Google Plus: Opportunities Within An Evolving Platform

This post is an update to our August 11 post titled, “Why your business needs to be active on Google Plus.

When Google implemented changes to Google+ earlier this year, many observers and insiders predicted it was the first note to be struck in the death knell for the search engine giant’s attempt to challenge Facebook for social media market share. And with the announcement that Google is no longer Google but Alphabet, many businesses that have invested in building up a Google+ presence have responded with confusion and pessimism regarding the platform’s future.

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Given Google’s history with discontinuing services it no longer considers viable (remember Orkut? Jaiku? Google Reader? Google Buzz?), often over the protestations of its dedicated users, a certain amount of skepticism about Google+’s prospects is not unreasonable.

That said, businesses would be well advised to adopt a “wait and see” attitude. As leadership within the company changes with the transition to Alphabet, fluidity applies to virtually every single product under the (the former) Google brand. And recent developments actually promise positive changes to Google+, provided businesses position themselves to take advantage of how the service is becoming more modest and more capable of careful fine-tuning.

At first glance, Google’s decision to decouple YouTube from Google+ may seem like a step in the opposite direction. YouTube users who want to do more than watch video content will no longer have to interact on YouTube using a Google+ profile. This is good news for your customers, who may have been eager to connect with you on YouTube, but less keen on creating another profile and managing yet another set of login credentials. And if your business is built around a personal brand or niche product, you’re already familiar with how YouTube content (user-uploaded videos, reviews, testimonials, etc.) can extend your marketing reach.

Similarly, Google has recently “broken out” its photo storage service from Google+. Google Photos (previously Google+ Photos) sports many innovative and desirable features: basic photo editing and retouching functionality, automated location tagging that doesn’t rely on embedded geo-location metadata, facial recognition technology and, of course, Google’s industry-leading search algorithms. By un-siloing this technology from Google+, Google hopes to be more responsive to users’ desire to save and manage their images without necessarily broadcasting them to everyone in their Circles.

The most exciting development is actually a new feature within Google+: Collections. Instead of simply posting generic status updates, Google+ users now have the ability to categorize content. Users can create their own topics, share those topics with discrete user communities and even subscribe to collections managed by other Google+ users. This feature dramatically enhances SEO within Google+, allows for businesses to more conscientiously organize their content and helps your business understand what really matters to your customers.

While no one knows exactly what Google+’s fate will be, in the words of Bradley Horowitz, the company’s vice president of streams, photos and sharing, this is a “pivot” to the service in response to user feedback. These changes represent a unique opportunity to explore and experiment with various forms of narrowcasting. Your business’ connections with its customers may be less direct in the era of Alphabet, but they may actually turn out to be more meaningful.