The Google Plus interface changes are the talk of the town at the moment as the G+ community reacts, pundits get in on the game and the Press begins the usual merry-go-round which is guaranteed to get it viewing, listening and reading figures.
Knowing social network users’ reluctance to deal with change Google had to have a reason to tweak the interface which goes beyond aesthetics and there is one. While the G+ membership has been growing at what is, by most accounts, a record rate certain sections of the media have been asking whether it is, in fact, successful and have been quoting a ComScore survey which showed that while Facebook attracts as much as 7.5 hours a month of its users’ personal time Google Plus barely passed the three minute mark.
The metrics used by ComScore to gauge this have come under scrutiny but while the picture they reveal may be flawed, the impression they create is hard to battle against. It’s been almost ten months since Google Plus rolled out and in that time Google’s gradual but persistent focus in integrating its social signal across all its products has produced some notable results.
Those who are active in SEO know that a Google Plus profile and some activity confer specific results which can help with branding as well as website ranking. Marketers have found that the Google Plus platform offers unrivalled opportunities for deep engagement and the kind of lateral exposure you could previously get only at great expense. Web personalities and even fresh talent have found it as a shortcut to fame and success.
The truth is that while early adopters and businesses have been busy getting to grips with the Google Plus functionality there is a sizeable portion of the public at large whose response to the question “are you on G+?” is still a blank look and that's bad news for marketers and brands.
To counter all this Google has launched a number of new print and TV campaigns, the most notable one in the UK intended in raising brand awareness, but that’s not enough. Google Plus is fundamentally different from Facebook. Whereas the latter is the place where you go to meet your past and present offline friends, online, the former is where you go to meet new people who share your interests, tastes and ideas.
That is clearly an issue when it comes to attracting a sizeable online audience like that of Facebook. To quantify the issue imagine that Facebook is the idea of hanging around your local bar while Google Plus is like moving to a new town.
The redesign has added some functionality which marketers and power users will like (you can see at a glance who shared a post or who +1ed) but its homage to Facebook’s Timeline and more familiar layout is intended to do one thing: ease the transition and increase interaction. Will it succeed? Well, that is a question which we will know the answer to come Christmas.
In the meantime, if you are a Google Plus user who is wondering what’s going on with the white space that now appears this will make you smile. The Google Plus community has started a meme on the use of Google Plus’ whitespace and if you really cannot stomach it much here’s a temporary fix. It will adjust the CSS to eliminate if from your screen and when Google updates and places new functionality there the update will show.