Google Communities launches for Google+ users
Google Communities has officially debuted for Google+ users, asserting that it is “a gathering place for your passion,” says Google’s Senior VP of Engineering, Vic Gundotra. Google Communities is Google’s version of Facebook groups, but appears to offer more utility than groups by allowing users to gather around specific interests, and filter through subcategories within a Community.
If someone is a runner, but doesn’t want to filter through all of the dull beginner advice, they can join the runner group and select a sub category set up by the Community owner/administrator in the sidebar, as administrators have the power to set up categories within a group, rather than just a smorgasbord of information thrown at the Community member.
Making sharing “meaningful”
“We started Google+ in the first place to make online sharing as meaningful as the real thing,” said Gundotra. “Too often, our online tools miss the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions, and Google+ aims to fix this. Fortunately we’ve got a vibrant community to guide us. What’s been missing, however, are more permanent homes for all the stuff you love: the wonderful, the weird, and yes, even the things that are waaay out there. ”
Google Communities allows for private and public membership, so users can discuss personal interests and find other members that care about the conversation. They can plan events with other members and share topics from across the web. Additionally, administrators must choose whether new members can add themselves or if administrator approval is required.
Google+ says they have about 500 million registered users, with about 50 percent of them being considered active on a monthly base. The service was launched as an invitation only service in June 2011, opening up to everyone 18 years of age or older on September 20, 2011, later reducing the minimum age to 13.
There is no word yet as to when vanity URLs will arrive so that communities aren’t named a series of numbers, but we assume that they will come, just as they have on other social networks.
How we chose to set up our Google Community
The Google Community was very easy to set up, but required some permanent decisions. We opted to make our group public, which Google warns cannot be reversed, so if your industry surrounds sensitive information, or you’re creating a Community for your team or family, private may be a better option, but in most cases, public is fine.
We chose to require administrator approval of all new members because in our experience, inflated numbers are for the weak, and a telemarketer in India trying to sell Nike shoes in our Community is not likely relevant to the meaningful conversation we are attempting there. You may choose to allow anyone in, but we find the extra step keeps a higher quality level in all of our communities.
The toughest part was experimenting with the profile photo, because the actual measurement that renders is 205×285 pixels (with a 35 pixel transparent overlay at the bottom), but you must upload an image larger than 250×250 pixels, and take into account the shaded overlay when someone actually opens the group. For now, we kept it simple, but plan on experimenting more in the future.
Additionally, we had to make a choice regarding how we would establish and grow the Community, and rather than invite our connections on all other networks, we will be growing it slowly within the Google+ ecosystem to seek out regular users of the group to enrich the conversation.
Lastly, we had to determine why we would create a Google Community, and what we would do there. Internally, we decided that would be where we would do more than share – we decided that is where the backstory will live. Why did we choose to write a certain editorial? Why don’t we report a specific economic indicator? What sources did we find credible and not credible when we investigated a topic? What drove a writer to so deeply write about a certain topic, what is their backstory? These are all ways we will be connecting with readers more in depth, and we’ve chosen Google Communities as the behind-the-scenes destination for AG news.
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Other Google Communities for inspiration
Click any of the images below to view other Communities. Pay attention to the left sidebar where the categories are listed to find inspiration, and read what people are already sharing.