This new feature seems to purposely mimic and improve upon Facebook’s “Groups” feature, which recently took a turn for the busted when Facebook merged all of its forgotten Pages into Groups, causing a huge problem for users (and, as a Facebook friend of mine noted, possible carpal tunnel for all of the un-followers).
Where Facebook seems to lack a coherent strategy with their Groups, Google+ is hitting the social media world hard with an apparent two-fold strategy in their Communities.
The Strategy of Community
First, Google+ requires moderators for their Communities, meaning that focused and organized conversation can occur with the guiding hand of someone appointed as group leader. Communities range in diversity of topic – from cars, to recipes, to groups focused on features of Google+ itself, including Hangouts On Air (an increasingly desirable resource to New Media creators).
Secondly, it would appear that Google+ is also creating sponsored Communities. One example is the Sci–Fi group, sponsored by the SyFy Channel and hosted by Craig Engler, a SyFy senior executive. Also part of the community is the beloved geek luminary Casey McKinnon of the now-defunct web series A Comic book Orange and the now-geek-famous marriage proposal involving a custom Atari 2600-style version of Portal.
Smaller Groups, Bigger Reward
As website redOrbit notes, “The theory here is that if users are connected to smaller groups of people, the entirety of social media becomes more manageable, thereby driving interaction with the social tools.”
Another component of the move seems to be fostering a higher level of quality in those “smaller groups” of people, which will hopefully in turn provide a higher quality of social media in general. With Google+ proving itself as “the fastest growing network” in social media, as Google calls it, this is probably a good idea.
Google+ Surprises, Facebook Disappoints
As mentioned previously in this blog, while Google+ has been impressive in rolling out this new Communities feature, Facebook has been disappointing users with their handling of the Groups within their site.
A major recent complaint among users is the folding in of the “Pages” feature within the site, which has flooded users’ Groups section with various pages forgotten years ago and, often, best left forgotten.
Additionally, the functionality of Facebook’s Groups and Fan Pages has been diminished by the changing of the algorithm at work within the Facebook site. Many users of Facebook’s Fan Pages have found that their “reach” – the number of users who will see a certain post by a Fan Page – has diminished drastically.
While this was originally believed to be a move employed by Facebook to push their “promote posts” feature, which would allow Fan Page managers to push posts to the top of a user’s newsfeed in exchange for money, the reality is a likely bit simpler and surprisingly more archaic.
The Reach is the Thing
As not-so-work-friendly comics and novel author Warren Ellis pointed out in a recent post from his mailing list, MachineVision, it looks like Facebook now favors all-text posts, pushing down the potential reach of posts that link outside of the Facebook site.
Ellis himself used re-purposed tweets from the Twitter social media application, as well as auto-posting Facebook add-on, Buffer, to trick the site into raising the reach of his Fan Page.
Ellis also observed, “Anything that’s a crosspost is reaching maybe 1000 people. The simple short plaintext posts re-purposed from my Twitter archive are reaching between 2500 and 3500 people.”
Previously, the interconnectivity of Facebook with other sites was one of the big advantages in social media, as well as being part of the downside of Google+, but with the apparent end to the usefulness of the “like” button now in effect, is there room for the +1 to take over?
There are still problems with the Communities set-up, including the inability to create custom URL endings for said Communities, though this custom URL problem seems native to the entire G+ site. That said, I don’t imagine it will take Google too long to include a feature like this in future updates.
Another issue will be directly related to how active different community leaders will be within their own communities. As with any other social media resource, without constant maintenance, the dialogue may fall apart within the community. Already, many users are giving in to the urge to post pictures, trailers, and thoughts on various things without fostering a sense of conversation.
It will be up to the community leaders, as well as Google itself, to appeal to the higher angels of social media users, encouraging a broader depth and breath to conversation within the platform.
What do you think of the new Google+ Communities?
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