Google has announced a few new updates involving their social networking platform Google+ this week. Since its inception, Google has focused on promoting the network's ability to bring users together around common interests with features such as "Circles", allowing users flexibility in grouping connections. Now, the search giant hopes to make connecting with like-minded folks even easier with a "Communities" feature, which appears similar to Facebook's groups feature.
In a post on Google's blog, the company's Senior VP Vic Gundotra offers updated numbers on the network's user base as well. He notes that 500 million people have signed up, 235 million are active across Google, and 135 million are active in just the stream. Google appears to be hoping features like Communities will drive a bit more activity across the network.
Google+ Communities: The Specifics
According to the CNET article linked above, the new Communities can be set with four types of labels offering varying degrees of privacy. Completely private, private but searchable, public with moderator approval requirements, and completely public. As well, the Communities feature offers:
- discussion categories to help find conversations you're interested in
- options for starting a hangout with community members
- the option to share with your community from the web using the +1 button.
Something for brands to keep in mind as they begin looking at the new Communities feature, TheNextWeb points out that, "these Communities are different from company and branded pages — think about those more like Facebook fan pages where the company has control over the content and users interact based on a specific content driver. With Google+ Communities, everyone in the group can share whatever they want relating to the topic."
Certainly, Communities could become an important part of many social media users' search experience and online social lives. It could offer more opportunity for:
- Community building - It's another online location for fans and advocates to gather and connect
- Content sharing - Communities offer a place for your brand's content to be posted. Not even by you, but your community. And you can share other people's content, too.
- Resource gathering - The group atmosphere of the Communities offers an opportunity to store articles and resources more permanently, another asset of the feature Vic Gundotra's post highlights.
Do you see any other immediate applications for brands and marketers? Please, tell us about it in the comments. And be sure to check out Google's YouTube introduction of The Communities feature below.