ImageFacebook Groups have been around for quite a while, so it doesn’t really come as any surprise that Google launched Google+Communities yesterday. 

Dropping into their blog post the news that the network is now up to 500 million users (135 million of whom are considered active, i.e. actually doing stuff), Google outlined its vision for Google+ communities as follows:

  • A permanent home for interest groups, with public or private membership*
  • Discussion categories to aid search for topics of interest
  • Options to hang out and plan events (see our new white paper on managing social media around live events)
  • The ability to share with your community from any +1 button across the web

* Once you’ve chosen public or private, that’s it – you can’t change it. Choose carefully.

It’s currently in preview and moving it to mobile soon.  Look for the new “Communities” icon.

Here’s a Google+ hangout with some of the developers which gives some of the thinking and features. Do take a look. This one too, a 38 minute video (by +Moritz Tolxdorff), is very very useful for some of the finer detail – skip though to the hangout bit for the juicy stuff aimed at community managers. Their views? Definitely the death of message boards – and much else besides.

One take out from the first hangout by the way: everything, but everything, but EVERY LITTLE TINY THING you post in public communities is going to be indexed in Google search.  That has big impact for marketeers, as is the fact that you can invite people to join in a way that you can’t to your page (see ‘invite email spamfest’ later in this post).

Google want our feedback – and they’re getting it. Taking a look in Google+ at the trending #communities hashtag. I can see two major complaints:

No warning  Apart from the beta communities,  there was no notice given of these: resulting in a name landgrab and mad panic to figure out how they work and where the bugs and problems were. Buddhini Samarasinghe, owner of  +ScienceSunday and +STEM Women on G+ had this to say in a post:

Right now we (the curators for both these projects) are all discussing ‘behind the scenes’ how best to figure this thing out – how to moderate, what if there are spammers, should we have enabled pre-approval or not, what are the privacy concerns, how does this fit in with the Page we already have, will this dilute the topic, not to mention having to explain to our followers that we’re learning the ropes too and we haven’t the foggiest idea either. It would have been much less stressful to have been given a heads up about Communities along with specific guidance from a G+ Community Manager Rep type person from Google for Science/STEM fields. Just opening up the gates and expecting us to sink or swim is tough

For the record, community names whether public or private, don’t appear to be unique: URLs are numbers only and there are already plenty of duplicate group names appearing.

Lack of granularity and privacy, too much noise. Whatever you post to a Public Community gets posted to your Profile (although it doesn’t go out in your news feed to be broadcast to your followers).

This is a big problem that Google are going to have to resolve quickly.  Giving us the option (with default to ‘off’) seems to be the most sensible idea.

It’s great though that you can choose to post to your groups – and the discussions within them – straight from your profile, as you would do your circles.

Lots of guides are popping up.  But given the other big complaint: the incoming Google+ Community invitation email spamfest,this one may be the most useful: Turning off the noise (Google+ notifications and invitation emails to your mail account)

Before you jump in: think.  Do you have the time to moderate this community? Do make sure you have the resources available before you start.  You can ban members, assign members to be moderators, and pre-moderate posts.  You can’t, AFAIK yet move posts which may be in the wrong discussion thread.


Finally, for my colleagues at eModeration – don’t worry, the kittehs are here already.