February 13, 2017
/ by Jim Dougherty
Recently, Google announced that it is updating its Google Voice App for the first time in five years. I use Google Voice in conjunction with Google Hangouts for calling and texting, and it struck me how integrated into my daily routine this one Google App is (and the update is AWESOME!!!). I also use Google Docs and Drive to collaborate on different projects, and I use Gmail as my primary email address. In my Gmail, I receive many Google Alerts and notifications from Google Plus Communities.
I’m not unique. The Google ecosystem has touchpoints in many aspects of our lives, yet there are perhaps some awesome apps or updates that many people aren’t aware of. So, what I’d like to share in this post is some useful features of the Google ecosystem that may make your job as a communications or marketing professional easier.
Key features: Google Voice is a telephone service that allows you to make and receive phone calls to a unique phone number from an app or desktop (via the Internet rather than using a cellular connection). The service also lets you send and receive text messages from individuals and groups, record and receive (very rough) transcripts of conversations, and receive transcripted voicemail by text or email. It is free to use, with some nominal fees for telephone number changes.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: You may use a Google Voice number for a unique purpose (hotline), use the desktop version to manage bulk texts, take advantage of its integration with Google Contacts to manage text segmentation and delivery. Transcriptions may be useful (they are more accurate after the latest update – in their last iteration they were not exceptionally accurate). You can forward Google Voice through Hangouts and add the capability for video calls.
Pro tip: It is illegal to record a telephone conversation without the other party’s consent.
Key features: Google Hangouts is a mobile and desktop app that allows you to make video calls, create group “Hangouts,” telephone calls, and text messages. Google9to5 reports that Google is trying to differentiate Hangouts from Voice, Allo, and Duo by making it an enterprise app. There is likely a modification coming to this in the future.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: The Hangouts feature is a great tool for certain circumstances, and the video call feature has the utility of Skype with deeper Google integration.
Key features: Contacts is a cloud communication and group manager with integration throughout the Google ecosystem (the exception being the mobile Google Hangouts app) and easy synchronization with mobile. You can also integrate contacts with third-party email programs like Outlook and Thunderbird using Google Sync.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: This app is a very easy way to manage contacts in the cloud, but is useful if you use many of Google’s integrated apps.
Key features: Google Docs is a free, cloud-based suite of Office-like apps: Docs (documents, not to be confused with the overarching “Docs”), Sheets (spreadsheets), Slides (Powerpoint-esque), and Forms. Perhaps one of the easiest collaborative tools out there – Google Docs autosaves every change that you make and allows users to share and collaborate on the same documents quite frictionlessly. Docs and Sheets standalone mobile apps have been recently updated and are (subjectively) superior to Office mobile apps.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: These apps don’t have the wealth of features of the Office suite but are near essential for cloud collaboration. Forms is an easy way to get information (contact info, event registration, feedback) from your email contacts.
Key features: Google Drive is a cloud-based storage app, integrated for synchronization with Windows and Mac operating systems. It allows for 15 GB of free storage and then charges monthly fees for storage in excess (15GB is cumulative across Drive, Photos, and Gmail).
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: Compared to many cloud storage apps, Drive offers a lot more storage for free. Regardless, the biggest benefit may be the integration with the rest of the ecosystem. Especially for collaboration using Google Docs.
Key features: Google Calendar is how my wife and I communicate a cloud mobile and desktop calendar app that synchronizes with common third-party apps such as Outlook and iCalendar.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: Google Calendar can be exceptionally helpful when you have to manage calendars across multiple platforms. Outlook for a client and iCalendar for work, for example. You can also manage multiple calendars within in one application, which is also useful.
Key features: Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages is an HTML-lite language developed by Google for the purpose of making mobile web pages load faster (there is also an asynchronous load and caching component to the process). The Google News carousel is exclusively populated by AMP sites, and as much as 70% of all mobile Google News results are AMP-compliant.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: It’s likely that most web pages will transition to AMP (or at least the mobile redirect) shortly. There isn’t an explicit Google penalty not to, but AMP pages are reported to load many times faster than traditional HTML.
Key features: Most people know the Google AdWords promotional product, which has been surprisingly stable for a few years (with minor bells and whistles). Google also has an AdWords Express product that permits Google to manage some of the nuances of your ads.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: Paid promotion on Google and their ad network; competitive and keyword research.
Key features: Despite that it has gone from standalone to Google Plus product to independent again (and changed names with every iteration), Google My Business continues to be an essential Google service for businesses. Google My Business associates critical information about your business (address, phone number, hours, contact number, reviews) to Google apps such as Maps.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: The information in Google My Business informs everything else in the Google ecosystem (and apps and sites that use Google’s API), so it’s important to manage and update your Google My Business information regularly.
Key features: Google Maps is a mobile (and desktop) mapping app, with an API that is used in numerous other applications (real estate apps like Zillow for example). But one critical aspect of Maps for businesses is the integration of reviews into Maps (they were formerly integrated into Google Plus).
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: People trust online reviews a lot. Referring people to Google Maps for reviews (positive ones, hopefully) can be an important aspect of solidifying a company’s online reputation. Google Maps can help you find the fastest way to get to work, too.
Key features: Obviously YouTube is the premier repository for online videos. YouTube hosts videos, allows for customization, monetization, and third-party embedding.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: For video content (or live broadcasting), YouTube is nearly indispensable.
Key features: Google Trends gives you a snapshot of current searches on Google by country and topic, with their Explore tool offering filtered searches by time and search criteria.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: Google Trends is one of the many tools that content creators can use to gauge current or past interest about certain topics.
Key features: Google Analytics is the standard for basic web analytics, while Google Tag Manager is a more precise tool to fire marketing tags for specific web actions.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: Google Tag Manager can give you a very granular understanding of how customers are interacting with your web and mobile properties, while Google Analytics can give at least a broad-stroke view of how web and mobile properties are being used.
Key features: Google Webmaster Tools are a set of compliance tools that check your site code for errors and improvements, which now include AMP compliance recommendations as well.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: Perhaps not something that most people will have direct involvement with, non-webmasters can still use the analytics tools to check on the health of the site from Google’s perspective.
Key features: Google Chrome is Google’s web browser. Its performance relative to Microsoft Edge or Mozilla’s Firefox may be disputable, but its integration with the Google ecosystem is not. Extensions for Hangouts, Phone, Docs, Drive and more are all available to make Google’s apps more accessible to its users in the browser.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: If you’re using many Google Apps, it may be worthwhile to check out Google’s browser extensions and see if they enhance your workflow.
Key features: Google Home is Google’s voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant (Alexa, Cortana, and Siri’s equivalent in Google-land).
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: I don’t know if this will help too much, except that it does give you access to the Google ecosystem through Google Calendar, if you’d rather speak appointments than type them.
Key features: Google Translate is a translation tool that allows you to type a phrase and translate it into many different languages. Google Translate is using machine learning to improve its translations, and its mobile app now translates from images (this feature is called “instant camera”).
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: You can use this in a pinch, although a more trusted resource may cause less confusion in the long-term.
Key features: Google Plus is Google’s itinerant social network. Google tried to integrate many of its essential services into the platform and has since reversed strategy. Key features of the current iteration of Google Plus are Squidoo-ish “Collections” and LinkedIn Group-ish “Communities.” Also, your Google Plus profile is still associated across all of your accounts on the Google ecosystem.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: Google Plus is limited as a social network, but communications and marketing professionals may find Collections or Communities as an attractive place to provide niche content or support, especially given the impressive UI of the platform.
Key features: One of the stand-out features of Google Plus until it was decoupled, Google Photos allows you to upload a lot of photos, apply filters, make collages and animations, and albums. Like an early iteration of Instagram before it adopted Snapchat’s features.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: For a quick and easy way to access and do minor manipulation of images, this may be helpful particularly if it supports another activity in the Google ecosystem.
Key features: Google Allo is a Messenger-like standalone chat app. Google Duo is a Facetime-like standalone video app.
How it can help communications and marketing professionals: Google Assistant is integrated into Allo, so you can ask questions as you would to Siri, Alexa, or Cortana. Otherwise, these will only be useful to the extent that the people that you want to communicate with have adopted them. For the immediate future, these will probably only be useful if the people you interact with have adopted them as well. Perhaps more of a one-off from Skype and Messenger than a replacement.
Of course, this list doesn’t encompass all of the Google ecosystem. Hopefully, this demonstrates that there are many free-to-use resources within the Google ecosystem, many that gain utility as you integrate more apps into your workflow. By creating this integrated system of mobile and desktop apps, Google makes itself indispensable for many people.
(Photo Credit: Pexels)
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