The re:DESIGN community I started is focused on smart design intersecting with business strategies to reach, engage, and inspire people to action. We have had countless conversations around all things design, creativity and innovation — and Google+, with its great way of handling images, has enhanced the community with beautiful images that continually illuminate the topics we share. So if a post isn’t inspiring enough on its own, those big, luscious images sure do the trick!
Follow these 12 points and you’re sure to rock your Google+ community!
1. Community focus and organization
Let’s start right at the top, since these are important factors that will be critical to the success of your G+ community:
• Topic focus — what will you talk about?
• Name — what will your community be called?
• Tagline — how will you encapsulate what you’re about in just a few words?
• Introduction — how can you tell a little more of your story?
• Categories — what subsections will fall under your main topic focus?
• Type of community — will it be public or private?
Your topic and focus should be crystal clear and hopefully different from all the other communities out there. Keep the name short and add a compelling tagline. You can tell a little more about your community in the introductory “About this community” section. The topic categories you choose will also play a part in how clearly people understand what types of discussions take place and help encourage engagement. Making the community public or private affects how people can join and what people can see — it’s a decision only you can make based on what you’re trying to accomplish. Careful though, because you can’t change this setting later.
Taking #1 a step further, use the profile photo to create a brand image that will stand out and express the feeling you want your community to have. The profile image will be the welcome mat every time someone visits your “home” and function as a little ad as well — so spend some time on this. It could either be a photo or a total branded image complete with a logo.
It’s a visual world, and Google+ is highly visual — doing this right will encourage people to join and visit more often.
3. Set rules and establish protocol
The “About” section is a great place to establish some basic ground rules right upfront. I include things like “no link dropping” and that people should include a thought or opinion when posting to encourage dialog. After all, conversation and building relationships are the whole point of having a community.
It’s important to be visible in the community you run. People will take your lead — if you are active, they will be active. If you’re MIA, it sends the signal that you don’t care so nobody else will either. As community owner, you also become de facto model member, so it’s important to always exhibit the behavior you want to see in your community.
5. Post good stuff
It all begins with good content — and good content spawns more good content. So it follows that if you desire to build a community with rich content, make sure you start by posting good content focusing on quality, not quantity. A strong, well-run community will post more good content than a poorly run one.
6. Enlist moderators
You can start right off by designating moderators to help run the community or wait until later — but once you grow to a certain size this becomes very important. Moderators can help keep things moving and relieve some of the daily tasks of monitoring spam and approving/greeting new people who join.
It’s always good to have another set of eyes making sure everything is running smoothly. Cheryl Bochniewicz is doing a wonderful job helping me with the re:DESIGN community! I knew she would — always attentive and supportive with smart things to say. Moderators also help post content, especially during slower times in the community — Cheryl does this too.
7. Be encouraging
Generously +1 people’s posts and comments. Do it often — show your community that you care and appreciate their contributions. Everyone is busy and there are lots of other places people could be spending their time, yet they chose your community and took the time to engage. Welcome them enthusiastically and thank them. There are lots of ways you can do this, and if you really like something that was posted, don’t forget to share it outside the community too!
8. Be friendly but firm
Nothing will kill a community quicker than a stream full of links with no engagement, or other undesirable behavior. If you’re not careful, this can happen faster than you think. So while a positive, friendly demeanor is important in any community, do not hesitate to enforce the community rules — repeat offenders must be bounced.
9. Pump it up!
You can instill new life in your community at any moment. So do it! When you’re really “feeling it,” that’s a perfect time to engage and communicate your enthusiasm at its authentic best! People will know it’s real and be motivated to respond with their own enthusiasm. Maybe you’ll even help turn someone’s bad day into a better day. It works!
10. Post reminders
Every once in awhile, it’s a good idea to remind people of the little things that will make the community better. We post reminders about selecting the correct category when posting to keep the community’s content organized, and things like asking people to introduce themselves if they haven’t done so yet.
11. Google+ Hangouts
There is great benefit in deepening online relationships by going offline too — and video is the perfect bridge from online to offline. Google makes strengthening the bonds of a community easy with Hangouts.
OK, since you’ve made it this far, here’s a little tip that I’ve tested and refined to achieve about a 40% conversion rate when inviting new people to the community: create a circle of people you think will best fit your community. If they’ve also proven themselves to be active G+ engagers, so much the better. Then with one fell swoop, invite that circle to your community. Google limits this to inviting 150 people at any one time, so keep your circles to this number — but you can create multiple circles and repeat this as much as you like. That’s plenty of “pre-qualified” potential for sparking your community!
Like any successful venture, it’s the little things that matter. I hope I gave you a bunch of little things here to consider so that you can get your Google+ community off to a rocking start!
Are you planning on starting a Google+ community? If you have one already, what do you do to rock yours? Let me know in the comments section below.