What does Google's new social network Google+ mean for charities and for social change?

Google has launched its new social network, Google+. The company hopes this will be their ace in the hole in its ongoing war against Facebook. The once search engine hopes you’ll use Google+ to connect with friends and share your content.

Will it benefit charities & not-for-profits?

Google+ has a range of social networking features, but how will it help charities and socially-motivated organisations? In this article we’ll take a look at some of those social features and how you can use them to help spread the word, promote your cause and gain more supporters.

Circles

When we post on Facebook, we make the effort maximise the effectiveness and impact of our message. The problem is, no matter how good our post and content is, it won’t always be to everyone’s taste.

Google+ can help you target your message to certain groups of people, which can be managed sepearatley in ‘Circles’. Think of Circles as a segmented Twitter list or a Facebook Group.

You can manage circles by dragging & dropping people from your contacts list into the Circles you create, which could be named as follows:

  • Supporters
  • Donors
  • Professionals
  • Employees
  • Volunteers

Your post can be targeted at a specific audience group to get maximum impact from your content without creating extra work. You can post to as many or as few groups as you like by tweaking the wording of your message so it’s suitable for all target groups.

For example:

  • (to the Supporters circle) “Just £5 a month can help us plant 1,000 trees.”
  • (to the Donors circle): “Your donations have helped plant 1,000 trees this year. See how we did it.”
  • (to the Professionals circle): “See how we planted 1,000 with the help of our donors.”
  • (to the Employees and Volunteers circles): “Well done! We’ve planted 1,000 trees, thanks to your hard work.”

Sparks

Sparks is a recommendation engine for finding info about the topics you care about. For instance, if a search for ‘diabetes’ will return a plethora of content from blogs, photos and videos, all of which can be shared with your friends or supporters.

Nonprofits could use Sparks as a content aggregator based around a theme or cause, like a newsreader without the hassle of adding and managing feeds.

Another potential use of Sparks for nonprofits, is for awareness and brand recognition. A diabetes charity, for example, might want their content to dominate the the search term “diabetes” in Sparks. By providing users with the the best content, advice and useful links, charities have a much better chance of generating support, donations and subscriptions by appearing at the top of the results stream than they do by languishing at the bottom.

Hangouts

Hangouts is putting a twist on video chat by making it more approachable. You see a conversation happening and choose to opt in rather than being invited.

Along with cool features such as the person currently talking appearing in the main window, making for a more intuitive conversation. You can also choose to share pics and videos during the chat.

Charities could use this feature for group q&a sessions. You could stream live events and let people talk about the event rather than just typing what they think, making for a more personal experience.

This feature is so flexible  with streaming, its really limited by your imagination.

Recommendations

Google introduced the +1 button, its own version of the Facebook Like button, in March 2010. One advantage of the +1 button is that it appears on Google’s own search results and serves as a way of adding human recommendations to the search engine’s algorithm, potentially offering better content to the millions of people who search daily.

Charities can provide useful, relevant advice to the people who need it most, and providing people with the tools to share your advice with their family & freinds is a powerful way of reaching new users and driving new traffic to your website or blog. Consider implementing the Google +1Facebook Like and Twitter Tweet buttons to your website and start benefitting from recommendations and referrals.

Conclusion

Google+ offers new features that could be used to great effect for not-for-profits.

Don’t ditch your Twitter or Facebook account just yet, though. People ultimately decide whether a good idea becomes a successful product and it’s too early to tell whether Google+ is worth the effort, or another wasted opportunity, like the company’s earlierWave and Buzz projects.

We’re also yet to see whether Google+ will support Facebook-style Pages for organisations. If not, it could be more of a struggle to reach users through Google+.

Whatever happens to Google+, the social web is here to stay. Early use of Google+ could help put your organisation at a competitive advantage. Steps you can take now to help you rise above the rest if Google+ takes off include:

Reason Digital News