Although major upgrades and new features make the biggest headlines, for marketers, even the smallest of updates can have a significant impact on your social strategy. This past week, Google+ took a cue from Facebook and confirmed the rolled out a minor change that puts link posts front and center.
As reported by Google Plus Daily, now when you link to a webpage that contains a high-quality image, your post on Google+ will display a larger thumbnail that spans the entire post. The new format will also include a snippet of text from that webpage and a link to the source’s Google+ Page. Previously, link posts only displayed a small thumbnail image and a blue, underlined link.
Why is this minor change worth mentioning? Because as of December 2013, 29 percent of the top pages on Google+ were news and content sites. In fact, The Economist, National Geographic, and TIME are among the top 10 — based on data from CircleCount. More noticeable link posts on the social network with clickable headlines and images could increase referrals from Google+ and also boost the number of people adding Pages to their Circles.
The Economist, National Geographic, and TIME aren’t the only news and content brands to find success on Google+. Here are a few more inspiring examples.
More than 4.6 million people have added ESPN’s Google+ Page to their Circles. The sports publisher takes advantage of the different media supported by the platform, regularly publishing articles, photos, and videos. On average, its posts generate anywhere from 100 to 400 +1s; however, rare gems like this golf trick shot received upwards of 2,000.
What can you learn from ESPN’s Google+ presence? Know your audience. You won’t find any lifestyle tips on its page, but you will find game and player highlights, quirky fan celebrations, throwback favorites, and links to timely sports news articles. Coupled with the excellent use of hashtags, ESPN makes sure that sports fans will always find what they’re looking for on Google+.
The Food Network’s Google+ Page is a great example of balance. The brand seamlessly blends self-promotion with relevant and valuable content by mixing posts from its magazine with posts about its programming. Additionally, it takes full advantage of Google+’s visual nature, sharing vibrant images of recipes and snapshots of its most popular hosts and chefs. Not only that, but Food Network gives its photos shareable elements.
Take this post about Cutthroat Kitchen for example. Instead of just uploading an image from Alton Brown’s after-show, the company added a quote to the photo, increasing the chances that it’ll be +1’d or shared. The Food Network also shares valuable information for fans, including recipes of the day and cooking 101 tips — which smartly ties in one of the network’s most popular shows, Worst Cooks in America.
The Washington Post
Paywalls might be one of the news industry’s most criticized features, but The Washington Post keeps readers happy by providing exclusive content to its Google+ fan base. For example, earlier this month it hosted a Q&A Hangout with personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary, which taught viewers how to create a budget.
Additionally, while some links shared on its Page redirect viewers to the paywall, free videos about timely news topics are published regularly — which are watchable right on Google+. Our only advice for brands looking to follow in the Post’s digital footsteps is to be more consistent with its posting schedule. While past months have seen a new piece of content every day, the Washington Post’s last Google+ update was on March 7th.
As the larger image format rolls out to Google+’s entire user base, hopefully news and content brands will be more encouraged to post regular updates to their Pages. As a note, link posts shared before this update will continue to display the old look, so don’t be discouraged if you still see a majority of your posts sporting the two-column design.
You’ll also want to keep in mind that if an article doesn’t contain a large image, the social network will continue to display the dual-column post format. For this reason, it’s best to optimize your articles with large, high-quality photos — something you should be doing anyway. The higher the quality of the image associated with your articles, the better chance it has to catch viewers’ attention across social networks.