As Google busily gobbles up the world’s data you may not yet have noticed a change in its Maps program that allows anyone to create immersive 360° images enabled by its Streetview technology. (UPDATE: You can also do this easily now with a Ricoh Theta S camera that shoots in 360º. Check out my post on VR here.)
While professional photographers like me can still work with fish eye lenses, or high-priced spherical cameras (and you can hire me to shoot your venue for you), you can get pretty decent quality photospheres (as Google calls these panoramic images sewn seamlessly together) using just your smartphone and Google’s Streetview App on Android or for your iPhone.
Here’s what you need to do:
Download the app.
Review the Tips section of the app
To get good results you’ll need a little bit of practice. Try starting outdoors (once you get the hang of it you can try an indoor space but it’s easier to get it right outdoors on the first try).
Also remember to hold the phone close to your face and shoot vertically
Finally, be sure you shoot a complete set of images rotating in a circle several times to cover a full sphere
Once you’ve created your photosphere you can save it to your camera roll and then decide if you want to publish it directly to Google Maps. The default option is set to private so you don’t have to worry if you don’t like the look of your photosphere or captured any indiscreet imagery you do not want to make public.
Currently photospheres contributed to Google Maps this way lack the connectivity that professionals in the Trusted Photographer Program can enable using an access restricted photosphere editor. If you want to offer a full virtual tour your site visitors can virtually walk through you’ll still want to work with a professional, but if you are just looking for the free option that provides good value and showcases your interior or exterior spaces in its full 360° splendour, then download the app and give it a whirl.
How many business owners do you know who think they are doing enough marketing?
What if I told you there was a way to market your business using the world’s most powerful search engine that would ensure you have a visible presence online right where your customers will be looking for you? Tie that presence into the free analytics you can get out of Google Analytics and you’ve got your own digital marketing agency at less than your quarterly spend on coffee.
I’m talking about Google Business View, a remarkably poorly understood tool public facing businesses can use to boost their search rankings, attract more customers online and entice in new customers when they are conducting local based searches on their mobile phones.
All marketing today and into the future will be digital. It is already past time when we stop using the term “digital marketing” and simply refer to it as “marketing”. All businesses, whether you are selling pizza or complex financial derivative products, is about information. If no one can remember your phone number, no one orders the pizza. If they can’t understand what you are selling, they won’t buy it.
Having the correct information about your business that is easily accessible across the multiple devices people use hundreds of times every day is entry stakes for any business today.
How do people find your business? They search online, overwhelmingly using Google and the majority through a mobile, hand-held device. Gone are the days when having a website, or a Facebook page was something to proudly state “you were doing online marketing.” If you own a restaurant, a fitness club, a medical clinic, a hair salon or any kind of business that relies on people walking through your front door and you are not fully taking advantage of everything Google Business View now has to offer, you are leaving money on the table. And you may be slowly putting yourself out of business.
Here is an example of a search I just conducted on a business in my neighbourhood. Take a look at the huge amount of screen real estate dedicated to the right sidebar. That entire package of visually engaging information – virtual tour (See Inside), photos, direct link to Google Maps and reviews as well as the correct address and telephone number is what happens to a business that invests in its Google+Business Page.
You’ll see that though the Monkland Taverne company website is the top result, the vast majority of people on this page won’t visit that site.
Conduct the same search on a mobile phone and the results are even more striking. It fills the entire screen in your hand.
That second search, on the fly, on a mobile device, is where most people will be searching for your business
Google Business View is a virtual tour of the interior of your business. If you’ve just spent $50k on renovations, you want to be sure that as many potential customers as possible see your space. If you run a state-of-the art medical clinic, you want your potential customers to be able to visualize the environment and see the investment you’ve made in advanced medical devices. If you are a restaurateur, you want the visiting tourists walking down your street to find you on their phones when they feel a rumbling in their tummies and search for “family friendly restaurant – near me”.
The key to all of this is of course, investing the time and effort in understanding what Google Business View can do for your business, and then doing it.
You can start by Googling your own business (and this even includes service professionals and freelancers who may not have a public-facing office space, but still offer a service to the public) and see what comes up.
You’ll notice first that your search results on the right hand side of your desktop screen, or right in full view in your mobile device, point to a Google+ page. As a business owner, this site is yours for free and can be managed and exploited fully by you with just a little attention. Your customers who visit can also rate and review your business here, which provides even more attractive content for search engines to help lift your business higher in search rankings. Providing visually engaging materials here – photos and 360 degree panoramic tours of the interior spaces of your business will also give your business a huge lift and increase traffic to your online presence which will translate into increased traffic through your front door.
If you are a business owner and you think you don’t need to be found online, or that you already have enough customers, then I guess this post isn’t for you. I’d be surprised to find your business doing as well in one year, and in three years, with no change of marketing strategy, I doubt I’d find your business at all because it won’t likely exist, but hey, I could be wrong. Maybe digital marketing is “just a fad.”
But if you are like most business owners who are strapped for time and trying to manage their cash flow as best they possibly can while still putting a little profit into their own pockets at the end of each month, than I strongly encourage you to get your Google+ business page up to date and invest the small amount of time and money it will take to engage a photographer to shoot a virtual tour for you.