll find more than one community on your areas of interest. My advice is to join those communities and spend some time looking around; see what other people are posting before posting anything yourself to see if it's the kind of community that you want to be part of. Don't be in a hurry to make an impression!
Read the posting guidelines
Most decent sized Google+ Communities will have posting guidelines that have been written or adapted by the community moderators. You will probably find these listed under a subtopic on the left of the community bar, under the community name. They might be in an area called 'Announcements', 'Posting Guidelines', 'Moderation', 'Community Guidelines' etc. If you can't find them, either do a search in the community itself or ask if there are posting guidelines.
Almost all of the information in posting guidelines is going to be common sense: don't spam, post appropriately, be civil to others etc. However, the one thing you can do to make your time in a community productive and valuable, both for you and others, is to read and adhere to the posting / community guidelines.
Post in the right areas / subtopics
On the left hand side of the community screen, underneath the community image, member count and notification settings, you will almost certainly find a list of subtopics. These subtopics are there to help people easily find what they want in the community and help to sort posts into the relevant areas. Posts made to any of these subtopics do appear in the main community feed, but ensuring you post to the right subtopic will make it easier for people to find your content in future.
You can post to a subtopic by either clicking on the subtopic on the left hand side and then making your post, or, in the general community stream, selecting from the drop down just above the 'Share' button.
Find out who the moderators are and listen to them
Moderators help to keep communities a welcoming, rewarding and safe place for the members of that community. Whenever you join a new community, take a couple of minutes to learn who the moderators are and how they moderate the community that you've joined. Some will be very strict about content, others will take a more relaxed approach, some will give guidance, others will have a very low tolerance for spam and other unwanted posts.
Learning about the type of moderation that takes place in the community will make things much easier. If a moderator makes a post about the community itself, or responds to a comment or post, its always worth reading what they have to say as it will often reflect the approach that they take.
If you are not sure if something you want to post is in the community guidelines, send a private message to the moderators first of all. They will be able to let you know how to proceed.
2. Join in and interact with your community in a positive way
Once you've joined a community and started to understand how it works and what's expected of the members, it's time to start interacting and taking part in discussions.You can achieve this through the following:
- Pay attention to how others interact
- Get your profile up to scratch
- Post an introduction to the community
- Plus 1, comment and re-share other people's posts
- Share your expertise
Pay attention to how others interact
Before posting to the community yourself, it's worth spending some time 'lurking' and seeing how others interact and discuss things. Once you've got a feel for how the community functions, jumping in will be much easier!
Get your profile up to scratch
Your profile is the way that the world sees you on Google+. Spending some time filling in the important details and getting a good photo can make all the difference.
Post an introduction to the community
When you're ready, introduce yourself to the community (there might even be a subtopic specifically for introductions). Mention your reason for joining the community, share a little about yourself and what you're interested in. Posting a good introduction lets other people get to know you.
Plus 1, comment and re-share other people's posts
This is really at the heart of what makes Google+ Communities such a great place to be. If you see a good post, +1 it (this lets the author know that you like what they've posted). If you've got something useful and relevant to add, comment it. If you think that other people not in that community might be interested, re-share the post to your public stream or circles. Interacting with other people's posts in this way can make all the difference and means you play an active part in the community.
Share your expertise
You're bound to have an opinion and some expertise in your chosen subject, so this is the ideal time to share it. Other people might be asking questions that you have the answer to, or perhaps you have some relevant information or experience. Feel free to respond in the comments or make posts of your own.
3. Post valuable, relevant content that's worth sharing
Of course, one of the reasons that people are on Google+ is to promote themselves, their work, their business or their website (sometimes all four!). If you'd like to share this sort of information, it's worth knowing how to do it well so that you don't fall foul of the posting guidelines or moderators:
- Reread and check the posting guidelines
- Ensure that links you post are relevant and of value to the community you're posting them to
- Don't post 'naked' links, spam or post too often
- If you want to post to multiple communities, have a posting rota
Reread and check the posting guidelines
Before you post any links to content, reread the posting guidelines to see what is and isn't allowed in the community; many communities have restrictions on how they want link posts to be made.
Ensure that links you post are relevant and of value
If there is one crucial thing to remember about posting links, it is this: Links will only be clicked on if they are relevant to their audience (i.e. the other members of your community). You can help to ensure your links are relevant by:
- Posting content that informs, educates or entertains - If your content doesn't 'inform' (provide useful information), 'educate' (teach other people something) or 'entertain' (Involve, amuse or inspire people) then it is not likely to get clicked on
- Posting content that meets a need - If your content doesn't meet a need or isn't something that people are curious about, they simply won't click on it
- Providing context for content that you post - When you post content and links, take a few moments to describe 'what' the content is, 'why' it is important, 'who' will find it valuable and 'what' people can expect when they click on it
- Provide an introduction to your content specific to your community - Don't post generic content to the community; write an introduction tailored to the audience that you're sharing it with
The truth is that the majority of links posted to Google Plus will not be clicked on; you can maximise your chances of having people view your content by following the advice above.
How to ensure the content you post is good for your audience
Think about the audience in your community; is what you are going to post something that will interest them?
Does your content answer questions, solve a problem, share insight, entertain its audience or provoke debate?
Is your post providing information or approaching something from an interesting angle? Does it share genuine knowledge?
Is your content a tutorial or how-to guide that can expand skills, interests or abilities in some way?
Does what you are sharing entertain, amuse, engage or inspire people? Will it provoke debate and spark discussion?
Related books on Amazon
Don't post 'naked' links or spam
This is crucial to being a good community member: never post 'naked' links (i.e. links without any context, relevance or introduction) or spam links into the same community or across multiple communities.
Being identified as a spammer will make you more likely to be removed or banned from a community. You can avoid this by following the four bullet points of advice above. I can't stress this enough; as a moderator, we see dozens of spam links a day and have no hesitation in quickly removing them and banning repeat offenders.
You should also ensure that you aren't posting too often, think quality rather than quantity.
If you want to post to multiple communities, have a posting rota
You may well have content that is relevant to more than one community and that you want to post in more than one place. My recommendation is to create a 'Posting Rota'. This can be a simple spreadsheet with the names of your communities across the top and the posts you'd like to share down the side. Then, you can put dates in for when you want to share your content into each community.
This means that you're not sharing / spamming the same content across multiple communities in a short period of time and also increases your audience for the relevant content that you are sharing. I use this approach myself and find that it works really well. Again, content, context, a knowledge of your audience and respect for your communities is key.
Please feel free to re-use this content as needed
This content is licensed under a Creative Commons 'Attribution-Share Alike' license. This means that you are free to use all or part of this content and can modify and tweak it to meet your needs.
The only condition is that you link back and attribute the original creation to me, preferably as some variation of the following: 'Derived from an original guide on HubPages by Paul Maplesden.' In any event, please include a link to this URL: http://paulmaplesden.hubpages.com/hub/google-plus-community-member-guidelines-advice
Of course, if you do use it, I'd be grateful to know where and what the reception has been like.
Treat other Google Plus Community members with respect and consideration
Just as in real life, civility and mutual respect will go a long way to improving the time you spend in Google+ Communities, for yourself and others. Most of these are just common sense rules of decency, but in particular:
- Treat others how you want to be treated
- Answer questions and help out other community members
- Welcome new community members
Treat others how you want to be treated
Google+ Communities are public places and everyone is posting under their Google profile identity. Whereas anonymity can make other areas of the internet less than ideal, on Google+, reputation is very important.
This means treating others as you would want them to treat you, being courteous, civil and acting with integrity. You'll also want to avoid public arguments (although active discussion is of course fine!)
An excellent video introducing Google+ Communities
A quick quiz on Google+ Communitiesview quiz statistics
After reading this article, what are you going to change about how you use communities?
Answer questions and help out other community members
If you have expertise or resources to share or know the answer to a question that's been posted, don't hesitate to provide it. People always appreciate others sharing good, high quality information.
Say hello to new members and help them feel welcome
Once you've established yourself in the community, start welcoming new members and pointing them in the right direction.
Taken together, all of these hints, tips and pieces of advice can really help you to make a positive impact in any Google+ Community. In closing, I'd just like to summarise the most important things to remember:
- Read the posting guidelines
- Post in the right areas and topics
- Plus 1, comment and re-share other's posts and content
- Make sure that the links you post are relevant and add value
- Never post spam links
- Treat others with courtesy, civility and respect
I hope that you've found this helpful and that it makes your interactions with Google Plus Communities easier and more effective.
Do you have any tips of your own on how to be a great community member? If so, please let us know in the comments.
Want to find out more about Google Plus?
There are some excellent resources if you'd like to find out more about Google Plus.
Helpful books on Google+
- What The Plus! (Bigger Books) - "We didn't expect over 100,000,000 people to join Google+ so quickly. If we had, we might have written a tutorial like this one. Lucky for us, Guy has written this wonderful introduction to Google+. Highly recommended!" Vic Gundotra, SVP, Google
- Google Plus - First Look (eBooks) 'This book is written in a fun but information packed style to quickly get you up to speed on Google+ with minimal effort and maximum results'
Please note that the two links above are 'affiliate links'. This means that if you click on one and purchase the product, part of the purchase price will support my efforts in producing practical, helpful and free small business guides. This doesn't cost you anything extra and I am very grateful if you do decide to make a purchase. I have only included links to genuinely useful products, services and businesses and hope that they are of use to you.
Please read these other Google Plus articles that I have written
- Circles and Plus Ones and Shares (Oh My!) - The main concepts of Google Plus clearly explained so you can get the most out of this social network
- Use Google+ to Send a Private Message - This guide clearly explains how to send private messages on one of the most exciting social communities
- Google+ Communities - Moderation Best Practices - Some 'best practice' moderation guidelines, perfect for Google+ or other online communities