Last week Google+, Google’s social network updated their profile pages with larger cover photos, a redesigned “About” tab and created a new “Local reviews” tab. These added features were based on feedback from Google+ users who wanted more editing control, flashier displays and clearer social networking.
The new profile “cover photos” have a much larger display at 2,120px by 1,192px and adjust sizes depending on web browsers, zoom and monitor size. Now that the cover photos have gotten larger, the profile pictures have been reduced from 250x250px to 120x120px, which can be tough for branding purposes. Notice in the screenshot below that the MoreVisibility profile picture is much smaller and the text is not as noticeable.
Google’s justification for the change was as follows, “This way more images can be used as cover photos, and there’s more room for your selection to shine,” It appears Google+ updated their cover photos to almost mimic Facebook’s large background cover.
The ‘About’ section now organizes user info into category boxes created for easier user modifications. These boxes enable Google+ users to edit information from their ‘About’ tab such as education, work, links and places. The information being provided on the ‘About Tab’ is optional and like before, can be hidden or only shared between your selected circles.
Also, along with the cleaner look, Google has added a splash of color above each section, labeling the section’s people – blue, story – red, work – teal and education – yellow. Google is becoming more creative on how they use their logo’s colors and I am sure we will see much more of these colors in the future.
The newest addition to Google+ is the ‘Local review’ tab. The ‘Local review’ tab can be shared within your network of circles, assuming you would rather post your preferences, opinions & reviews on Google+ versus other popular rating sites.
Similar to photos and the +1 buttons, Google+ users now have the ability to highlight reviews for their favorite businesses and share experiences. This is optional and can be hidden within your settings.
Google has hope that with this new tab these recommendations will enhance its own social search results and increase the development of business pages. Chances are this “Local review” tab will most likely become a part of the search integration within the Google platform and this is one thing brands should be aware of. See below for the organic results that auto populated when I typed “Boca Raton, FL” in G+ “Local” search.
Google Plus has added updated their pages to not only benefit personal users, but also to increase the involvement of business pages. Local pages allow businesses to be found by their customers or prospects through better visibility in Google’s search rankings.
This social network is engaging and when pursued effectively, can create buzz for your business, drive traffic to your website and benefit your search results. If you haven’t created a Google Plus business page I would highly recommend starting one now.
Google+ Circles allow businesses to group Google+ users into different Circles, so they can share certain things with particular groups. Once a G+ user has added a business’ page to their own Circle, they will start to see that business’ posts in their stream. Then that business will be able to add them back, group them into a Circle, and post comments on that G+ user’s page.
Recently, however, the rules of engagement in Google+ have changed. Businesses can now interact with G+ users who haven’t circled them on Google+ yet. What does this mean for companies? Well, from a marketing perspective, it means they can now cast a wider net to reach potential customers. For example, if a G+ user writes a post on their personal page raving about a local restaurant, that restaurant can then respond to that comment and it will show up live in the stream.
Conversely, if someone writes a negative comment about a business, that business has the opportunity to respond. While it opens the door for businesses to engage with potential or current customers — whether they like it or not – it also opens the door for spam. But if businesses use it wisely, it could help brands increase their following on Google+ — along with their customer base.
A little more than a year after the launch of Google+, usership of Google’s “social layer” remains anemic. Brands, many of which jumped on board in the early days of Google+, have yet to enthusiastically embrace the platform. This is either because of simple platform fatigue, or – and most likely – because Google+ still looks like a ghost town.
But consider the long tail for a moment. There might not be as many users on Google+ as there are on Facebook or Twitter, but Google+ does have users – passionate, creative, enthusiastic users – who might love to follow your brand, if only you were active on their preferred channel.
Now, consider that many Google+ brand pages are mere shells – they exist, but they’re not active. These are brands you might compete with (either directly, or for attention) on other channels, but that just haven’t bought into Google+ yet.
And in that, is opportunity.
The business case for Google+, as it stands today, is not the various sharing options and ways to connect with your audience – those will always be there. The best reason to come on board right now is that your competitors are likely not active in the channel. And as long as brands stay away from Google+, the easier it is to get the attention of its users.
Like many opportunities, this one won’t last forever.
This year, Google has made several moves aimed at increasing adoption. This includes integrating Google+ into a user’s overall search experience (SPYW), converting Google Places listings into Google+ Local pages, and merging Google+ Business pages with Google+ Local pages.
Given this, brands will either come on board whole-heartedly or be left behind. The brass ring will go to the brands that do it sooner, rather than later.