In the social media world, things really do move at the speed of light…or at least, faster than most of us can track. For instance, last Thursday I was sitting down to write a blog post about how to optimize posts on Google+ by avoiding the “drop your link and run” method.
I wanted to emphasize the importance of big, bold images that catch the reader’s attention—and shake a mildly reproving finger at users who failed to take advantage of the platform’s visual capabilities.
But just before I hit “post,” I realized: without warning, Google+ had started to roll out a new format for its share posts, rendering my (extremely informative and erudite) argument pretty much useless. Curses! Foiled again.
So before anything changes again, I thought I’d take a moment to review the nuts and bolts of the new system.
How it used to work
Until late last week, you could share links and articles using just a URL, but the results were less than spectacular. Google+ would publish a thumbnail of the post’s image, plus the title of the post…and that was it. As a teaser, this kind of post has little visual appeal, and attracts almost no attention as people scroll through their feeds. The only advantage of the “link-dropping” approach is that the picture itself, in addition to the accompanying text, is clickable.
The alternate method, which I advocated, was to post a large, high-quality image, along with explanatory text to grab the reader’s attention. I’d insert a shortened version of the URL, and make sure I added at least a couple of relevant hashtags. Yes, it’s more work, but it results in a much more professional-looking post. The disadvantage, however, is that the image itself isn’t clickable.
Instead, you’re relying on the reader to read the text introduction and click on the URL.
What’s different now?
This new roll-out is a biggie: instead of grabbing just a thumbnail and post title, Google+ is using a much larger version of your post’s primary image, along with the post’s title and description, to create a teaser that’s both informative and visually appealing.
And that’s not all! It’s also posting your site’s name, plus an icon that allows readers to include that site in their Circles. When readers hover their cursors over the icon, they’ll see your site’s Hovercard. (This assumes that you have a business Google+ page. You do, right?)
Are Google+ full-image teasers really a big deal?
Big images are definitely a big deal in social media.
In fact, you should be thinking about big, beautiful images whenever you post on any social media platform. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and of course Pinterest all favour larger image sizes, for the simple reason that they’re more visible…and they draw three to four times more views.
Big, clickable images, however, are an even bigger deal.
As I mentioned, back in the old days (by which I mean last week) the idea was to post a great image as an attention-grabber, then hope that readers would a) notice it, b) read the accompanying text, and c) be interested enough to click through to the article or blog.
Making that big, beautiful image also clickable means that your readers have more opportunities to click through to your post, and in the world of social media marketing, that’s golden.
The other big deal is that your blog’s meta-description will now appear on your Google+ share, so your readers will be able to see at a glance what the post is about.
A couple of caveats
First, as far as I can tell, this new approach won’t show up on mobile devices: I couldn’t detect any difference when I used my iPhone to view my Google+ page.
This new roll-out won’t work for you unless you use a good-sized image in your post. If the image is too small, Google+ will revert to the old-style thumbnail + title format. And don’t forget to “tell” Google+ which image to grab, by setting your post’s “featured image” before you hit publish.
Similarly, ensure that your post description is clear, concise, and appealing. But don’t leave it at that: it’s always a good idea to add some introductory text in your Google+ share. I think of it this way: your post description tells the reader what it’s about; your Google+ introduction tells the reader why they want to read it.
And while the new Google+ teasers will feature larger images, they still seem to be playing with sizing—the images seem a bit smaller now than they did last Thursday, which leads me to believe this is a work in progress.
So you still shouldn’t “link-drop and run”—but it looks like from now on, Google+ is going to make it easier for you to post…and for your readers to read what you’ve written.