Facebook, Google Plus Brace for a Visual-Mobile Future

Nipping at the heels of social networking giants Facebook and Google Plus is a new generation of social services that cater to niche audiences with visual appeal and mobility at their core.

Doubting the existence of this visual wave of the future? Let’s not forget about the unyielding Pinterest buzz within the blogosphere, Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram, or recent data showing that on Google Plus, photos drive over twice as much engagement as any other content type.

And it looks like Facebook and Google Plus are preparing to ride that visual-meets-mobile wave. In the past several days, the two social networks released updated versions of their mobile apps that focus on developing a visual-friendly experience that feels like it was built just for mobile devices.

Google Plus Mobile Updates

“To be clear,” Google Plus said in the update announcement on their blog, “we’re not interested in a mobile or social experience that’s just smaller.” Instead, it’s about reimagining the service for mobile, taking advantage of the features that are unique to mobile devices.

The old version of Google Plus iPhone app was functional, but nothing remarkable in a visual sense. Now that white space has all but disappeared, revealing a restyled stream that emphasizes cover photos and content-based images. The updated version of the Android app is said to be coming soon with a few added perks.

Google Plus         Google Plus

Facebook Mobile Updates

Last week Zuckerberg told potential investors that mobile is the platform’s top priority, and Facebook wasted no time making good on that promise, releasing an updated app for iPhone, Android and the mobile browser on Monday. The changes revolve around imagery, including a larger single photo design and a new photo album layout. According to the network’s announcement, “now photos are up to 3x larger, and all posts will fill your mobile screen from edge to edge.”

Facebook mobile        Facebook mobile

What do you think – should social networks really be throwing their resources at aesthetics? Are visual and mobile elements a sensible priority for 2012, or are these social behemoths missing the mark?