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Google Plus CommunitiesI was an early adopter of Google+ and continue to be a believer, even though many pundits are still on the fence or have written it off altogether. Insofar as social media channels go, Google+ may never be the new “Facebook” – and that’s just fine with me. I’ve stopped comparing the two and pitting them against one another. They are similar, but different. On a personal level, I use Facebook as a way to connect with old friends while I use Google+ as a channel for connecting with new ones. With respect to brands, well… I thought they were on par. That is, until Google+ rolled out Google+ Communities.

But first… For the uninitiated, Google+ circles can be very confusing. Users can create as many or as few circles as they want, and then add as many people or brands to them based on the circle topic they choose. It’s the “as many” part that can overwhelm them. Sometimes, there is less freedom in too much choice. It took me awhile to consolidate the 10+ circles I started out with into about 4 or 5 that I actually use. As with all new tools, there’s a learning process involved with how to use them and Google+ was no exception for me. And just when I got the hang of it, Google+ Business was rolled out and the process started over again.

People & PagesNewcomers to Google+ will laugh at the People and Pages suggestions they will encounter when they first create their profile on Google+ – unless they’re social media geeks like me. In my case, the suggestions had little to do with my personal interests and only by happenstance fit in with my professional interests. So building circles from scratch can be somewhat of an intimidating and daunting task if none of your friends or peers are on Google+. Searching on hash tags is a good way to drill down and find people/businesses to add to your circles, but even they can lead to more generic choices than what you are searching for.

Google+ CommunitiesEnter Google+ Communities. Whether you are a hobbyist or a hotel, Google+ Communities are a great way to build your personal circles and your business brand via public and private communities where people, brands or both gather to share information and talk about common interests.

Anyone can start a community and invite people to join. Communities can be public or private and need at least one moderator. Categories can be created for filtering post topics also. For instance, outside of my work in social media, I’m a scuba diving fanatic. A Scuba Diving Community might have categories for ‘general discussion’, ‘underwater photos’, ‘underwater videos’, ‘dive spots’, ‘dive travel’, ‘industry news’, etc., allowing you to filter through the posts within the community, thus targeting more specific information relevant to you subinterest.

Google+ Communities are searchable also, so it’s easy to find the communities that best suit your interest(s). And you can even invite community members to Google+ hangouts, or participate in them, to further enhance your reach or your knowledge. What’s more, once you are a community member, you can add other members to you circles and they can add you, or add you back. In this manner, your circles sort of build themselves instead of you having to build them yourself.

Verified Author625,000 people join Google+ every day. Google +1’s become more and more relevant every day in Google Search. Add to that authorship verification and how Google Search weighs verified authorship against non-verified authorship in search results and you really can’t deny that having a Google+ personal and/or business page counts for both you and your brand.

New to Google+? Join a Google+ Community. Listen and be listened to!

+Mike Poynton