NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Google continues to improve its social networking platform Google+ to compete with social giants Facebook and Twitter. In January Google introduced Search Plus Your World to integrate personalized results on your search engine results page. Now Google has overhauled their look.
The new Google+ graphical user interface is bigger and more visual. Before the change, all the relevant content – the news stream and profiles – gravitated toward the center of the browser. The new home page takes up the entire browser, making pictures larger and making the news stream more prevalent. Contacts appear on the right side of the window so you can still chat as before. But now “hangouts” are a focus.
Hangouts allow users to video chat with up to nine other people in their circles. Google also let certain users broadcast their video hangouts to the world. They call the broadcasts Hangouts On Air. On May 7, Google opened up Hangouts On Air to all users. The live broadcasts will become more prevalent over the next few weeks as Google lays the groundwork for an outpouring of data. You can broadcast live to a worldwide audience, and you can also see how many people are watching you in real time. Once your live broadcast is complete, Google uploads the video to your YouTube channel and saves the video on your Google+ homepage as a post. President Barack Obama, soccer star David Beckham, and supermodel and TV personality Tyra Banks have all hosted G+ hangouts.
But that’s not the only thing Google’s pulled out of its hat recently. On May 9, Google announced a G+ mobile app for increased sharing capabilities.
“To be clear, we’re not interested in a mobile or social experience that’s just smaller,” Senior Vice President Vic Gundotra writes on the Google blog. “We’re embracing the sensor-rich smartphone (with its touchable screen and high-density display), and transforming Google+ into something more intimate, and more expressive.”
Smartphones are essential to many people’s lives. They use them to check the weather, to check their email, to video chat and to play games. It’s surprising that Google just now unveiled its G+ mobile app, but taking time to perfect its features may pay off in increased user participation.
As soon as I saw that Google released a mobile app I grabbed my iPhone and installed it. (The iPhone app is available now, and Google says the Android version will be released in a few weeks.) The first screen on the mobile app – after signing into your Google account – is to turn instant photo upload on or off. Photos from your mobile device will instantly upload to a G+ album, cutting out the manual uploading for users. Next your G+ stream flows vertically down the screen. The app is highly visual, and if I do say so myself, nicely executed. People in my stream show up in modern, sans serif type and posts have non-invasive +1 buttons that are sleek and intuitive. The posts are also visually-driven, so remember to add a photo to your G+ posts for more eye-catching content.
Releasing google mobile app will help G+ compete with Facebook and Twitter for mobile sharing. Sharing more on G+ means more opportunities for your content to reach a wider audience. Everyone who shares your posts matters, as users in the same circles will have more access to personalized search results. This emphasis on sharing is perfect for organic SEO, as relevant content will likely be shared with interested parties.
I’m interested in what other changes Google will implement to differentiate their G+ platform from Twitter and Facebook. Personally, I think the mobile app and live broadcasts are important steps.
What improvements would you like to see Google+ make to increase their user participation?