Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Updates To Google Plus Hangouts And Photos Good For Users And Marketers

In case you missed it (or were thrown off by the late start time due to a power outage), Google Plus leader  +Vic Gundotra hosted "A Morning With Google+" today to unveil some of the latest updates to the network. Those of us that spend a lot of time on Google+ were pretty excited, and we weren't disappointed with what was revealed.

I live tweeted during the broadcast to share some of my thoughts as updates were mentioned, but here are my overall impressions from a user and a marketing perspective.

The updates centered around two tools of Google+ - Hangouts and photos with a total of 18 new features being delivered.

Starting with Google Hangouts, the two biggest changes were the addition of a location sharing button and integration with SMS messaging.

With a location sharing button, friends asking where the other is in a chat can easily share this information with the press of a button rather than typing out a text response. Cool. Assuming you have location sharing turned on like me (I want to see how this will be used over time), Google will pull your GPS coordinates and deliver the information to your friends through the Hangout chat. I can only assume the next step would be to provide walking/driving directions to your friends, so they can find you easily.

The SMS integration will bring more users into the Hangout app, giving them little reason to ever leave again. Hangouts offer text and video chat (HD quality now, by the way), many more emoticons (if that's your thing), new support for animated GIFs, synchronization across all devices, and now integration with texts coming in through your phone's SMS messenger. Really, what more could you want?

Now, the photo options on Google+ have long been superior to every other social network. You have a full suite of photo editing tools at your disposal including more filters than Instagram will probably ever offer. Photos are backed up automatically if you choose, so there's no manual uploading from your phone or camera to get them in there. Today, the photos section gets even better.

Profile Using Snapseed (No HDR)
Users can now run a text-based search for images from their own photo library, and that of their circles' shared images. No previous tagging of the photos have to occur. Google's algorithm knows what to deliver when you search "sunset on the beach with a boat on the water" for example and they will deliver those images as a result. Crazy.  

The acquisition of +Snapseed a while back has given Google even more to work with, and today they've added an HDR filter to bring out the best in landscape photos. I have been going back and forth with this app and Samsung Galaxy's photo editor. But, now I think I may stick with Snapseed exclusively.

Auto-enhancements seem to be what Google does best with photos. What they are now aiming to do is to use the Google+ platform and cloud feature to help users "better tell their story" through photos and video. 

While auto-enhancement has been a feature for a while, it is now expanding to offer several options to the user. Additionally, quick editing tools will allow you to do things like remove photo bombers and other undesirables using the Auto Awesome Eraser option. Auto Awesome itself is also seeing some updates that will allow action shots to, well, show more of the action.

If that wasn't enough, try uploading a video in the near future and you will see stabilization, filters, and even music added as optional features to make your videos all that they can be.

All of these updates are great for users, and continue keeping Google+ well ahead of the curve with what a social network can be. On the marketing side, more features that users love keeps them on Google+ longer and allows marketers more opportunity to interact with them. But, these new features themselves are of great use to marketers that want to create content on the network too. Think of all the cool images and videos that can be made to promote your brand. Or, how much better HD quality Hangouts with light adjustment will be for viewers on +YouTube.

As these tools improve, marketers gain a greater ability to produce high-quality content - for FREE. This is a huge advantage for small businesses with limited budgets, as well as bigger businesses that need good content in-between the highly produced and polished pieces. That's a plus for everyone.

I couldn't get to all of the updates introduced today. For the full scoop, watch the full video below.