What’s New on Google+

google-io-2013-26Google announced a slew of developments to Google+ at Google I/O last week. Google+ combined with Google search, is an influencer management system that enables Google to build a social graph of each user and a semantic history of their web usage. We’ve spent the last few days reviewing the new additions to Google+ and road testing some of the new features to understand what they mean for audience engagement.

Form and function – the layout of Google+ has changed. Content is promoted over features of the platform. Content is served in white cards or tiles, against a muted grey background.

Navigation menu – You filter your news stream by individuals in your Circles, by selecting a Circle. You can select between a single column or modular layout, optimized for your screen size and orientation.

Cards – The analytics for each piece of content, containing information about interactions and sharing, are accessed by clicking the drop down menu and served on the rear of the card. It’s a neat design feature.

Hashtag conversations – New Google+ posts are automatically tagged with a hashtag. When you click on a hashtag Google+ collates all the related public posts, or posts that have been shared with you. Trending topics and the most popular posts on Google+ are displayed via the What’s Hot option on the Home menu.

Sharing content – Text posts are truncated with an option to click to access additional text. If you share a link, the headline and URL appears alongside an image.  The lesson is clear. If you want Google+ users to click through to your content you need to optimize your posts and links.

Hangouts – Gmail Chat and Google+ Chat have been merged into Google Hangouts. This is a powerful feature that enables up to 10 people to participate in a live video discussion via the Internet.

Images – Google+ has rolled out automatic image enhancement to tweak images to brightness, color, contrast and noise. Its goal is to make your images look as good as possible.
Google+ will automatically identify what it believes to be your most important photos and automatically organizes these into a dedicated highlight feed. Auto Awesome creates new versions of your when it detects a series of similar images.

Final point: if you’d rather than Google+ didn’t muck about with your images you can turn all these features off in your personal settings. In fact the same applies for all the Google services. It’s straightforward to tweak them in your user settings.

Opportunity for brand engagement-If you haven’t signed-up to Google+ yet I recommend that you do.

The relationship between Google+ and Author Rank announced in November 2012 clearly signposted Google’s strategic intent for the platform. The opportunity for organizations and brands is to promote their content via the platform through search and the networks of their employees and partners. Organizations and brands have a further opportunity to use the platform to build their own communities via brand pages. These provide a means to directly engage with audiences via the platform, search and Google Maps. Finally Google+ Communities and Hangouts provide an exciting means for two-way engagement.

A longer version of this post appears on Stephen’s personal blog Two-Way Street.

Image credit: venturebeat.com