Google recently announced that it's going to (again) overhaul the Google+ social network, giving it a makeover and realigning some of it's most popular features. But what does this mean for digital marketers? We take a look at main changes and speculate on their impact.
It's clear that Google is serious about Google+. Since it's inception and invitation only release in 2011, the platform has weathered numerous setbacks, gaffs and obstacles that have continually stunted it's growth and hindered it's ability to step up to the mark of the competition. It's clear that Google sees social networks as an essential tool in it's future, and more importantly it's only opportunity to challenge Facebook in the news feed wars.
Where did Google+ come from?
Early iterations, of what we now see as Google+, failed spectacularly.
Orkut, an upfront social network released days before Facebook, whilst reasonably successful in Latin America and India - never really took off elsewhere.
Then we had Google Wave - an ambitiously hyped project that seemed pioneering in it's approach to real-time collaboration and editing online. But without any direct competition or comparison to an existing service - Wave became increasingly tricky to explain to a mass market and interaction failed to expand beyond the tech-curious.
Since the days of Orkut and Wave, various other iterations of a platform have been created, combined, tweaked and shelved (anyone remember Google Buzz?) in a constant attempt by Google to get it's foot in the door of the social networking world. It's at this point that we should mention Google+.
Google+ marked an ambitious departure from previous projects in terms of scale. Over 1000 employees were dragged into work on Google+ where previous projects such as Buzz contains around as few as 12. From 2011 the platform struggled to differentiate itself from the market leaders, in such that although the features worked well and may have been technically more sufficient than those of the main competition - nobody had a reason to leave where they were. Times were tough for the network and with threats of another shelved project, Google had to rethink.
The start of 2015 saw Bradley Horowitz replacing Vivek Gundotra at the helm of the social network - and whilst another change in leadership hinted at potential scrapping of current plans or a shelving of existing progress, this didn't happen. Instead of halting, Google continue to push forward and learn from their mistakes. The level of determination at making Google+ a success is unfaltering.
A new focus
Yesterday, Google announced some big changes not only to the look and feel of the platform, but also the focus.
Initially rolled out across Web, iOS and Android, the new look Google+ hopes to target it's flourishing community and interest focused users, doing more of what works, and less of what doesn't.
Google noted that they have seen users interacting most effectively in communities and using the 'collections' feature heavily. Google wanted to encourage the 'discovery and sharing of what their users love' and have subsequently redesigned the UI to reflect this new focus. They have completely redesigned the home stream, making it much simpler, more mobile friendly as well as optimised for iOS, Android and Desktop.
In short, the platform has been overhauled to:
- Be centered around Collections and Communities
- Make it easier to join and follow interests
- Make it easier to post, search, connect and keep up to date with content
- The home stream has been redesigned to add clarity and improve load speeds.
What does this mean for digital marketers?
The most obvious comparison to the recent changes in our opinion would be the likes of Pinterest or other image sharing boards based on interests. Rather than compete outright with Facebook on a social ecosystem, Google seems to be shifting their approach to optimize and grow what they know works well (or at least better than other features).
The focus for marketers would therefore be to:
- Ensure Google+ posts contain optimised visuals
- Invest in discovering relevant community groups and interest based followings
- Contribute to these communities and interests regularly with helpful content and imagery
- Consider interest based communities and their tone of voice
- Regularly check and review the interactions and be prepared for further change.
Google has reportedly visited users at home and engaged heavily with early user groups to perfect the new layout and function of Google+. What this means is that they are open to feedback and will be continually tweaking the features and function of the social network. We would suggest providing feedback at every opportunity.
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The new Google+ features are currently held under and opt-in setting that can be switched back at any time. Take a look at your page, check out the new features and let us know what you think!