We’ve been messing about in Google+ for the last few weeks and, like many, trying to figure out where it fits in the social media ecosystem, how it is different, why we would use it vs. other platforms, and its implications for community management. There have been a lot of posts about Google+ so we don’t want to replicate those but to focus on the things that Google+ has done that we think are useful for community management.
I have always thought of the community construct as a bulls-eye that has the most active and committed members at the center with various decreasing levels of interest and engagement as you get further away from the target. Within each of the rings, there are other subgroups with niche interests or characteristics. The circles in Google+ are great for building this community structure. For example, I have a circle of TheCR members, an ecosystem circle of people who are involved or interested in our work in some way, and a circle of people interested in community management. Other circles like the Enterprise 2.0 crowd and the social media crowd overlap with the outermost circle as well. It looks something like this:
I use this construct primarily for posting and find this very useful so that I am not spamming people with information in which they are not interested and I’m adding value for the people in my community. I also use my Members and Ecosystem groups as filters for listening because they are people with whom I have more explicit relationships and to whom I want to listen closely. I plan to use the other circles for occasional listening and engagement, moving people into other circles as they demonstrate more engagement in our core areas of interest. In this way, circles help me to orchestrate a bit of serendipity and develop relationships. The other thing that I will be watching for is the friends-of-friends in my more important circles since they are another group likely to be more interested in the topics we care most about.
One thing that is missing in Google+ is the ability to relate circles to each other. Ideally, when I put someone in my Member group, they would automatically get put in my Ecosystem circle and the Community Managers circle. This is not a huge problem at the moment but I foresee it becoming more of an issue as the network grows and my relationships with people change.
We have hosted two #CMHangouts so far. The first was small and with a couple of our members and the second was with ten people (the maximum allowed) and many of those involved were not people we necessarily knew. Despite hating video myself, hangouts are an amazing new tool for community managers. There is nothing like connecting in real time with a group – it’s about as good as getting together in person as I’ve been able to do online. During these two hangouts, we identified a few great use cases:
- Offices Hours
- Support Calls
- Welcoming New Members
- Extensions to Classes/Conferences/Meetings for those who are not there in person
- Volunteer/Moderator Management
- Influencer Outreach
A few other things that I was surprised by were how well the Hangouts worked with 10 people and we discussed some best practices:
- Muting when not talking (Hangouts auto-focus on the person using the microphone so if there is background noise, it gets confused)
- Shutting down other bandwidth hogs (Skype for instance)
- Using the chat feature to handle commentary
- Having an identified facilitator
- Limiting the length to 30 minutes – a great length for a relatively general conversation
One big issue for Hangouts is that this week, we had a lot more interest than we had room in the hangout. A few peoples’ connections dropped and they were not able to get back in as new people filled up the Hangout. I don’t necessarily think the answer is to increase the number of people in a Hangout although I think you could but it is something to be aware of when thinking about the right use cases for a Hangout vs. a webinar or conference call. Hangouts are also great for dropping in on those that open them up to the public: if you would like to be a Hangout Crasher, check out this list of public Hangouts going on now. If you would like us to add you to our #CMHangout circle in Google+ add a comment to this post with a link to your profile in Google+ and we’ll let you know when our next one is scheduled.
UPDATE: One thing that I forgot to mention when I originally wrote this post is that I think for Google+ to truly serve the needs of communities, we need the ability to share circles. Communities are, after all, a shared experience and do not necessarily conform to my own perspective on them. There are plenty of other people that I don’t know who would consider themselves to be in a ‘community manger’ circle or even, perhaps, in ‘TheCR Ecosystem’ but because they have not made themselves known to me, I cannot put them in my own circles.