Google Maps announced yesterday that searchers can now follow their favorite businesses and be alerted to offer and event Posts from that business.
I have long believed that Google Posts is a solid investment of a business’s time as Posts show up in a brand search, in the local finder and on keyword searches in Google Maps. They provide the opportunity for a business to offer up coupons, events, education, brand story telling and more.
Equally important is the fact that Google seems to parse the content of the Posts to increase their understanding of a business. Like reviews, Post content can have a small boost on your visibility.
But is this new feature that actively notifies user of new posts via a follow in Google Maps revolutionary? I think not.
Interesting yes, offers some potential yes, but revolutionary it isn’t.
What is the Google use case?
A consumer loves a business so much that they go into Google Maps and they take the step of following a business to get notices of their offers and events.
Well that’s not going to happen very often. I suppose if the consumer were a jazz fan and you as the jazz club owner regularly posted your events it might. But there is a big spread between might and will happen.
What are the impediments?
Well firstly it’s only within Google Maps. Google Maps is popular but has nowhere near the reach of say Facebook or organic Google search.
Also I don’t know about you but I use Google Maps for very utilitarian purposes. “Locate the nearest Tim Hortons” Or “show me how to get from here to there” or “show me a Tim Horton’s en-route to there”. It is not where I go for updates about sales, events or offers and I don’t think most users of the product do either.
Google Maps is not generally perceived as a business related communication tool or as a social network. So for consumers to use it this way would take an incredible rehabituation of the searcher.
Who is going to do that? Google? The business?
Google throws shit at the wall all the time and if there is uptake great, if not then, well it’s just another “honest effort” that didn’t make the cut. No skin off their nose.
They assume if something is good users will just use it. They have rarely worked to actively educate (or in this case re-educate) customers to embrace a new feature and take on new behaviors. So it’s unlikely that Google will work to do this retraining of searchers needed for broad adoption of this feature.
The business could do it. That is, the business could incentivize the searcher to follow the business on Google Maps effectively retraining the searcher for the greater good and the business’ own good.
But why would a business that is already using Facebook, or better yet email, for this task want to learn and implement a completely new “follow us on Google Maps” campaign? So it seems unlikely that businesses are going to do it.
Oh some will. And just like Nearby Notifications (which was a very cool beacon feature to actively engage customers on premise with notifications that just got axed because of spam) many of those will abuse the feature.
But you say, and I tend to agree, it would be perfect for that Tim Horton’s I love, to send me a discount as I am driving down the road with Google Maps open and in desperate need of the worlds best cheap cup of coffee.
Yes perfect IF. Perfect if I could follow a brand and the brand could alert me. Perfect if the brand could do Posts. Both are non existent “perfects” in Google’s mobile local ecosystem.
In the end the idea of following a business’ Post on Google Maps is a decent idea. It might just work for that incredibly active, local event space. And generally it’s one more way for a business to “project” their content into the Google search ecosystem.
Interesting yes. Revolutionary no. Worth keeping an eye on? Yes. Worth changing your marketing workflow? Not now. Maybe never.
My money, if I had to bet, is against success. Fortunately this is not one of those epic Mihm-Blumenthal battles with a beer on the line and I don’t have to bet. I can wait and see. And change my mind if it suits me.
Who knows? Maybe Google will create brand level for this sort of activity. Maybe Google will do what it takes to get consumer uptake of a feature like this. If they do great.
In the meantime…
Check back in 9 months.