Google Maps’ New “Follow” Button Will Revolutionize GMB Posts

Google Maps’ New “Follow” Button Will Revolutionize GMB Posts
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TL;DR
  • New 'Follow' button on Google Maps business listings allows users to see Google My Business Posts in 'For You' tab.
  • Feature brings renewed focus to importance and future of GMB Posts. Now is the time to get these right!
  • Button only available in Google Maps for Android in some countries, with more countries (and probably iOS) coming soon.

Google just announced a feature that should come as no surprise to anyone who wondered how they would fill the void left by Google+.

In an announcement on their blog on October 24th, Google detailed a “Follow” button that will appear on business listings in the Google Maps app on Android (there’s been no word on implementing it for iOS yet, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t make the transition soon). Google currently says the feature is available “where available, with more countries soon”, which is, as ever, super-helpful.

Google Maps 'Follow' Button

Image courtesy of Google

What this means in practice is that when a Google Maps user ‘follows’ a business they’re a fan of, or are considering visiting, they’ll see that business’ Google My Business Posts in the ‘For You’ tab of the Google Maps app. (I’m a little worried Google is listening to us through our office Google Home, as we were literally discussing the wide applications of a feature like this last week!)

This Revolutionizes Google My Business Posts

Whereas beforehand a consumer would have to seek out or browse your business to see your GMB Posts in the Knowledge Panel or Google Maps listing, they can now see all Posts from followed businesses in one place.

The ‘For You’ tab is otherwise primarily used to recommend businesses based on your consumer and search history, but this new wrinkle gives a lot more agency to businesses, and the power to get into the feeds of users with offers, news, and events in the form of GMB Posts.

What’s more, the Google Maps app on Android has a ‘Personal Places’ notification setting. Although this hasn’t been tested, it would surprise me if this setting wasn’t used to notify users of new Posts from the businesses they follow. After all, it’s not really ‘following’ if you have to go hunt for and scroll through the news yourself, is it?

Personal Places

In light of all this, I’d strongly recommend revisiting your GMB Posts and considering how they’ll look in smartphone notifications and alongside competitors in the ‘For You’ tab. More than ever before, it’s important to make sure you’re standing out from the pack in GMB Posts.

What Does This Mean for Local Businesses?

Now, what follows is a lot of personal opinion and conjecture, but the timing of this release (shortly after the announcement of the closure of Google+) combined with a renewed focus on local search in general, suggests to me that this is Google’s play for the business social media space.

GMB Posts already work in a similar way to Facebook and Twitter posts, except the potential boon for local businesses (particularly if I’m right about the notifications) is that they won’t be at the behest of an arcane algorithm stripping away reach.

Trust in Facebook is waning, and business owners are frustrated with its replacement of their hard-earned reviews with recommendations, so it’s the perfect time for Google to go even further with something like this.

The use of GMB Posts to share imagery along with news, events, and promotional offers feels like it’s on the rise, but slowly, as figures on the uptake released by Phil Rozek and Mike Blumenthal show. I’ve no doubt that the ‘Follow’ feature will bring masses of added value to GMB Posts.

Ultimately, this is yet another thing I can add to my ever-growing list of traditional local business digital marketing tactics that the search engine monopoly is attempting to hoover up.

  • Social Media = GMB Posts + Google Maps Follow Feature + Google Q&A
  • Traditional advertising = PPC / Display advertising
  • Local Business Website = Google Websites
  • Customer Feedback/Research = Google Reviews
  • Business Directories = Google My Business / Google Maps
  • Useful Content = Featured Snippets
  • Customer Contact = Call-tracking / Google Duplex

(Got any more? Share them below!)

One Last Thing…

As Halloween is approaching, I thought I’d leave you with a truly bone-chilling thought: what if the number of ‘Follows’ your business has becomes (whisper it)… a ranking factor?!

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts

If you’re based somewhere that this feature is currently live, how have you seen it being used? Can you get notifications of new Posts? Are you planning on updating your Posts strategy following the rollout? Have you seen anything different in your GMB Post Insights? Does this replace the need to follow local businesses on other social networks? Let us know in the comments below!

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21 thoughts on “Google Maps’ New “Follow” Button Will Revolutionize GMB Posts”

  1. I’ve been using post, messaging, etc., since they came out to GMBs. I haven’t seen a great uptick but I do believe consistent use will bring it. Thanks for your opinions. They encourage me to continue. I think this (follow) will be very good for businesses.

    1. Hi Sheila, thanks, yes I think consistent use is the only thing that’s going to teach you whether they’ll work for you. Good luck!

      Jamie

  2. Jamie,

    Timely release of information such as this is just one of the reasons I love BrightLocal. I have been a loyal client of your tools and blog posts for many years. I am confident this new GMB Follow feature will be a game changer. I agree it will also become a ranking factor. However, I wouldn’t put too much confidence that this new GMB Follow feature will become a ranking factor that has very much.

    1. Hi Robert, we aim to please! 🙂

      But seriously, thanks ever so much for your feedback. It’s great to hear that we’re able to get you up-to-speed with new features as and when they happen. Although the ‘ranking factor’ point is at this time just a theory, you never know what they’ll do next!

      Thanks

      Jamie

  3. this is an amazing feature.
    I’m sure that the number of followers will become a local ranking factor, in this way google map can became a new kind of social media that connect customer and local business.

    1. Hi Giuseppe, thanks for your comment. Yes, we’ll be watching carefully to see if this is something they start to use as a ranking factor. I think that showing follower counts on business profiles in Google Maps would be an early sign of this!

      Cheers

      Jamie

  4. It is not active in my region yet. Odd. I had another thought though. Let’s go deeper. Followers tell Google also about distribution. Like pins on a MAP, Google could very easily determine your REAL service area. Location is a huge ranking factor and a larger distribution of Follows could me more visibility in a wider radius.

    1. Hi Greg, that’s a really good point! Consumers would only follow a business that’s local to them, rather than businesses in towns they’re just visiting for the day, so it would be a decent barometer for reputation in your local area, which makes it a combo of proximity and prominence. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on it!

      Thanks

      Jamie

  5. Hey Jamie,
    Great article. We have been getting our clients to focus on regular GMB posts and this just validates the importance of them. Interesting to see if your predication of this becoming a ranking factor comes true.

    1. Hi Randy, thanks for the feedback; really appreciated.

      That’s great to hear we’ve been able to help you build the case of GMB Posts for your clients, as that’s ultimately what we’re hoping to do for agencies!

      All the best

      Jamie

  6. Jamie,

    I am super excited about this. I am not a huge fan of social for local businesses (depending on the type) due to the limited results for what most are trying to accomplish (real new leads).

    ‘Follow’ however would provide the opportunity to connect more deeply to a local audience of already loyal patrons and those interested in their products/services but perhaps on the fence.

    Perhaps in time, the ‘follow’ button will be a Google Ads extension to grow a following more readily.

    I have already used GMB Posts to cross-promote great local events that some of my clients sponsor with good results. This would just enlarge on that if people followed a business from year to year after attending an event or promotion that was done. That would be a great boost to awareness of future events.

    I can see myself curating a nice list of local and big brand businesses and then actually enjoying those notifications from Google Maps disturbing my day 🙂

    Thanks for sharing and explaining this new feature in detail!

    1. Hi Josh, thanks for your comment and for sharing your experiences with GMB Posts.

      I’m kind of with you on social for local businesses these days; a lot of what made it effective has been stripped away. This does feel like it could be the start of something big for Google!

      Thanks

      Jamie

  7. Great info!

    For business that have multiple locations and multiple GMB pages, does this mean we should be sharing content over all the pages?

    For example – we have a weekly blog that we post on our Head Office location’s GMB page, but should we be sharing that weekly blog for every location? It would be duplicate content, but if people only follow the GMB page of one of our locations they may never see it?

    1. Hi Melissa, good question!

      If I put my Google hat on for a moment, I’d say that as long as what’s being communicated from HQ is relevant and important to the locations you’re posting on, you should be all good. Consider it from the perspective of the consumer: would they want to see what you’re posting? Would they think it’s relevant to that business?

      Jamie

  8. Great article Jamie, and thanks for your detailed information. I am curious as one of the very things that popped into my mind, is will people start to abuse this feature right out of the gate? For example, will businesses start to offer incentives or discounts for anyone that follows them on the Google Maps app? I also wonder when this feature will be available for desktops…

    1. Hi Nate, thanks for your kind words; really appreciated!

      Great point, but at this stage I don’t believe businesses will have access to the details of people who follow them. However, if you think about it they don’t need to, as it’s perfectly reasonable to say ‘Follow us to be the first to hear about our exclusive discounts!’ as only people who see the post on the Knowledge Panel or in ‘For You’ will have access to the discount anyway. If the notifications work as I’d assume they do, then being a follower gets you immediate notice of a discount, way earlier than other people, so there’s already an incentive there.

      However, you’ve just inspired a thought that I might just go update the post with: what if Google starts to use the number of ‘Follows’ as a ranking factor? Game=changed!

      As for desktop, I wouldn’t hold my breath as it seems like Google is very focused on the mobile/app experience in local right now. Just consider some of the new GMB features I wrote about earlier this week, which currently only appear on mobile! I think they use mobile as a testing ground for local features before rolling things out to desktop, as mobile is where they’ll get the most representative data from use.

      Thanks

      Jamie

      1. In my opinion, there’s no doubt this will eventually affect PR, primarily mobile. After all, Google Reviews for example, is just one big popularity contest. Look how great reviews helped with ranking and reach for Local results!

  9. Wow, this could be a great way for local businesses to stay top of mind with those who have shown an interest. I do work for RV parks and campgrounds and as a fulltime RVer I use Google Maps… A LOT! I see a lot of potential for them with this. Hmm, I can’t help but wonder if Google will start charging for their Post service?

    1. Hi Chris, that’s a very good question! My guess is that they wouldn’t charge for appearing higher in ‘For You’ as they want it to be reflective of the user’s interests rather than who happens to have the deepest pockets, but Google have surprised us before!

      It’ll be interesting to see what happens next, as I feel that Posts and ‘Follow’ are the first couple of steps towards a larger interconnected ecosystem of businesses and customers. Since Facebook has throttled business page visibility and Twitter seems to be more about arguing about politics these days, it certainly feels like there’s a gap in the market for a business-to-consumer network.

      Thanks

      Jamie

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