GooglePlus - Communities, Collections, Circles

GooglePlus is an extremely flexible communications tool, but it not widely understood, and in my field of work (communications) it is more-often critically misunderstood. So I'm making myself available for mentoring people interested in learning how to use GooglePlus: brand and personal communications.

In this article I'll explain how I've gone about setting up "Mentoring" as a project using the 3Cs of GooglePlus: Communities, Collections, Circles.

Why am I writing this article?
  1. Firstly this run through about how I've set up Communities, Collections and Circles for this project might prompt a few people interested in being mentored to come forward.
  2. Secondly this article can hopefully serve as a general example for others about how you can use different elements of GooglePlus, either in isolation or combined, to focus and communicate with others around a project or topic.

Mentoring Community

With any communication function you'll want to use an approach tailored to fit what you are trying to achieve. I'm wanting to provide a private "space" for social media professionals which will allow me to guide and help them and also allow them to communicate with each other. For that I set up a private GooglePlus community

Being a private community means only members can see, comment, or make posts within the community. The screenshot above is what the community looks like for anyone who's not a member. See that here

Communities can be created in two flavours: private or public. There are other settings which additionally allow community owners and moderatos to control the private or public "space" but those are out of the scope of this article. 

For the mentoring project I created a private community because I'm wanting to help social media professionals. They might be timid about asking questions concerning their profession in a public space.

I do already have a related public community space, where people can discuss social media in the open: after introducing themselves

For many applications a community may answer all your needs. Everyone has a voice in a community which can result in "notification noise" depending on the community size, activity and people's tolerance to perceived noise. So for this project, which I'm leading, I wanted to also have my own mentoring voice outside of the mentoring community.

Mentoring Collection

Collections are like separate social media channels, but crucially they are all created under the one profile. They can be created as public collections or for a "Limited" audience: note the audience cannot be changed after the collection has been created.

A private collection will allow me to make posts visible to a "limited audience", in this case that audience would be members of the mentoring community. Those people can subscribe to posts from my Mentoring Collection and additionally choose to set notifications if they wanted. I'm anticipating making posts for the people I am mentoring covering things like challenges (homework) as they develop. 

Unlike private communities if you visit a link to a private collection where you are not part of the collection audience you will see only an error page: like pictured below.  Try it out here:
Google is very focused on good privacy practice, so you cannot change the audience of a private collection after it has been created. There are sound reasons for this approach.

I'm wanting to give people from the Mentoring Community access to my Mentoring Collection though, so how could I do that? ..... Using circles.

Mentoring Circle

As the audience for a private collection cannot be changed after creation I first set up an empty circle. For clarity I named it my "Mentoring Circle". After which I set up the Mentoring Collection described above and chose the Mentoring Circle as the collection audience at creation. 

The Mentoring Collection and Community start out visible to no-one. When I start mentoring a person I will invite them to the Mentoring Community, the "private discussion space" for the project and add them to my Mentoring Circle, which gives them access to my Mentoring Collection

People I'm mentoring can choose a separate notification level for community posts, which by definition come from the community of people I am mentoring, and a separate level of focus for the person helping them develop. 

Circles were deemed too complicated for a generation who'd learnt social media practices from Facebook so "add to circles" has been replaced on profiles by the more commonly understood term "follow" but circles are still very much a core part of how GooglePlus functions. A circle is just an "ACL" an access control list. This circle will be a list of the people I am mentoring.

In Advanced Settings if you "Enable circle streams" for your account you can view posts chronologically from the list of people in any circle.

So I have an easy way to see all non-community posts from the students I am mentoring too!

If that sounds creepy to you I can assure you it is not. It merely means posts I could see: public posts from the people I am mentoring, along with any private posts those individual people may have shared privately where I am included in the post audience. 

Hopefully: Communities, Collections and Circles are starting to peak your interest?

This is just one example of "a project" organised using GooglePlus. It's possible to do anything and everything with GooglePlus, you just need to be curious enough to find out how. Are you curious?

Interested in being mentored?

I live in London UK and work in social media. I'm limiting people I'm available to mentor to other social media professionals based and working in London.

If you're based in London and work in social (communications, marketing etc) you'll probably be reasonably comfortable and familiar with using Twitter: in which case ping me on Twitter with your request and I'll walk you through steps to get you started. I'm not sure how many people I'm willing to mentor at once: places are limited to people wanting to learn. 


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