Google+ hasn’t been a rousing success outside of the online marketing realm, but you could never accuse Google of not trying.
The company is stepping its game up again with the newest G+ update; and this time, they’re focusing on photos, videos and even animated images.
Facebook is the reigning king of photo sharing, especially since its acquisition of Instagram last year. Brands and celebrities put out a lot of effort on Facebook in their marketing endeavors, and sometimes that even crosses over into Instagram. Despite the noise and spam, people stay with Facebook precisely because it’s easy to share and browse photos.
Google’s upping the ante with a slew of new photo and hangout features, so what does that mean for online publishers and marketers?
G+ is going big with its new photo integration strategy. The company will offer unlimited storage of smaller photos, automatic linking, hashtag support and a huge variety of cosmetic options — some of which are automatic, all of which are easy.
The Verge’s coverage of Google’s changes has been thorough. Dante D’Orazio writes:
A feature called Auto Enhance will analyze and apply tweaks to your uploaded photos… this will include simple adjustments like brightness, contrast, color correction, noise reduction, tonal distribution, and saturation, but it will also make some more intensive changes… All of the adjustments are non-destructive and you can disable Auto Enhance if you like.
… There’s also something called “Auto Awesome.” … For example, if you upload a series of similar photos taken in a short period of time Google will automatically make an animated GIF out of it. If you upload a set of group photos it will stitch together one picture so that everyone is smiling. It will also make auto panoramas and HDR photos if you upload the right kinds of pictures.
… Most of the changes are focused on making uploading and sharing photos — a very tedious task — less painful. [Google] has already introduced photo-friendly features like unlimited uploads for photos under 2048-pixels wide, a fullscreen picture viewer, and 15GB of free space for photos that break that limit, and with all of the additions today it looks like the company has put together a very compelling package.
It’s certainly more compelling for the average user than the G+ that came before it; and, it might mean some actual conversions. If that’s the case, those conversions mean a real audience for brands.
Use For Brands
The innovations for Google+’s new image features don’t end at filters, enhancements and huge storage capacity. G+ is also incorporating hashtags and relevant links. Yes, links. So, if the audience shows up, how will these tools allow brands and professionals to connect with audiences? Let’s explore.
In that same piece for The Verge, D’Orazio writes, “Part of the spruced-up Google+ is focused on hashtags. Hashtags have been expanded, and the social network will automatically scan your updates to add relevant links (you can disable the feature if you’d like). Google is also able to scan photos you upload, like one of the Eiffel Tower, and tag it appropriately.”
• Relevant Links – So, Google+ is going to add relevant links to images. We’re not sure what that entails, but we can speculate. Say, for example, you have a photo of Band of Horses playing at Coachella. Google+ might link that photo to the Coachella site. That makes sense and is relevant.
It’s easy to imagine that brands and online publishers will figure out how to become those relevant links, and the possibilities become pretty much endless — for search rankings and organic traffic. A simple photo upload could turn into a content marketing success. We’re not sure how this is going to work yet, but be prepared to see some in-depth analysis in the future.
• Hashtags – Hashtags can flounder pretty easily, but they can also catch on like wildfire. If a brand uploads an image with a trending hashtag, it could become a pretty easy marketing win. People enjoy looking at photos, and it’s easy to pass up a bland wall of text, so hashtags work well for photos.
Instagram proves this pretty well — tag a dog photo with #corgi and you’ll have people that don’t follow you pressing the “like” button on your photo within minutes. You can imagine the possibilities here because Facebook doesn’t use hashtags, but they’re vital to almost all viral content on Twitter and some of the most popular photos on Instagram.
• Product Promotion – Easy to upload, high-quality images speak for themselves. It’s easy to imagine a plethora of creative, edgy marketing campaigns waged on G+ through simple photo uploads and tagging, if the audience is there.
• Animated Images – Animated gifs are everywhere. They’ve enjoyed a renaissance in the last couple of years, and Google+’s “Auto Awesome” could be a huge boost to that trend. Imagine a great animated gif of SEOmoz’s Roger dancing around the office, or even a simple software demonstration using a few colorful screenshots. The accessibility of those images will make for an unprecedented number of possibilities.
• Hangouts – Hangouts are being streamlined and expanded, and will likely replace Gmail’s built-in chat feature soon. Marketing professionals and brands already use hangouts to create conversation, spur conversions and engage potential customers. If they become even easier to use, it could be huge.
• Conversation – In theory, this could all lead to a greater level of conversation. High-visibility images combined with an easy-upload and tagging system mean that more people will potentially be directed to the same place. Google+ is already a decent avenue for real conversation, so adding more content options and more features only strengthens this case.
The overall search possibilities are pretty incredible, as well. Only time will tell what these new photo innovations do to Google’s image search, but they might provide even more visibility to branded images and content.
A Few Limitations
Now that we’ve looked at a few of the possibilities, let’s take a quick look at some of the marketing limitations we’ll be facing.
• Google+ is designed for real people with real names, and not specifically for brands and online publishers. There are plenty of ways to get around this, such as using a well-known brand employee or spokesperson or simply using the company name and Gmail address — but it could be a concern down the road.
• The photo uploads have been streamlined for Android phones. That’s not to say that there won’t be great iPhone compatibility in the coming months, but that does limit the user-base for these new innovations to some degree. Many tech-savvy people are drawn to Android phones, but iPhones are the go-to choice for plenty of desirable demographics.
• Facebook is losing teenage users. That might be because it’s a boring flood of noise, or it might be that brands and advertisements are too intrusive. Those teenagers probably won’t turn to Google+. In fact,. G+ probably won’t reach much of a teenage audience no matter what they do, but people who are 20-something or older might find something new to like. These innovations aren’t a social media silver bullet for every demographic, but they might help out with a few.
• There are also privacy concerns, and too much automation could prove frustrating for casual users. Not every G+ user is going to appreciate automatic linking and tagging, or even appreciate automatic cosmetic enhancements to their photographs.
Whatever the limitations, it’s clear that focusing on photos is a winning strategy for social networks, and Google+ aims to marry those beautiful photos with its powerful algorithmic capabilities. The possibilities are great, but it remains to be seen if there will be an audience to match.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.