Google+ Starts Relying On Email For Engagement
Google announced some new features for Google+ to give users more control over what they see from which of their Circles. There are three main changes, and two of them just may increase the amount of email you get from Google+.
Last year we launched volume “sliders” to help you tune the posts in your main stream (http://goo.gl/wrHDD), and since then we’ve extended this feature across Google+. Today we’re excited to roll out three related improvements that give you even more control over what you read and share.
1) Whether it’s family members or epic bros, we’ve all got circles of friends whose content we don’t want to miss. By moving a circle’s slider all the way to the right, you can now get notified whenever they share something new.
#googleplusupdate – More photos from Austin Chang
As you may know, Google+ has a slider feature for circles, which lets you control how much content from that circle you see in your main feed. With one of the new features, you can move the slider all the way to the right, and start seeing notifications whenever someone from that circle shares something new.
Obviously, you would only want to do this if it’s a Circle of people whose updates you really want to make sure you don’t miss. Of course, provided you don’t have the setting turned off, you will also get emails when you are notified, increasing the chance that you’ll see the update even more.
The second new feature is for when you’re pushing updates yourself. There’s now an “also send email” option that appears when sharing a post, so you can make sure people in particular circles see what you have to say. Try not to be too annoying.
The third new feature lets you mute individual people from notifications, so you can still see their updates in your stream, but don’t get a notification every time they post.
Google is clearly making email a much more essential component of Google+, in hopes of increasing engagement on the social network. And why not? Other social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all take advantage of email for the same reason. Twitter recently started sending out a lot more emails.
Othman Laraki, director of growth at Twitter, announced the new newsletter-type email with a post on the Twitter blog. He stated that the emails are designed similar to the “discover” tab for the recently updated iPhone and Android Twitter apps. Which of the people you follow shared a particular story will be displayed below each story, showing you who it was popular with. Also, you can see related tweets from the people you follow and tweets can be sent directly from the email.
Note that not all of the tweets in the digest email will be from people you follow. Some will be tweets that were popularly retweeted by the people you follow.
If you don’t enjoy this new Twitter feature (or are annoyed that Twitter didn’t ask your permission) there is a link at the bottom of the email that will allow you to unsubscribe. Alternatively, you can change the option in your notification settings directly on Twitter. I’ll let the emails come for a few weeks before I decide whether or not I enjoy them. Of course, if they begin putting ads into the emails, the entire feature is a no-go for me.
One interesting element to Google’s features that I’ve noticed, however, is that for some reason, they do not appear to take advantage of the recently launched Gmail in search results feature.
Perhaps the most interesting of Google’s announcements is the addition of Gmail inbox content to Google’s search results. Frankly, I’m surprised Google didn’t do this a long time ago, though it will likely ruffle some feathers among the privacy advocates.
Google is introducing the feature on a totally opt-in basis, however. They’re offering a limited trial where you can sign up to get info from your Gmail from the main Google search box.
“Sometimes the best answer to your question isn’t available on the public web—it may be contained somewhere else, such as in your email,” Google’s Amit Singhal said in a blog post. “We think you shouldn’t have to be your own mini-search engine to find the most useful information—it should just work. A search is a search, and we want our results to be truly universal. So we’re developing a way to find this information for you that’s useful and unobtrusive, and we’d love your feedback.”
“We’re working on some even more useful features,” he said. “For example, if you search for [my flights] we will organize flight confirmation emails for any upcoming trips in a beautifully easy-to-read way right on the search results page.”
Earlier this year, Google consolidated its privacy policies into one main policy spanning across Google products, enabling the company to transfer data from one product to the next, under one Google account. This was likely a factor in turning this feature into a reality, and I’d expect more such features to make their way to the public eye, incorporating data from even more Google products into search results.
When Gmail first came out, it was revolutionary because of the amount of storage it gave users. Over time, many users have kept ridiculous amounts of email on file, available from the Gmail search box. Now, all of that content can be surfaced right from a search box. If Google can get the relevancy right, this could be a major step forward for Google Search, provided people actually use it.
It will be interesting to see if Google keeps the feature an opt-in option in the long term.
This feature seems like it would make better use of the “Search Plus Your World” title than the actual Search Plus Your World feature Google launched earlier this year.
That feature is only in limited trial mode right now, but it does not appear to surface content from Google+ notifications. I tested several key phrases from notifications in my emails. Google did not display Gmail results when I searched for these key phrases from Google.com (I am in the trial).
These were notifications of comments, which can often contain valuable information. It seems like Google is missing an opportunity to put even more Google+ content in front of users, when relevant.
What do you think of the new feature? Let us know in the comments.
“Sometimes the best answer to your question isn’t available on the public web—it may be contained somewhere else, such as in your email,” says Google’s Amit Singhal. “We think you shouldn’t have to be your own mini-search engine to find the most useful information—it should just work. A search is a search, and we want our results to be truly universal. So we’re developing a way to find this information for you that’s useful and unobtrusive, and we’d love your feedback.”
You can sign up for the field trial here. The first million people to sign up can use it for now (once they get an email confirmation from Google, which can take some time, and Google accepts them – some won’t make it in). It’s only accessible in English on Google.com with @gmail addresses, for the time being, and is currently not available for Google Apps accounts.
“We’re working on some even more useful features,” says Singhal. “For example, if you search for [my flights] we will organize flight confirmation emails for any upcoming trips in a beautifully easy-to-read way right on the search results page.”
It will be very interesting to see what other niche-specific features Google might add in the future. Whatever they may be, they could factor into your email marketing plan.
Earlier this year, Google consolidated its privacy policies into one main policy spanning across Google products. This enables Google to use data from one product across its other products (who knows where else Gmail messages might appear in the future).
Some Gmail users keep a whole lot of emails in their Gmail accounts. One of the main selling points of Gmail when it was unveiled back in 2004, was that it had a ridiculous amount of storage capacity, so you didn’t have to worry about deleting emails. That’s a lot of content that can pile up. Highly personalized content that may just be relevant to some of your searches, even if you’ve forgotten about it. Until now, it’s been behind a wall that Google was not accessing from search, even though it was a wall that Google always had access to.
Email marketers may want to consider how their messages could perform in the long term.
VatorNews just reported on a study from Monetate, indicating that email converts better than search and social combined. What effect will emails in search have? Any additional conversions from search would simply be the icing on top of the email cake. An added bonus.
Reporter Krystal Peak says the report found that “social converted at 0.59%, while search was almost 5X better at 2.59%.”
“The real winners are those troves of emails filling up all of our inboxes right now,” she adds. “Converting 4.25%, email deals are converting people to sales eight times better than social.”
That’s exactly my point. Those emails that would otherwise just be filling up your inbox, most likely never to be seen again, can now serve a new purpose, surfacing in search results.
While for now, it’s only in limited trial mode, it stands to reason that Google will open up this feature for broad use in time.
Obviously, email campaigns are going to hit much more than Gmail users, but that doesn’t mean Google’s competitors won’t look at incorporating similar features into their products. It’s not hard to imagine Bing doing this with their new Outlook.com email service, for example. And who’s to say that Google won’t partner with other email providers sometime down the road.
Either way, Gmail has over 400 million active users. It stands to reason that many of them are using Google Search. Depending on how many opt into Google’s new feature (assuming that it expands beyond the trial period), that’s potentially a lot of people your email messages could be reaching well beyond the send date, at a time when they’re perhaps even more relevant than they were on that date.
It’s something to think about. What do you think? Comment here.