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Google Communities: more utility than Twitter, Facebook combined

Google Communities has officially launched, and could sway more users to Google+. Let’s look at some current examples, and we’ll share with you how we set up our own Google Community.

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google plus communities

Google Communities launches for Google+ users

Google Communities has officially debuted for Google+ users, asserting that it is “a gathering place for your passion,” says Google’s Senior VP of Engineering, Vic Gundotra. Google Communities is Google’s version of Facebook groups, but appears to offer more utility than groups by allowing users to gather around specific interests, and filter through subcategories within a Community.

If someone is a runner, but doesn’t want to filter through all of the dull beginner advice, they can join the runner group and select a sub category set up by the Community owner/administrator in the sidebar, as administrators have the power to set up categories within a group, rather than just a smorgasbord of information thrown at the Community member.

google communities running

Making sharing “meaningful”

“We started Google+ in the first place to make online sharing as meaningful as the real thing,” said Gundotra. “Too often, our online tools miss the subtlety and substance of real-world interactions, and Google+ aims to fix this. Fortunately we’ve got a vibrant community to guide us. What’s been missing, however, are more permanent homes for all the stuff you love: the wonderful, the weird, and yes, even the things that are waaay out there. ”

Google Communities allows for private and public membership, so users can discuss personal interests and find other members that care about the conversation. They can plan events with other members and share topics from across the web. Additionally, administrators must choose whether new members can add themselves or if administrator approval is required.

[pl_video type=”youtube” id=”lpUDWCSRQIU”]

Google+ says they have about 500 million registered users, with about 50 percent of them being considered active on a monthly base. The service was launched as an invitation only service in June 2011, opening up to everyone 18 years of age or older on September 20, 2011, later reducing the minimum age to 13.

There is no word yet as to when vanity URLs will arrive so that communities aren’t named a series of numbers, but we assume that they will come, just as they have on other social networks.

How we chose to set up our Google Community

The Google Community was very easy to set up, but required some permanent decisions. We opted to make our group public, which Google warns cannot be reversed, so if your industry surrounds sensitive information, or you’re creating a Community for your team or family, private may be a better option, but in most cases, public is fine.

We chose to require administrator approval of all new members because in our experience, inflated numbers are for the weak, and a telemarketer in India trying to sell Nike shoes in our Community is not likely relevant to the meaningful conversation we are attempting there. You may choose to allow anyone in, but we find the extra step keeps a higher quality level in all of our communities.

The toughest part was experimenting with the profile photo, because the actual measurement that renders is 205×285 pixels (with a 35 pixel transparent overlay at the bottom), but you must upload an image larger than 250×250 pixels, and take into account the shaded overlay when someone actually opens the group. For now, we kept it simple, but plan on experimenting more in the future.

Additionally, we had to make a choice regarding how we would establish and grow the Community, and rather than invite our connections on all other networks, we will be growing it slowly within the Google+ ecosystem to seek out regular users of the group to enrich the conversation.

Lastly, we had to determine why we would create a Google Community, and what we would do there. Internally, we decided that would be where we would do more than share – we decided that is where the backstory will live. Why did we choose to write a certain editorial? Why don’t we report a specific economic indicator? What sources did we find credible and not credible when we investigated a topic? What drove a writer to so deeply write about a certain topic, what is their backstory? These are all ways we will be connecting with readers more in depth, and we’ve chosen Google Communities as the behind-the-scenes destination for AG news.

Click below to join us as we dive deeper into the news:

agbeat Google Community

Other Google Communities for inspiration

Click any of the images below to view other Communities. Pay attention to the left sidebar where the categories are listed to find inspiration, and read what people are already sharing.

google communities austin events

google communities knitting

google communities design

google communities real estate video

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Social Media

Instagram announces 3 home feed options, including chronological order

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Instagram is allowing users to choose how their home feed appears so they can tailor their own experience… and chronological is back!

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Instagram home feed options

Break out the bottle of champagne, because they are bringing back the chronological order in Instagram!

About time, right? Well, that’s not all. Per Protocol, Instagram has announced that they are rolling out three feed options in the first half of 2022. What?! Yes, you read that right.

3 New Feed View Options

  1. Home: This feed view should feel familiar because it’s the algorithm you already use. No changes to this view.
  1. Favorites: This feed view option presents a nice and tidy way to view creators, friends, and family of your choosing.
  1. Following: Last, but not least, is my favorite re-boot, the chronological view of every account that you follow.

Per Protocol, recent legal allegations have been made that Instagram and Facebook have been prioritizing content viewed as harmful in the algorithm and specifically in Instagram. Instagram is widely believed to be harmful to teens. Per the American Psychological Association, “Studies have linked Instagram to depression, body image concerns, self-esteem issues, social anxiety, and other problems”.  They have been under scrutiny by lawmakers and in response are posing the chronological feed as a solution.

However, this won’t fix everything. Even if the algorithm isn’t prioritizing harmful posts, those posts will still exist and if that account is followed it can still be seen. The other issue with this solution is the knowledge that unless Instagram lets you choose your default feed view, they could still cause the algorithm view to be the automatic view. Facebook doesn’t allow you to make the chronological feed your default view. This means you would need to choose that view every time. This bit of friction means there will be times it is overlooked and some may not even know the functionality exists. Knowing this information about Facebook, prepares us for what’s to come with Instagram. After all, Facebook, or Meta, owns both.

While as an entrepreneur, the chronological view excites me, I know the reality of it being used is questionable. I would love to know others can see the products and services I offer instead of hoping that Instagram finds my content worthy to share in the algorithm.

As a human being with a moral conscience, I have to scream, “C’mon Instagram, you CAN do better!” We all deserve better than having a computer pick what’s shown to us. Hopefully, lawmakers will recognize this band-aid quick fix for what it truly is and continue with making real changes to benefit us all.

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Facebook’s targeting options for advertising are changing this month

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Do you market your business on Facebook? You need to know that their targeting options for ads are changing and what to do about it.

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Laptop on lap open to Facebook page representing ad targeting.

Meta is transforming Facebook’s ad campaigns beginning January 19th. Facebook, which has been infamously battling criticism regarding election ads on their platform, is revising its limited targeting ad campaigns. Per this Facebook blog post, these changes eliminate the ability to target users based on interactions with content related to health (e.g., “Lung cancer awareness”, “World Diabetes Day”), race and ethnicity, political affiliation, religious practices (e.g., “Catholic Church” and “Jewish holidays”) and sexual orientation (e.g., “same-sex marriage” and “LGBT culture”).

These changes go into effect on January 19, 2022. Facebook will no longer allow new ads to use these targeting tools after that date. By March 17, 2022, any existing ads using those targeting tools will no longer be allowed.

The VP of Ads and Business Product Marketing at Facebook, Graham Mudd, expressed the belief that personalized ad experiences are the best, but followed up by stating:

“[W]e want to better match people’s evolving expectations of how advertisers may reach them on our platform and address feedback from civil rights experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders on the importance of preventing advertisers from abusing the targeting options we make available.”

To help soften the blow, Facebook is offering tips and examples for small businesses, non-profits, and advocacy groups to continue to reach their audiences that go beyond the broad targeting of gender and age.

These tips include creating different types of targeting such as Engagement Custom Audiences, Lookalike Audiences, Website Custom Audiences, Location Targeting, and Customer Lists from a Custom Audience.

Here’s the lowdown on how it will happen.

Per the Search Engine Journal, changes can be made to budget amounts or campaign names without impacting the targeting until March 17th. However, if you go to change the ad set level that will then cause changes at the audience level.

If you need to keep that particular ad to reuse, it may be best to edit the detailed targeting settings before March 17th in order to ensure you can make changes to it in the future.

I believe it was Heraclitus that declared change is constant. Knowing this, we can conclude other social platforms may follow suit and possibly adjust their targeting in the future as well.

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Hate speech seemingly spewing on your Facebook? You’re not wrong

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook (now Meta) employees estimate its AI tools only clean up 3%-5% of hate speech on the platform. Surprise, Surprise *eye roll*

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Facebook being crossed out by a stylus on a mobile device for hate speech.

As Facebook moves further toward Zuckerberg’s Metaverse, concerns about the efficiency with which the company addresses hate speech still remain, with employees recently estimating that only around 2% of offending materials are removed by Facebook’s AI screening tools.

According to Wall Street Journal, internal documents from Facebook show an alarming inability to detect hate speech, violent threats, depictions of graphic content, and other “sensitive” issues via their AI screening. This directly contradicts predictions made by the company in the past.

A “senior engineer” also admitted that, in addition to removing only around 2% of inappropriate material, the odds of that number reaching even a numerical majority is extremely unlikely: “Recent estimates suggest that unless there is a major change in strategy, it will be very difficult to improve this beyond 10-20% in the short-medium term.”

The reported efficacy of the AI in question would be laughable were the situation less dire. Reports ranging from AI confusing cockfights and car crashes to inaccurately identifying a car wash video as a first-person shooting are referenced in the internal documents, while far more sobering imagery–live-streamed shootings, viscerally graphic car wrecks, and open threats of violence against transgender children–went entirely unflagged.

Even the system in which the AI works is a source of doubt for employees. “When Facebook’s algorithms aren’t certain enough that content violates the rules to delete it, the platform shows that material to users less often—but the accounts that posted the material go unpunished,” reports Wall Street Journal.

AI has repeatedly been shown to struggle with bias as well. Large Language Models (LLMs)–machine-learning algorithms that inform things like search engine results and predictive text–have defaulted to racist or xenophobic rhetoric when subjected to search terms like “Muslim”, leading to ethical concerns about whether or not these tools are actually capable of resolving things like hate speech.

As a whole, Facebook employees’ doubts about the actual usefulness of AI in removing inappropriate material (and keeping underage users off of the platform) paint a grim portrait of the future of social media, especially as the Metaverse marches steadily forward in mainstream consumption.

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