In addition to profiles and business Pages, you can now set up Communities on Google+

Similar to Facebook Groups, the new Google+ feature enables you to form groups based around a specific interest, organization, or passion, making it easier for you to communicate with a group in a more specific way — versus broadcasting to your Circles.

But while Communities have a lot in common with Facebook Groups (both offer public or private memberships), Google+ does have some advantages. For example, Communities are able to start a Hangout video chat with members, as well as share things specifically with the group using any +1 button.

This could be a great feature for organizations, clubs, brand evangelists, or even departments within a business. Anyone can create or join a group by clicking on the new “Communities” icon, which is rolling out today, along the left-hand side of your Google+ homepage. You can see the new feature in action on YouTube.

Google also announced that Google+ is the “fastest-growing network thingy ever” with more than 500 million members. Of those, 235 million are active across Google (such as +1’ing apps in Google Play and participating in Hangouts) while 135 million are just active in the stream. That pales in comparison to Facebook’s 1 billion, but maybe Communities will help to kick-start more activity and engagement across the platform.

[Via: VentureBeat, Image credit: AoStefan]