Bradley Horowitz, former vice president of product for Google, will now be running Google’s “Photos and Streams” products, according to his recent Google+ post. The message carefully sidesteps any mention of Google+, however, leaving many to wonder whether this is the end for the oft maligned social platform. If so, what does this mean for marketers?
Even as Google dodges questions about Plus, it offers assurances that Google will still be social. It will keep its popular photo storage product, its Hangouts feature, and perhaps even the Google+ feed, in some form.
At the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona, Spain, Google’s head of product, Sundar Pichai, assured the crowd that Google will remain social. “For us, Google+ was always two things, a stream and a social layer,” Pichai said. “The stream has a passionate community of users, but the second goal was larger for us. We’re at a point where things like photos and communications are very important, we’re reorganizing around that. Hangouts will still exist.”
Whether there’s a space for brand presence on a retooled Google+ remains to be seen, but the split could actually revitalize the platform. Brands have always had a rocky relationship with Google’s social platform. Since Google+ doesn’t support paid social, brands often found themselves pushing content to what seemed like an empty crowd, hoping for a bump in social signals to improve search rank, says Steve Liu, Director of SEO at Tribal Worldwide New York.
“One of the things that’s hurt Google+ is that a lot of brands have used it almost defensively just in case the rumors are true that it helps SEO,” Liu says. “They’ll post their real content to Twitter and Facebook, and post to Google+ only because they think they have to.”
Now, with distinct purposes for Google+ products, brands could chose to interact through photos like they do on Instagram. Brands might also use streams in the same way they use Twitter in order to connect with Google+’s admittedly small but loyal fan base. “Brands should approach any one of Google’s products as they do any other tool: ignore the fact that it comes from Google and think deeply about whether it can truly provide benefit to their users. For example, I don’t think a lot of companies have really exploited tools like Hangout yet. It’s a pretty powerful tool for hosting things like online focus groups or panel discussions,” Liu says.
But no matter how brands use the new products, Google+ probably shouldn’t be declared dead just yet. Recent statements show that the company definitely still has an eye on social. In a recent interview with Forbes, Pichai alluded to a more concise, purposeful platform in the future.
“I think increasingly you’ll see us focus on communications, photos, and the Google+ Stream as three important areas, rather than being thought of as one area,” Pichai said.
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