(or why curating & sharing your own circles is mission-critical social strategy)
I had a bit of a revelation this week regarding Google Plus. When analyzing any system it’s easy for me (us!) to focus on large network elements. Things like the 100 million user accounts and some of its larger sub-communities (e.g. photographer networks).
However, in the long-term the real strength of this or any social system is going to be its smaller community networks that hold the entire ecosystem together. Much like the roots of a plant. I was surprised to find that Bellydancers were able to enlighten me of this fact.
But before I get ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning to explain how my own research had failed to see why small curated circles were the most powerful element of this social network.
Researching lost gems of posts, pages and people
I spent a full day last weekend researching for guest posts on the Unofficial +Best of Google Plus page. The idea was to highlight 30 different Google Plus people & posts with outstanding information. To make this unique I restricted myself to individuals who were circled by less than 10,000. This way their work would also gain a larger readership which I felt it deserved.
In addition, I chose subjects which are not widely discussed already within Google Plus. Topics such as songwriting, dance, health, neuroscience, etc. These are all topics I find interesting myself. In fact, I came up with the list by looking at the books on my own bookshelf.
This should’ve been quite an easy task. However, finding individuals who post regularly and write good content is really not that easy. As with any social network you find a lot of people writing thin banal posts, dormant accounts and those folk who tend to solely share posts without any commentary (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).
I was hoping to find some undiscovered community of users who were completely going under the radar. In a sense, I was hoping to discover some lost tribe on Google Plus. Some hidden network of individuals all posting great content in their own little clique. But this failed to materialize during the research. All I found were singular pockets of interesting posts.
In all honesty I found this lack of identifiable tribes a little demoralizing. I was hoping to find various learning networks and innovation networks of people that had swarmed together to help each other and build upon their expertise.
Thing is. I was simply looking in the wrong place!
Discovering lost tribes: Small curated social circles
The turning point for me happened when Google plusser +Jason Wells posted a small shared circle which hinted at some of the small vibrant communities existing within the social network. Jason had shared a small circle curated by his friend +Sabrina Rakkasah. Sabrina is a world-class professional belly dancer who had put together a circle of over 160 professional and semi-pro belly dancers from around the globe.
To me, this was a revelation to see a close-knit collective of individuals using the social network for communication purposes, all brought together by their shared interest of belly dancing. I had been looking for other dance communities (e.g. hip-hop dancing, Argentine tango, etc.) during my research but failed to find one as cohesive as Sabrina’s belly dancing circle.
This revelation was like discovering a lost tribe on the Google Plus ecosystem. Thanks to a shared circle I had discovered a community of people connecting & engaging completely under my radar.
It got me wondering how many other interest circles are out there, actively engaging & communicating, possibly even under private channels (rather than publicly shared posts). It struck me that these curated circles are really the social glue on Google+ and could provide the major value to G+ers going forward.
As a side note: Jason informed me that there has always been a connection between the tech community and the belly dancing community. Seemingly, geeks appreciate the art form more than the general populace. So it seems natural that Sabrina’s colleagues would’ve been early tech adopters of Google Plus.
Why is this important?
Creating small community networks like Sabrina’s really is going to be the social glue of Google Plus in the future. These small networks will act like roots in a plant nourishing these small communities and bonding people together, reducing the chances of users exiting the system. And this should be of importance to Google.
Many social network users remark that they “use Facebook for friends & colleagues, and use Google Plus for finding everyone else”. The implication of this is that bonds to family & real-world acquaintances are less likely to be broken. People are less likely to turn their back on Facebook because their friends and family are there. This is a crucial reason why your default Google Plus circles include ones for family members & acquaintances.
By contrast, if Google Plus really is about ‘finding everyone else’ then you may not have the same exit barriers with the system. And this is where small community networks start to become important. In the long-term these curated small circles will have greater value for connecting you to individuals with very precise interests who you would wish to communicate with directly and regularly. Meaning you are less likely to close your account (exit).
What action should you take?
All in all, this means that You and Your business should focus a portion of Your social strategy to curating & sharing circles. You should also be searching out circles you can join and form into part of your own tribe. This needs to be a key task in your social strategy.
How you choose to build up your circles is really up to you. The one recommendation I would make is to be very selective about who you add. It’s much better to have a small circle of 10 individuals who have proven themselves as subject experts, posting regularly about the topic, skill or area your circle relates to.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Why should you search for, build & share smaller curated circles?
- The circle’s topic can be more targeted and therefore more applicable to the recipient. This will naturally result in better engagement, insights & connection with other users.
- Recipients are more likely to ‘Add’ a smaller circle to their collection, as well as share it on. A circle of 50 experts puts a smaller dent in your 5000-circled people limit than one containing 500 (the current limit). It seems like less of an imposition.
- The streams for smaller circles are easier to read & keep up with due to a more manageable stream velocity.
- You can include yourself (or your business) within the circle for self-promotion. This is worthwhile if you have valid expertise for that circle.
- You are building your social capital reserves on the network by providing value to other Google Plus users.
- By searching for circles related to your interests you can comment on the post requesting to be added to the circle for future reference. Making you part of the tribe.
Don’t be like me and lose sight of the fact that small curated circles based on targeted interests are the very fabric of Google Plus. You should be (a) curating and sharing your own circles and (b) searching for circles in your interest zone that you could get added to. This will strengthen your roots, bonds & engagement levels online. As the network grows then the probability that such collectives can blossom into learning networks, and maybe even innovation networks, becomes all the more likely.
- Contact: Sabrina Rakkasah’s Professional Bellydancer Circle on Google Plus
FYI: Sabrina’s circle is actively looking to include more bellydancers, especially for connecting dancers internationally. Heres the circle details where you can connect.