While you’re busy making plans for the holidays, the folks over at Google+ announced a few transformations of their own to Hangouts and to the platform’s photo- and video-editing software. Each change helps users more easily master the visual nature and interactivity of their own content and page — something that’s crucial to mastery of this highly visual platform, which is closer to Pinterest than to Facebook. In fact, getting the visuals of G+ right is becoming all the more important, as business pages can now automatically pop up in the platform’s shared endorsements without any warning; meaning, you better hope your page looks great and is ready to go when Google reaches for your page.
To really take advantage of these updates, we highly recommend starting with a browse through this small business guide to Google+ so you’ve got the basics down. Here are a few additional things to pay attention to.
The bulk of the Google+ updates focus on providing much more powerful photo-editing features. Now when you upload a photo, a number of auto-enhancements are presented, from color balancing to skin tone matching — and you can increase and decrease the number of enhancements you see with a simple slider. When uploading a number of related photos at a time, the Auto Awesome photo will automatically animate GIFs from like photos and erase unwanted images (like photobombs) from the background. A number of filters have been added, and unlike on Instagram, each one comes with a number of gradations.
All of this new photo editing power is great for the look of your G+ page. No longer will you have to worry about how your banner photo will look when followers scroll to the top of your page; if you’ve uploaded it using the new G+ tools, you’ll ensure it looks crisp and compelling. And hey, why not upload an Auto Awesome compilation of action shots to show your employees or customers using your product in action?
The same goes for any content you upload or share, whether that’s images pulled from blog posts or those posted right to your page. As G+ enhances the look of each photo, they’ll cumulatively look more professional and interesting in your page’s Pinterest-like visual arrangement. That should be all the motivation you need to start curating more visual content, which has the power to draw your followers in far more effectively than written text.
Videos also have a big impact on your G+ page, due both to their inherent visuality and to the fact that followers love to engage with the format. That makes G+’s new Auto Awesome movies all the more of a plus, as you now have a tool that can automatically compile excellent videos by scanning uploaded content, matching similar photos and movies and timing the compilation to a soundtrack. This video is a good example of what Auto Awesome Movie can do.
The takeaway from this update is simple: Shoot more movies! Shoot movies around the office, in the park, at trade shows, in the areas where your product is being made and tested — wherever. Video gives followers an unprecedented look into your company, which in turn strengthens your relationship and ups your chances of increasing social shares. And with Auto Awesome, poor quality is no longer an excuse not to jump into the video sphere.
Google Hangouts have long been among the most popular features on Google+, and they’re sure to prove all the more so with this latest round of updates. Now you and your followers will look better as you converse, with HD video and automatic enhancements to lighting, skin softening, color adjustments, brightness adjustments and blurred backgrounds. This will go a long way towards humanizing Hangouts, so you really feel like you’re in the same room with your customers. That’s a good thing, as the updates have also included SMS capability, so you can still look presentable when you’re hanging out on your mobile phone in the airport.
But perhaps more importantly, Google Hangouts now promote even more interactivity, making it even easier to encourage the submission of user questions. In fact, the new Hangouts on Air infrastructure has been overhauled, and you can expect even more audience interaction tools shortly.
These new capabilities, combined with the continued feature of automatic YouTube archiving, should be the final push you need to create a video marketing strategy for your business, of which how tos, meet and greets, and demo Hangouts can form a key part. Videos and Hangouts make great content for your page, and hosting on YouTube is great for your SEO.
In embracing the visual and interactive nature of the internet, Google+ enables business owners to produce the best content and social media marketing strategies possible. With these new tools under your belt, you’re sure to have success.
Britt Klontz is a digital content strategist at Distilled, an online marketing company. Say “hi” and give her a shout @Britt_Klontz, she’s always up for having a conversation about digital marketing tactics and social networking in general.