Key to the success of any nonprofit is raising support for what matters to you. That support is not only financial, though of course money is vital. Garnering real support means putting the issues you care about into the public discourse.
Whether your nonprofit feeds and houses orphans in the majority world, provides a sanctuary for retired racehorses, or campaigns on food safety, having people talk about what you do raises your profile and gives you more chances to promote your cause.
In the digital world, Google+ Communities are repaidly emerging as the place to spread the word and talk about your cause.
Since they launched in December 2012, they’ve become hugely popular, and are now one of the biggest reasons for continuing to engage on Google Plus.
What Are Google+ Communities?
Google+ Communities are online hubs of discussion, bustling with people who want to talk.
Think of Google+ Communities as the social media equivalent of web forums.
Anyone can create a community on any topic (within Google’s user policies, and many communities are already thriving hubs of discussion and debate.
Communities are different to your Google Plus page. On your Page, only you can post an update to start a discussion. In Communities, any member can start a discussion.
How to Join a Community
Google has made it super easy to join or set up a community. You need no specialist knowledge, just a Google Plus account and some social media savvy.
In the Google Plus sidebar, click the “Communities” button (Alternatively, hit this link). Here, you’ll be shown a list of communities you might be interested in joining, based on what communities your friends or supporters are already part of.
Additionally, you can use the search bar to find relevant communities, or hit the “Create a Community” red button to start your own.
While creating your own community gives you more control over the conversation, engaging in other communities is a smart choice when you’re starting out. That way, you’re going to where your potential supporters already hang out, rather than trying to force conversation in an empty room.
When people know who you are on Google+ (or if your nonprofit is already a household name), you can then set up a community of your own.
If you decide to go ahead and create your own community, let people know about it, and not just on Google Plus. Invite your Twitter followers and Facebook fans to get involved. Send out an email to your list of supporters, and explain what a community is and how they can help your cause by engaging in the community.
How to Use Communities
Think of communities as spaces to engage potential supporters, listen to what matters to them, and talk about the issues that matter to you.
If you’re planning to use communities to drive donors to your donate page, you’ll be disappointed. No one likes to be sold to, least of all on social media.
Your aim is to build relationships rather than push for people to become supporters.
Communities are not about self-promotion. Use them only to push your agenda, and you’ll notice those around you blocking their ears. Communities are about opening your ears – listening and finding out what matters to your supporters. They’re also about discussion, and putting your nonprofit’s viewpoint on the table.
Focus on helping others and get engaged in their conversations before starting your own.
As hubs for discussion, Communities are perfect for:
Touching base with authority figures who can become ambassadors for your cause. While you could just add authority figures to a circle, and see if they reciprocate, they’re far more likely to be interested in your cause if you’ve already engaged in a community. Many will be happy to help if you can explain what good work you are doing.
Asking for feedback. Want to get a balanced view on a new project you’re planning, or on work you’ve already done? Join a relevant community and ask members what they think about it. Engage positively, and they’ll help you brainstorm even more ideas.
Being found. Getting onto the front page of Google is increasingly about the quality of your content and engagement, rather than tricksy SEO. Public communities are indexed by Google search, so the more you engage constructively, the better your chances of being found.
Demonstrating your authority. When you’re promoting a cause, you need to show your supporters and the media that your opinion matters. Joining the discussion on Google Plus shows your nonprofit knows what its talking about, and that people should take what you say seriously.
Sharing updates on your work. As with all social media, the rule of communities is to talk about others before yourself. After you’ve engaged regularly and built trust, you can start to talk about the good work you do. Only do this when your projects are relevant to the community topic.
Communities are beginning to swing the social media pendulum in Google Plus’s favor. Will they be the end of Facebook? Probably not. But they do mean you now ignore Google Plus at your peril.
Jump into communities now, while they’re still young, and you’ll get all the benefits of being a pioneer. You get to stake out the best territories before anyone else turns up.
The Google Plus Communities gold rush is on. Why not head on over, find your spot and start digging?
To learn more about engaging on Google+, check out the Social Caffeine ebook, 10 Commandments for Raising Money for Non-Profits on Google+. Get your copy from Amazon here. Amazon UK users: get your copy here.
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