News Column

Social Media Communities - How Google Plus Brings People Together

March 30, 2013

Scott Kleinberg

One of the most awesome things about social media is how many ways you can use it. Send a private message to someone one minute and talk to a million people the next.

But when you just want to talk to your friends or a like-minded group of people who share a particular interest, the choices become fewer. Facebook groups are fine, but I would recommend Google Plus Communities.

First things first: It's time to get over your fear of Google Plus. No, it's not the social network full of cobwebs, and no it's not the same as Facebook. In fact, I think Google Plus Communities are everything Facebook groups should be and then some. And that's from someone who blasted Google Plus when it was first introduced.

Google says you should use Communities to talk about the stuff you're into with people who love it too. Communities can be private --if there's something you want to say regularly to a specific group of people --or public if you want to make new friends and share your knowledge. For example, I founded and moderate a vibrant social media Community and belong to a Community about photography.

Photos and videos look especially nice on Google Plus and Communities are no exception. And if you've never experienced a Google Hangout, you don't know what you are missing. Perhaps the best feature of Google Plus overall, Hangouts let you hold a group videochat with up to 9 people. And you can save the chat to your YouTube account so you can access it again.

Here's how to get started:

-- You'll need to have a Google Plus account. So if you've been putting that off, now's the perfect time to get started.

-- Go here: https://plus.google.com/communities

-- Sign in and you'll have a button called "create community."

-- Choose whether you want the community to be public or private. You can't switch this later, so think before you choose.

-- Enter a Community name and then decide whether or not moderator approval will be required when new members want to join.

-- Once you have the basics secured, make sure you add a photo. Google Plus Communities are very photo driven, so this is what people are going to see first. You can set the Community photo under the "Edit Community" section under the Actions menu. You can also invite people and make other changes under this menu.

It's important to note that even if your Community is public, that doesn't mean all of your friends and followers can see its content. The only way they would see it in their home feeds is if they are members of the same Community. That said, your public Community posts are visible in your profile. Those posts are clearly marked that they were posted to a Community. This might provide incentive for others to join.

Remember, if you want to talk social media and get an idea of what Community life is like, stop by mine.

What questions do you have about social media? Tweet them to @scottkleinberg or @amyguth. We might select yours for use in a future column.

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(c)2013 the Chicago Tribune

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