4th December 2020
Google is rolling out its new ‘Community Feed’ feature to Maps, a scrollable ‘news feed’ with posts and reviews, globally on both Android and iOS.
The new ‘Community Feed’ will sit on the Explore tab in Google Maps and function much like a scrollable social media news feed. It will feel familiar to most users as it will follow the similar rules of popular social media platforms and show updates, reviews, photos and posts in a vertical scrolling fashion.
The content in the Feed will be created by local experts, Google users you follow, businesses you follow and importantly nearby businesses, with a focus on food and drink businesses to begin with. Local business owners will use the existing Google My Business function to post news about deals, menu updates or other offers to appear in the Feed. Select publishers will also feature on the feed too and other sources such as Google News where this might be relevant.
The content is compiled by the location the user is looking at / searching for rather than their current location or where they live – making ituseful both for discovery but also for researching using a map as the interface. Users will be able to follow businesses and users and will also be able to ‘like’ posts too but not all these features are available in all regions yet. There is no comment function but users can create reviews and provide information about businesses they have experienced.
The switch to a more friendly and familiar social media interface is in part a re-organisation of pre-existing content, as the Updates tab already showed businesses’ posts along with news and recommendations. However, it is also a shift in focus, as the previous format was intended to help users discover new places and grouped businesses into themes at the top of the screen, with lists and photos underneath. Whereas the new Community Feed, which will sit in the Explore tab, groups businesses at the top but then uses the rest of the tab as a scrollable feed - the idea being that the Community Feed will expose users’ to more new businesses, which can in turn be used as a marketing platform, integrating other users’ reviews and more ‘update’ type posts in order to attract customers.
Google Maps has attempted to socialise its service with other features previously, allowing users to message businesses directly on the app and introducing ‘follow’ features, such as saving places. This however is the most obvious sign that Google would like to make Google Maps function more like a social media platform and may pave the way in the future for more formats, such as video, in the Feed plus the integration of ecommerce features.
The global pandemic has forced more people to shop locally and to spend more time in their local areas through lockdowns that at any time previously. It has also driven an increase in the use of digital platforms across generations, with more being used, more often and to do more things. Finding a way to combine these shifts and to local business to find another way to market their services to consumers seems a win-win move. Google hopes it will encourage more people to visit the app more often to find out what’s going on in their local area.