Interested parties can now use the new “Follow” function in Google Maps to stay up to date on local businesses. Google still has a lot in mind in general for its map service. For stores and other local offers, Maps is set to become an increasingly interesting addition to the Facebook page and other activities.
Admittedly, to date, Google has not demonstrated a knack for social networking: nearly no one can still recall the buzz around a competitor to Twitter. At least for consumers, the Facebook competitor Google+ was just sidelined with no fanfare. The effort to capitalize on Orkut, which was successful in some parts of the world, also proved impossible.
It seems only logical for the company to return its focus to products that have already proven successful. In addition to the search engine itself, this naturally includes Gmail and Google Maps.
Not just a navigation aid but a place for discoveries
The maps have already incorporated some interesting features for consumers and businesses in the past few months. Now, for instance, users can create a group in which to discuss and decide where to go out together in the evening. Users can share their location and expected arrival time with others. The service also increasingly features personalized recommendations. This is all part of a plan to be more than just a map with a navigation function. Instead, the focus is on discovering new localities, as Google had announced in May.
And if you’re particularly interested in a restaurant, a store or another local business, you can follow it now. Changes in opening hours, new offers, special promotions and events: as a business, you can post all of this to your own followers. This is displayed to them (where available in their own region) in a new “For You” map tab. It displays a stream of news and recommendations. Businesses, in turn, handle everything using their already-familiar ”My Business” account.
Data deeply embedded in other offers
This places Google on a collision course with Facebook, where the pages offer something similar. In this regard, however, the world’s largest social network can point to its immense reach as an argument that is available at least in theory. But Google has good arguments at the ready. To begin with, Google Maps is certainly the service many users use most to find a location. Second, Google Maps data are integrated deep within other offerings. After all, the map offering is part of the most widely used search engine and the most widely used operating system for smartphones. Last but not least, Google Assistant accesses this information – whether in the phone or in the new Home Hub. A well-maintained and optimized Maps entry is growing more and more important for voice SEO, too.
The bottom line
Of course you can view all this with mixed feelings: after all, more options mean not just more opportunities but more work, too. For some, Google Maps will become another digital platform they need to monitor.
It will be exciting to see whether Google has greater success with these social functions than it has in the past. At least this time, they’re not trying to launch a Facebook competitor overnight. Instead, they are working step by step to expand offers that have already proven successful, in an effort to keep them relevant.