Google+ Reveals Big Plans on First Birthday

As Google celebrates the one-year anniversary of Google+, there are mixed feelings about its significance for PR pros. Sure, 250 million people have joined Google+ since its inception, but along the way, complaints about a lack of engagement and a February 2012 comScore study led The Wall Street Journal to call Google+ "a virtual ghost town."

On the Google Blog, senior vice president Vic Gundotra may have put it best when he said, "Google+ has come a long way in a year, but we know we've got a long way to go." 

With that evolution in mind, Google+ rolled out two new birthday features: A native tablet application and Google+ Events. According to the blog, since more people now use Google+ from a mobile device, the tablet app should accelerate that trend. The app features a stream of content based on popularity, type and orientation, Hangouts, optimized photos and easily-tappable actions like +1 and commenting. 

With Google+ Events, users can now send video-supported invites to friends that integrates with Google Calendar, and share photos in rea -time with attendees through Party Mode within the Google+ app on any mobile device. 

These continual updates are part of what makes Jonathan Kopp, partner and global director at Ketchum, bullish on Google+. At PR News' Social Media Summit on June 22, Kopp said that, practically overnight, Google+ emerged as the next best practice for PR pros. “If you’re going to be communicating with people through the Web, you’d be crazy not to be embracing this tool,” said Kopp. "Google+’s size is already at hundreds of millions of users, and in the past few weeks it has grown dramatically."

A report released in May 2012 by Simply Measured shows Google+ brand page adoption and engagement are on the rise. Overall, Google+ activity is up since a Q1 study was released in February 2012. In Q2 2012, average weekly “circler” engagement is up 112% and content engagement is up 65%, according to the report.

"Its Hangouts feature makes anyone a broadcaster for free, it has great photo-viewing capabilities and recently incorporated Flipboard into its API," said Kopp. “The pundits are wrong in comparing it to Facebook. It’s not about being a Facebook killer—it’s advancing your content through Google,” said Kopp.

And while large-scale fashion, luxury and car brands have earned the largest followings on Google+, Google has also catered to small businesses by adding Google+ Local, which creates one business identity across Google’s dominant search, maps and mobile features. 

Kopp said Google plans to make Google+ a robust, integrated network that will connect data in a way that will benefit both consumers and brands. 

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg