A stark contrast exists between a ‘social network’ and a ‘community’. Whilst I may exist on Twitter, it would be impossible for anyone to say that this is a community. The users I communicate with are rarely the same and the network is constructed on the notion of following strangers based upon interest. In comparison a forum system builds relationships between users – that emotional connection is essential for community.
Over the last few days Google has replaced Google Places with its newly launched Google+ Local. Not only is this a drive to incorporate Google+ into its location based services but it is expected to attract business owners to Google’s Places service.
Google+ Local, according to the search giant helps improve how people discover and share local businesses inside Google+. Below is an excerpt from Google’s blog post.
“With the release of Google+ Local, rolling out today, we are bringing the community of Google+ to local business owners around the world. We aim to improve the way people discover new businesses, rediscover places they love, and share them with their friends across the web.”
At the end of May news appeared of Google’s partnership with review service Zagat. Gound breaking in many respects as this previously, exclusively premium service, is now being offered through Google+ Local for free. A quick visit to Google+ Local this morning revealed a list of local restaurants, heavily focused on consumer reviews, appearing near my current location near Gloucester.
There is no doubt that, coupled with review functionality, Google has started to heavily tread on the toes of Foursquare and Facebook Places. It offers a more convinient service that having to ‘check in’ constantly and delivers premium review content from Zagat.
The quick development of Google+ just goes to show how influential social networks are in this current age and puts other networks, such as Microsoft’s so.cl, to shame. Whilst the majority of users (in my experience) still use Facebook frequently, Google+ will begin to gain new users thanks to its updates. Whether Google+ is the ideal network for real world friends to connect with each other is a different matter altogether. Currently Google+ appears to be the perfect place for mutual contacts to share and discuss – I may be wrong though.
At the beginning of 2012 my PR class were debating to write a book on Google+ but it never went ahead. I’m glad. The network is developing so quickly and for PR purposes constantly changes. When a business gets involved with Google+ the main benefit is SEO. However every local business (especially retail) cannot afford to miss out on Google+ Local. Consumers are already talking openly about you online, digital PR has never been more important.