Has Google just removed the business purpose of Google+ overnight?

Google+ and Google Local disconnected

As the New Year approaches Google has decided to roll out significant updates to its struggling social network Google+. It’s no secret that Google+ whilst attracting billions of sign-ups has a tiny active user-base, just 9%. Of these hopefuls I would love to see a breakdown of communities of people Vs companies who just pump information out on the network.

When Google announced in November that it was rolling out a new design for Google+, it was really signalling a fundamental change for the network. The focus is now on communities and ‘interest’ collections; technically useful features but only if active users on the network increase and spam limitations are put in place.

It warranted a sort of ‘meh’ response, but then Google sneaked in something big. When Google+ launched it was seen as the central hub of Google online, connecting services such as YouTube and Local; in the same way it disconnected ‘mandatory’ YouTube integration, it’s now completely disconnected Google Local.

This means Google Local business information such as reviews, categories, directions, star ratings, photo uploads, interior photos, maps, hours, and app integrations are no longer seen by people on Google+ business profiles. Not only this, but thousands of unverifiable business accounts (considered spam) were removed without notice.

Has Google just removed the business purpose of Google+ overnight?

The integration between Google Local and Google+ kept businesses tied to the network, knowing that their business profile information would make branded search listings and their activity on Google+ previewed above paid-for AdWord links in search. In some ways, it was the Google authorship (another archaic feature) of business.

It’s worth noting that this is a staged roll out by Google, available when choosing to view the new design of Google+. It will likely go the same way as Google Maps, the old version will be provided as an option but once all fixes have been made, the new version will remain permanent.

What does this mean for businesses?

  • It may no longer be worth maintaining a Google+ page, as business critical ‘local page’ information has been moved across to ‘Google My Business’. None of the information in Google+ will appear high in search and the SEO benefits are now questionable;
  • Google+ is going through a radical redesign; it’s deleted and disconnected a number of features over the last year. As a result, Google+ is an unpredictable network with a low number of active users – expect no engagement and little traffic directed to websites;
  • Word on the cyber street is that businesses should stop investing time into Google+, and focus purely on Google Local. The only exception to this rule may be visual businesses who are able to valuable contribute to community and interest discussions.

If you do run Google+ business pages then you’re likely to either encounter that your page has been removed or its turned into a basic profile without the Google Local information. Either way, think if Google+ is now worth it for business. Unless a business friendly update happens, then the message from Google is that ‘our social network is just for people’.


The essential guide for modernising the PR workflow

Last week I had meetings with clients that spanned media relations, SEO projects, online advertising, and website design. Each day it’s becoming clearer that public relations is becoming the umbrella that holds the digital marketing mix. With this being the case, how can agencies build agile teams for the modern PR workflow?

This morning ‘The Essential Guide’ for modernising the PR workflow has launched. If PRstack was about modernising the PR workflow through making sense of the complicated third party tool market, then this new guide is the pitch just before it. Rather than focusing on tools, its five steps for evaluating and improving the workflow of a PR team.

Penned by a man on a mission Frederick Vincx, who is the owner of Prezly and has devoted his career to getting PR professionals out of ‘Excel hell’. His guide isn’t your typical link-bait ‘top 10’ post, it’s challenging and by the way it’s written – clearly coming from a voice of experience.

“The goal is to make your team adaptable for increasingly fast changing communication requirements. This guide will help you improve your PR team workflow so that you stay current and create more value for clients in less time. The result? Better work, happier clients, and more time left to sell to other clients.” – Frederick Vincx

Summarising Frederick’s work on this blog will not do it justice! Do visit his blog for a read and have a look at the infographic below for a visual summary. After a long-read, I’m proud to say that the consultancy I work for went through these modernisation steps a few years ago and structures are successfully navigating the newer digital elements of PR.

Map for moderning the PR Workflow

Domain deed poll: this blog is now michaelwhite.online

One of the flaws of being a geek is registering website addresses late at night whilst intoxicated; that’s how thoughtsymposium.com was born. That, and a lost blogging focus at the time. Over two years later it’s time for something new, something me; literally me .online.

The name of this blog may have changed, but that’s it. I’ve just returned to self-branding; welcome to michaelwhite.online. That’s right, no .com or .co.uk, it’s a new breed of domain name. If you access old links that point to thoughtsymposium.com they will automatically redirect to the new name.

A couple of years ago The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organisation in charge of registering domain names, went a little nuts. They came up with a whole bunch of generic top-level domains (equal to .com’s etc.) to reinvigorate the domain name market.

The move was also a solution to a growing problem, the internet is running out of older top-level domains (.com, .org, .net, .gov, etc.) Not helped by domain resellers; people and organisations who register domain names and resell for thousands, even millions.

So why .online? Of all the new domain names that have been registered, .online has been the most popular. A day after its launch in August 2015 over 35,000 registrations were recorded, with companies such as Microsoft and Bank of America catching a piece of the geek action. Of course, resellers also snapped up thousands of domains. As michaelwhite.com remains hostage to a domain reseller, .online was the obvious modern option.

Apart from the name, the site exists as it was. It’s had a little bit of a minor facelift (still not happy with it!) but functionality remains the same. If anything, changing the domain name has given me time to tweak some technical elements in the code, hopefully seeing better gains in Google Search.

Now, onto writing a blogging content calendar for 2016…

Managing reputation by detecting fake information on social media


I first published this post on the Lansons blog.

In the USA, Dow Jones plunged 140 points after a rumour spread on Twitter from Associated Press’ Twitter account. The estimated temporary loss of market cap in the S&P 500 totalled $136.5 billion.

When hackers took over Associated Press’ Twitter profile in 2013

This isn’t the only example of misinformation spread via social media that has had cataclysmic real-world consequences; the England Riots spread violence, false information around the Ebola outbreak caused increased deaths (salt water does not prevent or cure Ebola), and the Boston marathon blasts identified the wrong suspects.

The spread of information via social media can have real-world consequences and the notion of ‘influence’ may spell the downfall or uprising of an organisation. This is why appropriately detecting, tracking, and engaging with false information on social media is critical for managing reputation online.

In a new paper published by Aditi Gupta from the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology Delhi, social media reputation management techniques are explored in detail. Over 25 global events are analysed between 2011 – 2014 that involved the spread of fake images, rumours, and untrustworthy content.

“Online social media has the capability of playing the role of, either a life saver or that of a daemon during the times of crisis. In this research work, we highlighted one of the malicious intended usage of Twitter during a real-world event, i.e. spreading fake images. We analyzed the activity on the online social networking website Twitter, during Hurricane Sandy (2012) that spread fake images. We identified 10,350 unique tweets containing fake images that were circulated on Twitter, during Hurricane Sandy.

We performed a characterization analysis, to understand the temporal, social reputation and influence patterns of the spread of these fake images. We found that 86% tweets spreading the fake images were retweets, hence very few were original tweets by users. Also, our results showed that top 30 users (0.3% of the users) resulted in 90% of retweets of the fake image.”

Rumour tweets posted during the England riots of 2011

The research concluded that after analysing some of the top disasters over the last four years, only automated techniques were able to successfully identify credible updates and categorise. Of course, this was the only option as manually sifting through 5.6 TeraBytes of tweets would take a lifetime! At Lansons we use our own reputation management tools.

When managing online reputation you should watch out for:

  • The creation of fake social media profiles that are designed to look real but instead spread fake information;
  • Fake content, then engage, before it’s spread widely on social media;
  • Online communities that build around disasters that could be considered the ‘core’ group that drive wider conversations.

The research is a valuable contribution to managing online reputation, it allows practitioners (such as myself) to refine and improve our techniques. Whilst the focus of the paper was on Twitter, we know reputation management applies to all social media – even more prominently in Google Search. Make sure you have the right procedures in place.