By Matthew Klein

November 24th, 2015

Don’t count Google out of the social networking game just yet. The internet giant recently announced that it has made some changes to Google+ in a bid to keep the platform relevant. This new version has major updates to the user interface—putting much more emphasis on two features—Communities and Collections. The changes are rolling out now for many users.

A more focused Google+

This new Google+ will feature a revamped home feed that focuses on content from Communities and Collections. It will also allow users to get updates when another user posts content about a specific interest, rather than seeing all their updates on every topic.

Posts from your pages will still show up in people’s home feeds if they follow you.

The home feed is also much “lighter”—as a post about the change on Google Developers noted, the load volume for the home page went from 22 megabytes to under half a megabyte. 

The redesign comes with a focus on getting the best possible experience on mobile, an area where Google+ had been criticized before.

An unexpected update

If there was a consensus in the world of social media marketing before this announcement was made, it was that the company was slowly shifting focus away from Google+. They had recently spun products out from under its umbrella, including Photos and Hangouts. They also ceased requiring a Google+ profile to comment on Youtube.

It now seems that the company was not necessarily shifting focus away from the service, but rather shifting the focus within it.

The changes were the result of Google’s research into just how users were using the platform. They found that for many, Communities and Collections were what brought people to the network and kept them engaged. This makes sense: Google+ Communities in particular fill a need that’s hard to find elsewhere, as we’ve pointed out before—they’re public like Twitter, but longer form, and not limited to business discussions like LinkedIn (though they can be great for them).

Simplifying for strength

Essentially, this move signals a paring down of the service that Google hopes will lead to more use.

Google+ was always somewhere between a “social layer” on top of Google’s other products and a social network of its own.

While it had plenty of fans, others felt that the network’s link to multiple Google services lent it a kitchen-sink quality—pulling in content and actions from different areas that didn’t necessarily fit together.

The rise in mobile use only made it more of a challenge to unify that many different elements within a single space.

If, as it seems Google’s trying to do, they can simplify and improve the core use cases of the network, it might lead to most mobile adoption, more users, and more engagement on the network.

There’s a reason why people who were initially skeptical about Facebook’s decision to break out Messenger from the main app now praise the choice. Creating two apps with more clearly defined functions—Facebook is for your feed, Messenger is for messages—probably sped up mobile growth on both.

Google isn’t splitting its network, just simplifying, but they may be hoping the results are similar.

What will it mean for marketers

Even before this change, there was a strong set of large, enthusiastic interest-based communities on the network.

If it works, that element may become even bigger.

Digiday pointed out that this may lead to the network’s being used a little more like Pinterest or Reddit—a place to share and interact around content based on the things that you find interesting.

This type of community is useful on its own to marketers in areas around the zones of interest—those enthusiasts, talking and sharing about a topic can be an invaluable source of intelligence.

Google says that Communities are growing by 1.2 million users a day. If they can keep that up, it could open up a number of new possibilities for marketers.

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