Since its inception in 2011 (yes, it really was that long ago), little has been known about Google’s
social network , ‘social layer’. Brands, businesses and individuals alike have been unsure of the value of the product, and Google itself has rather unhelpfully, remained pretty tight-lipped about it.
However, recent announcements that Google has decided to split out its social and messaging products (as mentioned in our blog) have shaken things up a bit. This move follows in the footsteps of Facebook’s decision to separate the main platform from Facebook Messenger, and diversification into social messaging with the purchase of WhatsApp, into photos with Instagram.
What we’re looking at now is what was under the single Google+ roof as three separate entities:
- Google Photos
- Google+ Stream
- Google Hangouts
Photos and Stream will be led by Google’s former VP of Products, Bradley Horowitz, and rather tellingly, I think, Hangouts will be completely separate…but I’ll get to that.
Let’s have a look at each product.
Google has really expanded this area to add integration with Google Drive, photo and video editing and gif creation. This is great for both individuals and brands, as visual storytelling continues to grow as a digital marketing trend, as we outlined in our predictions for 2015. In his time at Yahoo, Horowitz drove the acquisition of Flickr, so it seems logical to think he has influenced this.
UPDATE 28 May 2015: Today, Google has announced its new Google Photos product, giving its users the ability to upload and view their photos from any connected device. The photos are searchable, and storage is unlimited if you use the default image-compression setting. Uploading full-res images will eat into your free 15GB storage allowance - you can, of course, buy more.
The ‘social layer’ still remains and is still evolving. A recent update sees Instagram photos displaying fully on the platform, leaving only Twitter refusing to play ball on this *coughs loudly*. However, there is still little information about the future landscape of Google+ Stream.
There may be a good reason for the silence. It’s possible that Google is set to reverse copy Facebook’s Open Graph and harness its suite of search, location and maps to bring search and social together. If Google+ Stream was to pull search data into social it could create tailored news feeds with endless brand opportunities – I mean, the name says it all. It is therefore still important for businesses and brands to remain present and active on the platform.
You might be wondering why Google+ Stream hasn't been monetised yet – read on to find out why that might be.
Now an app in its own right, Hangouts combines video (and video-recording on YouTube), audio and text messaging for both consumers and businesses. Equipped with stickers, real-time effects and video filters, the social experience is enriched. In another, more functional manoeuvre, sophisticated natural language processing technology now calculates when it may be appropriate to location-share – a nod to the progression of mobile and tablet use.
Sounds a bit like Facebook Messenger, doesn’t it? It’s more similar than you may think. With Google’s “intelligent personal assistant”,Google Now already integrated with Knowledge Graph, it seems logical to assume future integration with augmented reality. OK, so forgetting Google Glass for a second, there’s no way Sergey and crew are going to let Facebook’s Oculus Rift take the virtual reality lead without a fight. In fact, the company has recently invested $5242 million in virtual reality startup, Magic Leap.
This could deliver instant, local, relevant information all around users, without even having to ask for it, which means the opportunities here for brands and businesses are truly infinite.
Google stated that Authorship was a test; and one which hasn’t produced results worthwhile enough to continue with for the time-being. While this may be frustrating for some, and we may not know exactly why Google does certain things, the company makes no secret of the fact it will continue to create and test products and services. It certainly creates an ongoing dialogue - perhaps it is this air of mystery that keeps us hooked?
Authorship may return in time, and keeping the code active on your website won’t harm it, so I advise keeping it there.
Both rich snippets and Schema.org are geared towards providing detailed, contextualised and relevant information in response to search queries. In the era of semantic search and intent it’s vital that websites are optimised for the user and not just site crawlers. Fresh Egg approaches this through a detailed process of audience intent, which has the user at its heart. To find out more, contact us.
Google My Business
Google My Business provides a business listing in Google+ that brings together search, maps and Google+, giving brands and businesses the opportunity to be discovered and stand out across all device types. Google’s Knowledge Graph pulls this information to display in search results, as we can see below, it’s crucial for businesses to have an optimised page.
Further to this, brands and businesses can interact with their customers online, by responding to feedback and even face-to-face with Hangouts. All of this gives brands and businesses fantastic opportunities to build relationships and gain actionable insights from their feedback and data.
Google+ Local helps users discover, review, rate and share businesses across all device types - ideal for smaller businesses that gain custom due to their location. Again, Knowledge Graph pulls the information from the page and displays it in search results, so an optimised page is crucial.
When a user reviews a business, that review will be highlighted in the search results of their connections, when relevant. Furthermore, this information will feature in Google Now, which provides even more opportunities for businesses to gain exposure.
Where do we go from here?
Fresh Egg’s social media strategist, Susie Cox, says:
“While brands may not see immediate value from this platform, it’s worth having a fully optimised profile, maintaining a presence and posting two to three times per week on their page or in Communities. I do think that Google+ needs to still be a secondary social platform as a) it is Google-owned and b) we don’t know what Google is planning for it in the future.
To any businesses that gain custom because of their location, Fresh Egg recommends having an optimised Google+ Local page with the correct address, and a phone number."
Google+ has had a pretty tough time of it – it’s kinda the runt of the Google litter, and OK, we all felt a bit bullied into signing up, but perhaps that’s because of its own identity issues.
Splitting the products out makes sense both commercially (for instance, it will be easier if Google decides to sell them) and in terms of appeal; users have more choice over what they use and how; but are still kept within the Google ecosystem. The key for Google+ is to use the tools and expertise at its disposal and create something new and exciting.
It seems that Google may have learnt from its own mistakes and realised when to learn from others, when to leave it to the experts, and when to play nicely. Personally, I think these changes are the most exciting thing to have happened to Google’s social offering in, well, forever. Do you agree? Let me know in a comment below.
Fresh Egg can help with your social media needs – call us on 0843 634 1129 to speak to the team today!