social media how toHave you heard about the new Google+ Communities?

Google+ Communities allow you to collaborate with others on topics you’re passionate about.

And it’s a great opportunity for marketers to network, engage and build the businesses they support.

This article will reveal everything you need to know about Google+ Communities and how to leverage them for business.

What Is a Google+ Community?

A Google+ Community is a place to meet and engage with people on topics you’re interested in. If you had trouble finding engagement on Google+ in the past, it’s time to take a second look and check out active communities on topics you care about.

Watch this video from Google+ to see how communities work.

Not only will you find great discussions going on, but you’ll also meet great people who share your interests. And this will help build your relationships and expand your network.

You can create public communities and private communities. There are already thousands of communities forming—and you can find dozens of communities on almost every topic imaginable.

Here are just a few awesome communities dedicated to social media that you might find interesting:

Social Media Marketing

social media marketing community

Jason Keath, Nick Cicero and Corey Creed moderate the Social Media Marketing community.

Social Media Strategy

social media strategy community

Andrews Harasewych, J.C. Kendall and Tom Bukacek manage the Social Media Strategy community.

Social Media Marketing for Business Owners

social media marketing business community

Kim Beasely created the Social Media Marketing for Business Owners community.

Community Moderators

community moderators group

Jen Reeves, Peter G. McDermott and Tom Rolfson moderate the Community Moderators group.

Benefits of Joining a Google+ Community for Business

Here are a few reasons to consider joining a Google+ Community:

1. Grow your own network by engaging with others on topics you care about.

If you’ve had trouble engaging in conversations and meeting others in Google+, you now have an easy way to find people who are passionate about the same topics you are by joining relevant communities.

Join a community, answer questions, post your thoughts and you’ll meet some interesting people and grow your network at the same time.

For example, I’m interested in connecting with others and sharing ideas about using LinkedIn, so I started the LinkedIn for Business community. Within 4 days, this community grew to 54 members and I’ve been learning and engaging with some great people.

first post

The first post in the group continues to get engagement.

2. Discover your target market’s questions, challenges and interests.

Communities can be like a focus group for your business. Some communities already have thousands of members talking about topics they care about.

Join communities that impact your business and listen. What are members saying about the topic? What questions are asked? What ideas are discussed? All of this can help you understand your target market.

For example, the Running community has people sharing challenges and questions about running. Members ask for recommendations on shoes, gear and other advice. If your business helps athletes, this could be a great place to engage and learn more about your target market.

running community

The Google+ Running community already has over 3,500 members and a lot of great engagement.

3. Gain insights for blog posts and product ideas.

As you discover communities where your target market is located, join them and listen in on what they are saying. Discover ideas for blog articles and even get ideas for products or services you can provide them.

4. Become a thought leader for your industry.

Communities allow you to start your own discussions and share content you care about. This means you can post articles that might interest your target audience.

This is a perfect opportunity to become a thought leader by answering questions and being helpful.

And if you’re really enjoying the community, ask the moderator if you could help moderate, too. This would help you stand out as a leader.

5. Drive relevant traffic to your website.

As you engage with others in the community, you’ll find opportunities to share a blog post or article from your website. However, don’t spam. Be helpful and thoughtful with the links you share.

Bills  joined a Financial Literacy community that I’m building and posted info about how their site can help others save money (as that is a category in our community).

Companies need to be careful how they do this (so they don’t spam), but Bills posted this after a discussion on how to save 10% of a paycheck. They didn’t link to their site, just talked about their product and shared an image. This could help them drive relevant traffic to their site.

bills responds

Bills responds to a post on how to save 10% of a paycheck and recommends their product without a link.

How to Find Google+ Communities for Your Business

Unfortunately, there isn’t a global directory of Google+ Communities at this time. To find public communities, you need to first log into Google+ and click on the Communities icon on the Google+ ribbon on the left.

communities link

Communities link on left-hand navigation ribbon in Google+.

When you first view your Communities section, you’ll find recommended communities on the left (based on communities people in your circles have joined). You’ll see any community invites on the right-hand side.

profile picture

Each community graphic shows a profile picture of a member or page you circled at the bottom.

The Discover Communities section is your first peek at what people in your circles are doing in communities. And as you become active, you might start receiving other community invitations, so keep an eye on this page.

You can also search for communities by topic using the Community Search bar. Simply do a Google+ search for the topic you’re interested in and select Communities in the drop-down menu.


Ranking by which communities appear for each query is not known. Number of members, number of posts, keywords in title and connection to members might all play a factor.

Once you find a community that you want to join, simply go to that community page and click the Join Community button.

join community button

The Join Community button is located in the top right of the page.

Once you join a community, you’re able to start participating by commenting, writing posts and sharing links.

When you join a community, the notification settings should be off by default. This means you won’t get any notifications when updates occur. If you prefer to see all notifications, then simply click the bell icon (under the community graphic) to turn notifications on.


Notifications can easily be toggled on and off by clicking the bell.

Most of the time, you’ll want to leave notifications off to avoid getting inundated with notifications and/or emails from busy communities. But for small communities that are important to you, you might want to turn the alerts on so that you see every update.

Tip: Set up a filter in Gmail to route community notifications into specific folders to free up your inbox.

Some communities are closed due to spam and will require a moderator to accept you into the community. The benefits of private communities are that spam will happen a lot less (or none at all if you have diligent moderators).

private community

Communities that are private don't show anything to anyone unless they are accepted in.

As you join communities, your Communities page layout will change by showing all of the communities you’ve joined at the top.

There’s a red box notification that indicates the number of new posts of all new activities in communities. This appears over the community graphic.

community page

The Community page makes it easy to see where discussions are happening at the moment simply by watching the discussion count in red boxes.

Tips for Finding Communities for Your Business:

  • Search for topics your target market is interested in.
  • Search using keywords important to your business.
  • Search for your competitor.

How to Start a Google+ Community

Creating a community is easy and you can easily create a Community page in less than 5 minutes. However, it always takes time to seed it with useful content and get the community going.

Before starting your first Google+ Community, here are some questions to ask:

  • What is the purpose of your community? You’ll need to write a few sentences in the About section.
  • Should you or your company’s Google+ page own the community? Whoever starts the group will be the official owner and moderator who can assign or remove other moderators. You can assign different owners and moderators at any time in Settings.
  • What kind of topics/categories do you want to feature in the sidebar? It’s a good idea to seed your community with content for each category. So have some blog posts or engaging content to feature in each category before promoting it.
  • Do you have an approved image that you can use for your community? Make sure you have an eye-catching photo or logo (250 x 250 pixels) ready to go.
  • Who will moderate your community? If you’re planning on having a public community, you should be aware of spammers and the importance of removing that content quickly. It helps to have more than one moderator watching the page and reviewing notifications.
  • What will be the rules of the community? Write some rules about what you expect and what type of content is not allowed.
  • Will this be a public or private community? If you want a private community, do you want it visible in search so that people can apply for membership or do you want the private community hidden? Or if you want a public community, do you want anyone to join and start contributing right away or does a moderator need to accept each member?

Once you know the answers to these questions, it’s time to create your first community.

1. Log into the Communities section

After you log into Google+, click on the Communities icon in the left-hand ribbon. Then click on the red Create a Community button on the top right-hand side (right below your name).

communities page

Screenshot of the Google+ Communities page.

When starting your first community, be aware that the owner and official moderator of the community will be tied to your personal Google+ account.

If you’re starting this community for a business, make sure to switch the Google+ account to the company page; that way, the company is the owner of the group.

2. Choose a public or private community

Once you click the Create a Community button, you’ll be asked whether you want to start a public or private community.

Here are the differences:

  • Public groups are visible to everyone.
  • Public groups can be locked so that people need permission from the moderator to join.
  • Private groups can be listed in search, but nobody can see the content unless approved to join.
  • Private groups can be hidden from search so that nobody would know it exists unless invited in.
community type

You can choose public or private group.

If you choose to start a private group, you can’t change it later to a public group. Private groups stay private. This has frustrated some community managers who weren’t aware that this setting can’t be changed. But now you know.

If you select a private group, Google gives you the option to make it hidden from all search—or make it listed in search, but people need to apply for membership from you to see or join discussions.


After selecting the type of group, you need to add a group name.

After selecting the type of community you want, you need to name your community. Don’t worry if you’re unsure of a good name, you can always change it later in Settings.

3. Add your community tagline and photo

Similar to Google+ pages, you have the option to add a tagline and unique photo for your community. The photo needs to be at least 250 x 250 pixels. When choosing a picture, try to pick an eye-catching image. And your tagline can be up to 140 characters.

While in this setting mode, the community name can be edited and changed as often as you like. Community names can be no longer than 50 characters.

new community page

This is how your new Community page will look while editing when you first arrive.

As you choose your tagline and community name, think about the keywords your target audience might use when looking for your group. There is no guarantee where your community will rank within Google+ Community Search, but when you put important keywords in your tagline and/or community name it will help you get a bit more visibility in the beginning.

Once you click Save or Done Editing during this stage, you can easily get back into editing mode by simply clicking on the Actions drop-down menu (under the photo) and selecting Edit Community.

actions button

Click on the Actions button to see the drop-down menu. This is how you can edit your Community page at any time when you are the owner/moderator.

4. Write your About section

While in editing mode, click on +Edit link.

edit to update

While in editing mode, you can click on +Edit to update the Description field.

This opens up an expandable box that you can paste in your community’s About content. This text appears on the sidebar, so this could be a good spot to also list some simple rules for the community or even a business phone number or email address.

about section

The About section is an expandable box in which you can paste content. Keep content brief.

The content in this About section can be very lengthy, but only 641 characters will be visible on the sidebar (and then a View More link will appear).

Tips for your About section:

  • List the organization behind your community (if applicable).
  • Share the mission of the community.
  • Add contact information like phone numbers or email addresses.
  • Hyperlinks don’t work, but you can still list your URL.

5. Add location (if needed)

Right below the About section is the Location link.

If your community group is affiliated with a business, you can list the company address here. If you have a local community group, you could just list the city name.

map in sidebar

Maps appear in the sidebar at the bottom if you choose to add a city or address on your Community page.

The benefit of adding a full address to a business is that a map appears that links to the Google Maps listing for the business.

6. Add post categories

Now it’s time to start writing some categories. This will evolve over time, but you want to start some potential topics for your community to put posts under.

Obviously, you’ll want to include categories specific to your topic/industry. Think about the types of categories for blogs in your industry. Or check out similar communities on Google+ to see what types of post categories they are using.

Engaging post categories:

  • Introduce Yourself
  • Discuss/Chat
  • Help Needed
  • Industry News
  • Jobs
  • Questions
  • Tips & Tricks

After you create your list of categories, you can move them around by clicking on a category (while in edit mode) and dragging into the new position.

7. Add engaging content in each category

Once you’ve added categories, it’s time to start posting content in each category you’ve created. This way if someone clicks through categories, they’ll see some posts there.

8. Get ready for notifications

If you’re going to start and moderate a group, you’re going to want to have notifications turned on (to help you moderate discussion and spam). Google will flag some of the content as potential spam, but you need to also keep an eye on it.

When I first started my group, I was getting inundated with dozens of notifications in my Gmail box. To clean up my email, I created a rule to categorize Google+ notifications into a specific folder. This is highly recommended if you create communities or join lots of communities (and want to get notified with updates).

9. Promote your new community

Once you’ve added content, you should begin inviting friends and colleagues whom you think might be interested in your new community. Don’t spam your circles if it’s not relevant to them. Just invite people you think would be interested. And then share your community by pasting your URL.

  • Share your community with your Google+ followers.
  • Invite followers on other social networks to join you there.
  • Invite thought leaders to become moderators of your group.

How to Manage Your Google+ Community Effectively

If you’ve ever started an online community, you know that it takes time to get discussions going. If you start a new community or become a moderator, here are some tips to building a thriving community:

1. Set community rules

As with any community, it’s good to set up some rules on what you will (and will not) allow. Expect self-promotion (or even spam), so make sure you have rules in place on how you will moderate discussions.

2. Add categories to prompt discussion

Create some fun categories like “Introduce Yourself” to encourage anyone who joins the group to quickly get engaged.

3. Assign moderators

As your community grows, you may need some help to moderate discussions and flag spam. To assign a moderator, first click on the member count below your community photo.


Click on your member count to see the full list of members first.

Once on that page, find the person you want to make moderator and click on the little arrow next to the Add to Circles button. The arrow will reveal a drop-down menu allowing you to make that person a moderator of the group.

4. Watch your notifications

Nobody wants to see spam in their group, so watch your notifications and delete any spam quickly. Set up rules in your Gmail account to help you manage the updates in your community. The more active people, the more moderators you might need to help you keep up.

5. Create useful post categories

You’ll want to start your community by creating some default categories for discussion, but as the community grows and discussions evolve, you might want to create new categories to fit new topics that arise.

6. Share useful content with your communities

Sharing content with your communities is just like sharing content with your public stream and circles. You can post to your community anywhere on Google+ by simply selecting your community in the drop-down menu (as you would a circle). You then get options to post to the community categories.

select your community

After typing your post, simply select your community by typing "@" or "+" and then your community name.

7. Post regularly and +1 contributions

It’s never easy starting a new community, so make sure you show your appreciation to anyone who joins by +1ing content they submit, commenting on their posts and even circling them to +1 and comment on general content they post on Google+.

8. Invite active participants whom you trust to moderate with you

Take the pressure off of yourself and allow others to help you moderate the community. Remember, this is not about you—it’s about the community.

9. Lock posts you don’t want shared outside of the group

If for some reason you don’t want a certain post shared outside the group, simply lock the post. This will prevent your content from getting shared to people you don’t want in the group. This doesn’t mean people can’t grab a screenshot and share it—so it’s best to assume that anything you write can be shared outside of a community. But locking a post is one way to keep things a bit more private.

10. Posts added into a category are stuck in that category (for now)

At this point, if you add a post into a category, it can’t be moved into another category so be careful where you add it.

Over to You

This covers everything you need to know about Google+ Communities and how to leverage them for your business.

So what do you think about Google+ Communities? Will you be joining? Or have you already found a few communities that you like? Let me know what communities you’ve joined or find interesting. Leave your comments in the box below.

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  • Let me know your favorite community – or how you think you’ll use Google+ communities to network or grow the business you support.  Love to know what you think.

  • Thanks for all the awesome tips and info Mike! They will really be helpful for entrepreneurs like me who want to start our own Google community. I just want to know which one is better for business, joining several communities or creating your own? Thanks in advance for your answer. 

    Keep on rockin everyone!

  • Great question, @JohnLeeDumas:disqus. First, join a few communities that are relevant to your business. Spend time networking there and meeting people. I’m spending time in “Consultant Exchange,” hosted by John Jantsch. That community has been a great place for me to learn and engage with some amazing people. I also spend time in a community manager network (linked at the top of this article). That’s a place I can engage with other community managers and learn from them.

    After spending time in a few communities, think about it if it’s important for you to host your own. I created a community because I wanted to bring together people interested in using “LinkedIn for Business.” A community like that didn’t exist at the time – and felt there was a need. It takes time to nurture a community, but now is a great time to start one. Be one of the first in your niche.

  • So far this is the best addition that I enjoy from Google Plus. The community seems to be active and I am hoping that it could last a little bit longer or much better to be a more engaging community.

  • Jemma McGuffie

    Some really good tips and very helpful especially for small start-ups who want to link with like minded people.

  • @adrianoarwin:disqus  Totally agree that Google+ communities have made Google+ more engaging. What are some of your favorite communities?

  • @google-9dae0266df4f741e4211135820aca27b:disqus Definitely a great place for start-ups. Robert Scoble launched/moderates the “Building a Company” community, which is a great place to spend time if you’re a small business and/or start-up.

  • Thanks for the very detailed how-to and including our community!

  • @PeterGMcDermott:disqus The “Community Moderators” community has been one of my favorites since the start. So thankful for all the work you and the team are doing there. I’ve received some great advice and connecting with some great people there.

  • Hey Mike! Great detailed post. I started a “test” community on Friday just to see what it was all about and we are pushing 900 members already. I do wish there were more moderation tools because it really is hard to police SPAM. I think they are close though. I really like the interface so much more than Facebook. It is cleaner and easier to navigate.

    I created it as a public group, but we all know on the first day it was a mad dash for community creation and I saw that button and away I went. lol

    Ours is just a social media hub and a place for people to share things about social media marketing etc. and anyone is welcome to join…plus any good people here in SME if you want to help me moderate that would be swell!! 🙂


  • Kelvin

    Mike, this is great information. It’s really detailed. Thanks.

  • @hubzeceo:disqus  Wow, that’s awesome you already have 900 members. I’ll check it out. How did you grow your community so fast?

  • FollowMeSticker

    Amazing information. Thank you.  Can anyone recommend some Retail related Social Media Marketing Communities?

  • @FollowMeSticker:disqus Let me take a look. I don’t know any at the moment.

  • Natalie Mann

    Mike, do you have an updated profile of who currently frequents Google+ (i.e, men, women, age, location?) 
    Initially, it skewed heavier toward males in the tech and biz world.

    What I’m trying to figure out is how worthwhile communities are for B2C in the food world. For a small business, there are so many places to spend time, but I need to strategically allocate my time.

  • Dara Khajavi

    I enjoyed this post immensely. When Google first came out with Google+, I was excited to see how this new social media site would effect businesses and marketing. The Google+ community is such a great tool for businesses to use. It will definitely affect the way businesses do marketing research and communicate with customers.

  • Google Communities seems to have been met with almost universal praise. One can only imagine they must be celebrating over at Google Headquarters.  I’ve joined several communities that are spot-on for me, and started one in my field about “Social Media for Healthcare”  — — So far so good. 
    What I’m really wondering — and am most excited about — is how Google Communities might be used by NPOs. People are too busy now-a-days and lack of time is a huge barrier for volunteer organizations. The opportunity to hold Board and Committee meetings online as (free!) private Hangouts seems almost like a game changer. 

  • Wow Mike, what a super informative and helpful article!

    Soaking all this in as I started a community the minute I heard that this was available to us.
    Interestingly, I had been planning to launch my own community for lunch-packers, and was going to do it on a whole new WordPress site using BuddyPress. But I was totally dragging my feet on that since starting it from scratch was pretty daunting. But good things come to those who wait I guess, cuz Google+ beat me to it and I couldn’t have been more excited and relieved!
    Jumped right in, and and now we’re off and running ( …
    The really big challenge is how do we get our Facebook fans (who are seeing so few of our posts now as it is :), to jump over to Google + where they can see ALL our content and really get involved? As marketers, we’re on top of all this, but the regular folk…? I foresee that it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to lure them away from FB…

  • Awesome article Michael.

    Google+ Communities really rocks. One question I have not figured out yet. I did not create categories when I first started, and after done so I need to move some discussions. Do you have a tip on how to move a discussion to another category without having to start the discussion all over again in new category.


    Are Morch
    Hotel Blogger

  • Wow!   Thank you!   This is like a new land grab.   

    David Willden 

  • @Are_Morch:disqus Thanks for your feedback. 🙂 Right now, all we can do is “share” that post into another category.  The problem is that you lose any comments on that post. I’m guessing Google will allow moderators to change categories on posts soon.

  • Yeah, I’m loving the new Google+ communities. So much potential for businesses. Thank you so much for your positive feedback.

  • @6a4a1ef9f4d2eac7ecfab85a21810697:disqus Let me look into demographics of Google+.  I can tell you that there are plenty of food communities forming. Take a look and see if your target market is there – and whether it’s worth your time engaging with them there.  

  • Thanks Michael.

    Fortunately I did not have to many comments yet on the thread I wanted to move. So I informed those that commented that I would restart the thread under new category, and then requested them to re post their comments there. One thing that is available is that you can lock the thread, so I informed that I locked the thread for further comments. And will keep the current thread until the transfer appears to worked out.

    Not the ideal way, but should work out ok. I agree that Google+ will more then likely add new features and functionality in near future.

    But Google+ Communities is my favorite addition to Google+ so far. Really looking forward to use it more in 2013.


    Are Morch
    Hotel Blogger

  • A very timely and useful article. Thank you Michael.
    Something that makes a lot of sense to me is the use of private Google Communities in support of NPOs. Time is a huge barrier to getting people to volunteer. It just strikes me that using (free!) Hangouts for Board and Committee meetings coupled with a private (free!) Google Community could make a huge difference in how nonprofits can do business including recruiting and retaining members. If true, this article is perfect for forwarding to the executive director of your favorite nonprofit. 

  • @ScottScowcroft:disqus Yes, definitely. Private communities would work very well for NPOs that wish to gather people together in an exclusive online group. I think that would work very well.  However, I think keeping the group public might help get the NPO more visibility and improve outreach. I guess it depends on the goal of the organization.

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  • Perhaps one Private GCom for internal/administrative/governance work and a second Public GCom for “public outreach.”

  • Yes, I think that would be a great approach.

  • I’m a big fan of the community work you are doing.  Keep it up @google-c69f8e26e8954d5fa98d0ca57f626583:disqus 

  • Google Plus Communities are a great place to interact with others who you share common interests with. It enables you to meet new people as well as have the possibility of driving more traffic to your own social media pages.

  • excellent post Mike.  what do you see as the major advantages of Google plus communities over FB groups?

  • Elaborate post! 🙂

  • Thanks @twitter-931560564:disqus. I had a lot of fun writing this. I have a lot more to write.

  • Jesus. This article is a monster. It must’ve taken forever to write.
    Nonetheless its great, in depth, and includes plenty of pics. thanks for making this!

  • This is what I use to remember, the more your visitors interact with you, the more of your posts will show in their newsfeeds and reach other potential customers. But then the question was “how?” Google plus community is the actual place where “Birds of a feather flock together.” Thank you for the great insight.

  • Marina Galatioto

    Thanks a lot for this article!

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  • Excellent, complete article about Google Plus Communities.  

  • Amazing tips here.  Honestly, I’ve written about website traffic before, and have lots of knowledge in getting virtually as much website traffic as I need, but one thing I still don’t use to it’s full potential is Google+.  But, thanks to your post, I think I have some more useful strategies, and some other ones I’ve now thought up.

    Oh yeah and THANK YOU for letting me know that if you start with a private community, you can’t change it to public later.  That would have saved me hours of frustration later on haha.

  • Thank you so much for this amazingly comprehensive review of G+ Communities.  Thank you also for including Social Media Mentors.  🙂

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  • How Google+ communities can help your business.

  • Marco

    Hi there Mike, great post, long but complete and useful (I saved it for future reference).

    I have a question and I hope you could help me.  I have a company that has a page on g+. I created some communities using my company profile. Now we’re facing a doubt with my partners. Should we write in communities with our real names or with our company profile?

    My idea is to post with our company profile, but to comment and interact with our personal profiles in order to give a human touch. Also i thought that it would be a good idea to comment with our company profile only for moderation purposes. A sort of hybrid management in which our company profile is used like a super partes moderator and to suggest new topics. My partners think we should not use our company profile at all.

    What use would you make of a company profile inside a g+ community?

    Thank you

  • Tiffany Clay

    Great Post! How many members are needed for your community to get showcased on the find a community page?

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  • Richard Harman

    Great info and very well written and thought out.  

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  • Hazel Chism

    Great find for my small not for profit, and micro and social enterprise developers community. I’m going right to google now and try to get in the search engine because I missed this when I set up my private community.  Thanks Social Media Examiner for sharing this.  Thank you google for adding communities.  I have found a place outside of the over crowed sites which  presently have groups.

  • Interesting and enlightening outlook at Google+ and its features. I’ve been on Google+ since the end of last year, and it’s been a great tool. I have created #3 Communities so far, and have joined about #20 other Communities. I really find Google+ an invaluable relationship, communication and knowledge management tool.

    I have also been faced with the decision to make a Community private or public while accomodating internal/administrative/governance work. But I’d considered it’d be more good to leave it public for the purpose of outreach and accessibility, and to regulate the disclosure or surfacing of internal/administrative/governance work that’s sensitive for the public and confidential to the administration instead.

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  • Great job explaining the basics of starting a community.

    Do you have some more info on B2B “best practices” or case studies on how to build a large growing and active Google + community?

    Thanks for your contributions to the business community.

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  • bramnet

    does anyone know if the communities I join will be publicly viewable to the internet or my circles?

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