What the Google+ Shift to Streams, Photos, and Hangouts Means for Marketers

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Google+ has been a thorny issue for marketers almost since its inception, and with the recent announcement that the network will be split up into Photos, Streams, and Hangouts, questions about its value (and future) are becoming even more pressing.

This post actually started out as a guide on how to put your Google+ strategy on autopilot so you could reap some SEO benefit while hedging your bets on whether the network would survive.

Then the news about Bradley Horowitz stepping in after David Bresbis’ departure broke, and the concept of dialing back engagement on Google+ became even more relevant.

Here’s the low down on the break up of Google+, and what it means for marketers’ social media strategy.

Google+ Becomes Photos, Streams, and Hangouts

In his post announcing that he would be taking over for Bresbis, Horowitz never even mentions Google+. Instead he indicates that he’ll be “running Google’s Photos and Streams products.”

Additionally, Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of products, has confirmed that Hangouts, the most popular feature of Google+ by far, has a future as a standalone product.

In an interview at the Mobile World Conference, Pichai stated:

“For us Google+ was always two big things: one was building a stream, the second was a social layer, a common layer of identity; how sharing works across our products and services. The stream has a passionate community of users. But the second goal was in some ways an even more important goal for us. We’ve done both, but I think we’re at a stage where use cases like photos and communications are big standalone use cases so we’re going to think of this as a stream first, and then photos and communications as big new areas. So internally we’re organizing ourselves to support that. You’ll see us evolve all these three areas.”1

Aside from Bresbis’ departure, which comes less than a year after he took over the beleaguered social network, no other restructuring within the Google+ team has been made public.

Marketers also remain in the dark about whether the hours we’ve invested into Google+ marketing have been wasted, or if the network will get some sort of rejuvenation through segmentation.

Do We Have to Market on Two New Google Websites?

My search this morning for “google stream” returned this as the first result:

google stream search result
But after a click through the URL resolved the usual “https://plus.google.com/”.

The moral of this story seems to be that while Google has made the announcement that Stream and Photos are going to be separated from the Google+ heard, there’s no clear indication of what that means.

Stream should be more of a Facebook-esque status update arena, while Photos becomes a more image-centric feed.

But, what that may mean for where and how we share our content remains unclear.

We may need to mirror Google’s approach and segment our Google+ strategy into two pieces: one content driven and the other visually driven.

In the meantime, it’s time to put your Google+ marketing on cruise control.

Options for Automating Your Google+ Marketing

Google has shared its Google+ API with the most popular social media scheduling apps, Buffer and Hootsuite. This makes it theoretically possible for you to use those tools to schedule posts for your Google+ page and move on.

However, we’ve been experiencing issues with our own Buffer account not being able to post to Google+. It’s possible that in the wake of the split these integrations will no longer be supported.

Hootsuite’s Google+ integration, as of this writing, seems to be functioning normally.

Another option, which doesn’t use the Google+ API, is the Chrome extension DoShare. Unlike either Buffer or Hootsuite, this extension allows you to post not only to your feed (or Stream, as I guess we should call it now), but also to the communities you’ve joined.

It does require you to use Chrome, and to schedule posts in a separate location from your other social networks. However, given its ability to hook up to communities (one of the best ways to extend your posts’ potential reach), many marketers find the extra step worthwhile.

On the other hand, if you’re going to be taking an extra step, it’s almost as easy to just log in to your Google+ account and share things manually. This is particularly true given the less-than-stellar preview functionality of DoShare.

Google+ is Dead. Long Live Google+

We’ve been hearing that Google+ is dying for years, yet it continues to soldier on. Even with the news of severing the network into its constituent parts, marketers shouldn’t abandon their marketing efforts there.

The potential SEO benefits alone make the network valuable, and this is especially true if you can automate the process via Hootsuite.

Keep your Stream loaded and your eyes and ears open. Or better yet, subscribe to our Excellence in Marketing Newsletter for updates on Google+’s fate.

1. Google Officially Splits Into Photos and Streams

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Andrea Fryrear
About the Author:

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for business. When not scrutinizing the latest agile methodologies, Andrea can be found on the volleyball court, at the park with her two delightful kids, or baking “calorie-free” cookies. Connect with her on Twitter @AndreaFryrear, or on LinkedIn.

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