Google Ramps Google Maps & Launches 'Shoelace'
One of the key digital marketing themes of 2019 has been the re-emphasis of community, both in a virtual and literal sense.
At Facebook F8 recently, Mark Zuckerberg effectively sounded the death knell for the News Feed, as the platform pivots towards more grassroots, intimate means of communication.
Making Groups, Messenger and Stories lead features within the latest Facebook redesign, named FB5, at the expense of News Feed.
FB5 is live on the Facebook app, but coming to desktop and mobile sites later this year.
The elevation of Groups, Messenger and Stories, was not a surprise; we have discussed this on SMK courses since the end of 2017.
However, what was an interesting edition was the revamped and relaunched Facebook Events feature, which will go live in the coming months.
It’s a smart move from Facebook and one which mimics Google, which, itself, revamped and relaunched Google Maps in 2018.
Google Maps is one of the world’s most popular apps, trouncing all other comers in the mapping space. Although, thus far, it has failed to leverage this, in a material sense, commercially.
‘Location’ is perhaps one of the last frontiers of online comms, and it is here that Google and Facebook are now playing off.
Google Local Features & Community Focus
Last year Google revealed a new interface and a series of jazzy features for Google Maps.
On iOS and Android, the redesigned version of the Explore tab, lets you dive into categories you might want to know more about, i.e. coffee shops, sports bars, live music venues.
Continuing with lists of popular restaurants, upcoming events, and popular activities, like visiting a museum. The For You tab seems a bit like a news feed.
In a trial in India, announced this week, Google has rolled out an update to add three new features to the Google Maps app in India.
Users can now see a new Offers option in the Explore tab that will display promotional offers from local restaurants. Google has partnered with EazyDiner, a table reservation platform, to display offers from more than 4,000 restaurants. The feature is live in 11 metro cities in India.
Alongside this, Google has also announced the launch of Google Shoelace (see screenshot above).
Shoelace is a new project from Google which aims to help people find things to do and others who share the same interests.
For example, someone who wanted to connect with fellow dog owners could start an activity for a doggie playdate at the park, then start a group chat to coordinate the details and make new friends.
Launching in the US this week, Shoelace is the latest in a similar vein of Google community-centric products.
Neighbourly is an app designed to help users learn about their local area by asking other residents. It’s a way to find out about local services and facilities in your area from people who live around you.
Google My Business, Structured Data & SoLoMo
Google has many local and location features in beta and live, and with good reason.
For marketers, capitalising on most local marketing opportunities tends to be done via Google My Business, which is, in effect, your ‘Facebook Page for Google’.
Although, if the India Maps feature above is anyting to go by, tying in with third party tools may also be appropriate on a vertical by vertical basis.
Not only that, but for Google to surface content in search results, or within ancillary Google apps, tied to location, it increasingly requires structured data to be used on-site.
Structured data, also called schema markup, is a type of code that makes it easier for search engines to crawl, organise, and display your content.
Structured data communicates to search engines what your data means. Without schema markup, search engines can only tell what your data says, and they have to work harder to determine why it’s there.
In other words, without it, your website and copy lacks context. Meaning Google is much less likely to display.
SMK touched on this recently with the launch of podcast rankings in Google search.
In the clogged world of social news feeds and search engine results, local marketing tailored more for Google Maps, Facebook Groups and Events should cut through far more quickly.
Back when I was leading training programs in London in the mid-to-late 2000s, we used to talk about the future of communications as SoLoMo:
The So and Mo bits have clearly happened.
The Lo bit? Well, that’s just getting started.