A Google+ Community is a place where like-minded people can meet, share ideas and provide support for each other, much the same as a Facebook group or forum.
There are three levels within each Google+ Community: owners, moderators and members.
Owners and moderators are responsible for content, deciding upon the nature of all the member’s posts and deleting spam. Members in a community are able to post acceptable content.
Google+ Communities vs. Google Circles
As an entrepreneur, Google+ Communities can be of more value to your business than Google+ Circles. In Google+ Communities people within a community are there because they have decided to join.
In contrast, with Google Circle when we circle someone we put him or her into a circle that we deem appropriate and that person sees only the content we share with that particular circle. Putting a person in a circle doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is necessarily interested in the topic.
To join or create?
In the beginning, it is perhaps best to start by joining a few communities and taking time to explore within these established communities. You’ll see what others are writing about, answer questions and ask your own questions. This will give you a better idea of what it takes to run a community, as well as put you in touch with your area of interest.
Google+ Communities can benefit your business
Whether you start a community today or join a few and make creating one part of your business plan, there are many benefits of using Google+ Communities.
1. Build relationships
In the past, Google+ was a place for social media gurus, programmers and photographers (thanks to the great photo sharing interface, later copied by Facebook). Google+ Communities are now fast becoming a great place to increase your network and develop relationships. With the creation of communities, it is now much easier to find a following within your area of interest.
2. Understand your target market
Watch the conversations and questions people ask each other in the communities you join - this is a great way to better understand your target market. Here you can gather ideas for blog posts, articles, products, teleseminars, courses and more.
Don’t be shy – if you know the answer to a question, jump in and share your thoughts. The more you are seen as a helpful expert, the more followers will connect with you outside the community.
3. Start a hangout with members of your Google+ Community
Usually, when you start a hangout, you can invite people from a certain circle or hand pick people by clicking on their name or typing it in. With Google+ Community, however, you can start a hangout inside the community with other members who are online. A hangout is a great way to further network and build valuable relationships.
An Alternative to LinkedIn Questions?
LinkedIn brought an end to their popular Questions area at the end of January, and people across the net are looking for a suitable alternative. Many have found LinkedIn Questions and Answers a great source of links and traffic to their websites, particularly once they established “expert” status.
Google+ Communities also provide the opportunity to deliver targeted “answers” and content to groups who are interested in the topic, as well as links through to your site.
This Mashable post provides a great starting point around how to use Google+ Communities, complete with videos.