What the New Google Plus Interface Really Means for Marketers

David Amerland
David Amerland owner/founder, DavidAmerland.com

Posted on April 11th 2012

What the New Google Plus Interface Really Means for Marketers

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.

David Amerland

David Amerland

owner/founder, DavidAmerland.com

David Amerland is the author of seven best-selling books including "Google Semantic Search: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Techniques That Gets Your Company More Traffic, Increases Brand Impact and Amplifies Your Online Presence" and "Google+ Hangouts for Business: How to use Google+ Hangouts to Improve Brand Impact, Build Business and Communicate in Real-Time."

He helps multi-national clients and start-ups to organize their SEO and Social Media strategies. He is a business journalist, author and international speaker. He blogs about social media and search engine optimization, writes for a number of prominent websites including Forbes, and advises a handful of corporations on their social media crisis management techniques.

His books on SEO and Social Media demystify the complexity of the subjects they cover for readers around the world providing an accessible blueprint to better understand and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the connected economy. Follow him on @DavidAmerland. or find him on G+

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Comments

Merger
Posted on April 12th 2012 at 3:29AM

I agree that the new plus format will increase interaction.

I also agree the marketability of having a business page will grow, by default of it being on google if nothing else.

I still feel that the biggest influences in social media are the ones circling the top 3, the smartest of them all being that words still have more influence. Every one enjoys a good read .

Articles like this interest me. I want to know what you think and feel more then your photoshop skills.

You have provided me with much food for thought and I am grateful.

David Amerland
Posted on April 12th 2012 at 6:26PM

Kevin, thank you for your kind words and I am glad it has helped. Social media is indeed a fast-evolving medium. It has given content and truly meaningful text fresh power and has put real mening behind that old cliche of the turn of the century: "Content is King". It also presents us with the intractable challenge of having to live up to this day in, day out. It has become indeed, a very interesting world in the full sense of the word. 

gniw
Posted on April 12th 2012 at 8:56AM

“Social media user’s reluctance to deal with change” is greatly exaggerated. We aren’t reluctant to change; what we abhor are capricious, poorly thought out changes (especially when there are bugs in the site – some extremely obvious – that are much more urgent because they break functionality).

As for whether G+’s changes are well thought out or not, we’ll see. It doesn’t look pretty, but at least it didn’t have a lot of bugs to begin with.

David Amerland
Posted on April 12th 2012 at 6:23PM

gniw "...capricious, poorly thought out changes" have become a byword for change to user interface (UI) in a social network setting (Facebook and Twitter two very classic examples). It is the nature of the beast at one level and change never sits well with anyone because it introduces an element of unfamiliarity in what usually has become a familair environment. The litmus test, as you suggest, is indeed when the first day or two go by and the benefits (or the bugs) begin to become apparent. 

gniw
Posted on April 12th 2012 at 9:40PM

For Twitter, the new interface is in fact much less tab-browsing friendly than the old one. If they had made such changes a few years back when hardly anyone knew what tabs were then no one would have complained. The new Twitter interface is in this regard pretty capricious.

Facebook literally don’t know what they are doing. I actually met, in person, a Facebook person last fall, and she had no idea users actually have no feedback channel.

David Amerland
Posted on April 13th 2012 at 4:34PM

Thank you for adding this and how revealing it is what you said about Facebook. Over the past tweleve montjs I have written a number of critical articles about Facebook and I have taken some pain to stay detached as this kind of thing, after a while, tends to blindside you. From my analysis of their corporate behavior (inclusing the latest Instagram purchase) I got only a sense of a company undergoing growing pains, badly. One always hopes that this is not the whole picture, your own direct experience confirms that it is not wide of the mark. 

iphazard
Posted on April 12th 2012 at 2:03PM

I think in the end it will be marketing and not software changes that drive better usage to Google+.  No matter how cool the tools are, no matter how easy to use, you have to get the people there to make them valuable.  We don't interact with Facebook's tools.  We interact with the stuff our friends say and do in the 7.5 hours a month they spend there.

In the Boston market, local sports TV network NESN (owned by the Red Sox) has launched aTV ad campaign promoting their Google+ presence.  After reading your article I'm wondering if Google is footing some or all of the bill for this.

It would be a smart play for Google to partner with brands in this way.  I know I'm much more likely to spend time on G+ based on specific unique content than I am based on the kinds of hypotheticals that an ad campaign touting G+ features would give me.

 

David Amerland
Posted on April 12th 2012 at 6:20PM

iphazard, good point. Interaction is indeed what creates stickiness, loyalty, participation and allows one network to be differentiated from another. Google has, in the past, partnered up with brands (most notably Ford) to assist in the promotion of their social marketing through its services, though to what extent that assistance included paying for publicity or footing the bill is not exactly public knowledge. 

Until now the strength of G+ has been in the depth of engagement it has made possible and it the ability of its members to find unique content. Brands are on board but they need to see a return for their efforts and that return will require more than just the G+ afficionados who are currently present in the network. It will be an interesting year ahead, that's for certain. 

gniw
Posted on April 12th 2012 at 9:54PM

I personally don’t think all interactions are born equal. As I have written elsewhere, Facebook’s early success was not because they had interaction (everyone had it), but because the way the system was designed instilled a perception of trustability (if that’s a word). They had a credible metaphor for its user interface (or interaction if you like that word), and you had a rough idea of what people you were interacting with. Unfortunately, all such things have fallen by the wayside. The current interface has virtually no connection to a perception of reality, and when everyone is virtual, you do not really stand out and what’s keeping Facebook afloat really is its virtual monopoly.

I was commenting on G+’s changes in a G+ group just yesterday, and noted that its new UI is very visually busy and that makes it feel very un-google-like. Today someone else commented in the same group that she found some bugs that are also very un-google-like. In other words G+’s changes are right now diluting their brand image. If branding really had any importance in G+’s adoption, then Google is doing themselves a disservice.

David Amerland
Posted on April 13th 2012 at 4:43PM

Astute comments again, in both cases and a paerfect example of how comments and engagement can add so much more value to the original article which - had I even tried to encompass all this in - would have become meandering, unfocused and probably meaningless. 

The G+ changes are certainly a challenge and create a more Facebook-like UI than Google. Google is notoriously data-driven (they did once try out 3600 tests for a single color change to their logo) and user-centric and tends to have a rationale. They are also responsive to usage patterns, if something does not work, it gets changed. It is still early days and though some of the people I come in cintact with echo your comments exactly there are also many who are excited by it. 

By the end of this year, my feeling is, we will know exactly where we stand. 

ChristineAH
Posted on April 13th 2012 at 1:44AM

Interesting article. The value of Google Plus Your World search results are undervalued currently, in my opinion. We'd all be smart to build up a Google+ presence now for the advantage those personalized search results and higher search rankings can offer longer term. In the meantime, I think it's kind of funny that this article is about Google+, but there's no +1 option in the social sharing toolbar!

David Amerland
Posted on April 13th 2012 at 4:36PM

ChristineAH, thank you and indeed, point well made and one which I hope SMT takes on board. You are absolutely correct that G+ has become central to marketing and SEO. It is gaining traction by the day and those who adopt it later will find themselves at a disadvantage.