Virtual Tours in a COVID 2022
Safely Stand Out with Your 360 Photos
To comply with the different 2022 COVID orders, more businesses and organizations have been hosting virtual tours. Whether it’s a Google or custom tour, it’s to share your place with customers to tour with these 360 photo spheres, and from the safety of their device.
Do you have a recent virtual tour? If so, do you showcase safety features that you have for your customers, patients, or students? It’s pretty accepted that we’re in a new world with more safety precautions whether it winds up being continued distancing and sanitizing, or more. Here are some 2022 tips for your virtual tours, both in general and more specific to safety.
Safely staging your front door and main area is the starting point
This is often your virtual tour starting point. Just like a residential home, this clean area is what gives a first impression to the customer. Even if it’s just dusting and light cleaning, these virtual tours and 360 photos should be as close to an in-person tour as possible and the first impression of your business front door is so valuable.
Above is the entrance to an upper-end quartz countertop gallery. Below, this flower bouquet was staged up front just for the virtual tour. This small effort alone helps make the gallery more welcoming once viewers enter the front door.
Showcase your call-to-action features
More so with the custom virtual tours, but you can showcase your calls-to-action in Google tours, too. Google is just way more limited.
For both, it’s generally a good idea to have each photo sphere, or scene, point in the same or similar direction (the above examples are South). This is done to help ensure ease-of-use for the many customers who just navigate by the arrows, while still having the opportunity to swipe to different directions.
In this case, a dental office has a newer, modern 3d x-ray machine that they wanted to call out so we turned the machine slightly and added an infospot (hotspot) to explain the machine.
They take COVID seriously and we decided to showcase a couple safety protocols for their patients including a plexiglass panel up front along with hand sanitizers to build trust.
Showcase your exterior 360 photos
This is incredibly important and serves two major purposes:
- To show your building and features to let users become familiar with the look
- To show roads, street signs, address, and any landmark to not only let users know exactly where you are, but for them to automatically know how they will get there.
We have a lot of experience in both of these and know how to make it tick. People want convenience and easy answers and this is a great way to provide both.
This customer wanted to showcase the building address and parking lot from the neighboring road.
Many of their patients also enter the area from the back end so we focused this 360 photo on the street sign.
Highlight pristine outdoor views
If you’re in an attractive area, let’s do everything we can to showcase it like a dental clinic virtual tour I did. It can provide both implied prestige to the customer and even convince them to safely enjoy the area during their visit literally right outside by walking the promenade at Edina’s Centennial Lake. Side note, if you ice skate, this lake is a big, local skating destination in the winter.
As well, the same clinic offers a free or discounted coffee for their customers at Ambrosia Coffee on the main floor. We decided to use a couple 360 photos that show open space to compel users. Customers can even safely enjoy their coffee while walking around the lake area.
And the exterior with a couple tables safely apart.
Stills and Tiny Planet photos
It’s important to have these, at the least just to have on hand. You can add stills to your Google Business Profile at any time which helps keep it updated with very little time. I use Google Photos and everything is very user-friendly and organized, for me anyway. There are plenty of other options as well.
I do love Tiny Planet photos just for the wow and cool factor. It’s not necessarily going to make a direct impact on sales or new customers, but they indirectly could, especially depending on your industry. These often bring personality to your group and can give users a trusting feel for you, especially if you use people or even staff in these photos.
This photo below turned out effective, and these all can easily be included with virtual tours. They’re actually great for Google Posts and Instagram and should only grow in popularity in 2022.
By taking just a little time before your virtual tour, you can have your place staged to your liking. Having a 2022 safety strategy for virtual tours still during COVID for your custom or Google tour is even better! It can be just these little things that can turn a casual browser to a customer at your location.
Feel free to comment on Twitter!
Between Google My Business (GMB) and the new Google Images format, there are some opportunities. Some are from you, and some are just from being you.
There’s a difference between Google Images and your Google My Business (GMB) photos
For this read, It’s important to know though that Google Images and photos you take for Google My Business (GMB) are different. For users to see Google Images, for the most part they need to click on the image tab or images within the main search results. You can link to them though, including specific images. You just don’t get the SEO benefits.
From Google’s post titled Pick an idea and make it happen with Google Images:
Starting today (Aug 9th 2019), when you select an image, it appears in a side panel on the page, next to the search results. Importantly, it stays there as you scroll, letting you easily compare images with others on the page.
For retailers and publishers, this updated interface also means people are more likely to visit a web page to get information to help them with a task, or to buy a product on your site.Google, The Keyword – Aug 6th 2019
I absolutely love the 1st point! I haven’t seen the 2nd as much, mostly because I’m in local lead generation and awareness, and only a bit in e-commerce.
Local examples of Google Images
McKinney Roe is in the growing Downtown East neighborhood in Minneapolis. Google mages include photos from the own site, Yelp, the Strib, City Pages, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, Heavy Table, and many more. They all collectively provide compelling images to their offerings.
45th Parallel Distillery is an established craft distillery in New Richmond, WI. They naturally have Google images from their own site, Yelp, Heavy Table, and TripAdvisor. They also have local and niche images from City Pages, WCCO, Pioneer Press, and even CNN. The main image selected is a photo of Gamle Ode Aquavit news from The Growler.
A year ago August, Samatar Crossing opened, connecting the Minneapolis Cedar/Riverside neighborhood to Downtown East by U.S. Bank Stadium with a new multi-cultural connection including an ever-growing number of Google Images.
How Do I Link to these Image Pages?
This may be important for marketers and SEO professionals. These image result links are all dynamic, so it doesn’t help your SEO efforts. It doesn’t hinder it, either. Using a URL shortener like Bit.ly can at least help you measure the overall performance. The image links above are indeed Bit.ly shortened dynamic URLs.
This is just one way to shorten these dynamic URLs. I’d love to hear others that work well for you! Also, the new Google Images format is just a couple weeks old, and is in a different category from the GMB photos that you take. Have you used it to your advantage?
Creating Your GMB
Creating a Google My Business profile has long been well-known as a local search must, even before your own website and for good reasons. Do a branded search for your local business, and chances are there’s a big knowledge box result for you whether you claimed, or verified it or not. You can create or edit your own. It’s easy and awesome.
Your Google My Business (GMB) profile is now often considered the home page for your local business. It makes sense. It’s highly visible, includes a link to your website, appointments or bookings, your own customized photos, including 360° photos, managing ratings and reviews, POSTS, and a lot more, actually.
Google Photos and Maps Photography
Organizing photos in Google Photos is a great starting point after claiming your business. They make it easy for you to edit your photos to your preference, and place them on your GMB profile.
You can title each album for your own organization, describe each picture, and automatically have your deets stored in exact location taken, camera used, date and time, and even exact size. Photo proof of your own!
Eventually, when you need photos for your GMB presence, you can be comforted at looking at your photos account like a switchboard. Look at an album, select a photo, use them as your profile, cover, logo, and POSTS.
We consider Maps Photography as quality photos with the intent to drive customers to your door. Include photos of your address, cross street signs and exterior 360° photos can imply and provide customers visual directions to you. Directions is arguably what the majority of customers are seeking.
360° Photo: Sign of the Mayo Clinic Gonda Building, reflection of downtown Rochester, move to view Methodist Hospital, the Kahler Grand and 2nd Ave SW.
After awhile, you’ll see that you’ll have enough real digital photos to use, without having to pay for fake stock photos. You know the ones. They’re attractive, with a smiling person pointing to a graph that goes up. Seriously, they’re horrible! An exception goes to Vince Vaughn and Dave Franco courtesy of @Buzz60 a few years ago, but I digress.
These photos can easily be done with a few photo and editing tactics. You could include your own staff, being serious, or being cleverly comedic like above by including a local celebrity. I’ve never met The Fancy Ray, but I’m a fan and love his local commercials and outdoor billboards. I’d love to see him in local stock photos like this. Again, I digress.
With a Street View app, (preferably along with a compatible 360° camera), you can create these photos publicly as long as Google accepts them to Maps. These are stored within your Street View app. Plus they can appear on your Google My Business profile, as well as providing an short, embedded code for you to include to media, social profiles, and content marketing strategies such as your blog.
Back to your Google Photos and albums. You can easily edit any photo on mobile or desktop. Often, it can just be by selecting Auto to bring the photo to life a bit like this one at On-Demand Group. There are plenty of other edits that make your photos pop, and auto is just one of the more popular ones.
We hope this helps your local business or organization. Happy Maps Photography to you all. Skål!
One thing I look forward to when going to Open Streets events is to look at local businesses and community involvement along the routes. Open Streets Minneapolis – Nicollet is amongst my favorite. On a single lane street that’s usually too dangerous for drivers to view anything other than the road, these local businesses are often overlooked. It’s encouraging to see them all on foot, especially if they have an event presence in front of their storefront.
I’ve been to the St. Paul Selby Revival a few times but not the one in Minneapolis. It’s right on the Open Streets Nicollet route and they engaged with the community by having different bands play throughout the day. I believe that the Minneapolis Revival chicken and waffles are available everyday and not just Sunday, but maybe someone could confirm or deny in the comments. Transit is a good way to get here, too. The 11 and 18 Metro Transit buses take you right here along with the Nicollet and Blaisdell Ave bike lanes that cover the jaunt.
Curran’s Family Restaurant has been a comfort food staple for decades and is right on the route. Like Revival, the 11 Metro Transit bus and Nicollet and Blaisdell bike lanes take you right there. There’s a parking lot as well for drivers. They have what’s known as the tastiest Monte Cristo. They could’ve displayed for free in their own parking lot, but paid for the honor to be on the street in front of their own restaurant. I’m not a fan of this charge.
However, they were selling cookies and beer on the street and were kind enough to let me take a quick photo of them. They even offered to let my phone juice up with one of their chargers, but I digress.
Nicollet Hardware on Nicollet is a welcoming community store and community presence for the Nicollet Open Streets. Also, the most Minnesotan Google review and response you may find this week.
Here’s a visual example of using their space as part of the Open Streets Community.
The patio at Pat’s Tap is welcoming for events like Open Streets, general people watching, of course their food, and the day of the event, Lagunitas specials. Like other Nicollet Ave businesses, it’s really easy to get to by transit, foot, or bike lanes.
I’m always interested in learning how a few things tick, especially when it comes to bringing neighborhoods together in all four seasons. The Samatar Crossing post comes to mind as I’ve now used it a few times for either walking transportation or to see a soccer match at Currie Field.
The Art in Public Places group were kind enough to show me the plan for the Green Crescent project and greenspace between Lake Street and the Midtown Greenway, just off the new-to-be Lake Street Transit Center. Just like the Samatar Crossing, they would be looking for public artists to help make it engaging through the greenspace. Open Streets is one way they’re getting the word out.
Little did I know, most benches in the city are from US Bench. For revenue, they sell advertisements highly visible on the bench itself for transit users. I guess this isn’t new, but didn’t know that one company provided most of these. According to one esteemed councilperson, they the Clear Channel billboards of benches and can possibly be used this winter to help build awareness for the Our Streets Winter Sidewalk Maintenance study and initiative.
There’s always something special about taking a day to dedicate a city street to those to walk, bike, roll, stroll, eat, drink, and play. It’s all about the community, especially those with 4 legs. Often, the popular question, “can I bring my dog (or pet)” to Open Streets?”. Of course you can, they don’t worry about traffic, road diets, or infrastructure, and they’re cute, dangit.
Music bonds people together. It makes sense that multiple musicians are always lined up. Pick your genre and you’ll mostly find it right on a street corner or a makeshift stage. Hot Pink Hangover played a a few acoustical sets on the NW corner of Nicollet and 35th.
Sgt. Danny was cool enough to show me his cajon box drum along with his foot tambourine.
These guys played right by the Driftwood Char Bar on the 44th block of Nicollet. They put on a great show including the accordion player/singer swinging his accordion like a flying-V guitar at times.
Roadrunner Records always has some kind of outside presence. The last time I was here, they were selling vintage albums. This band outside was really catchy. I didn’t catch their name, but if you know please let us know in the comments!
Community Engagement (fun!)
Where else can you close off a main street and play life-sized Jenga on the side?
And there’s bike polo right on Nicollet. Better than car traffic.
Our friends Beth and Tim helping people out at the Streets.mn booth.
Of course, there were plenty of runners enjoying the event’s Run for Beer 5K-ish.
If you’re interested in sponsoring, getting a spot or volunteering for the upcoming Open Streets University of Minnesota + Motley Open Streets, you certainly can. I look forward to attending the event as I’ve never been to one at this location.
More photos were originally taken for this post. If you like, there’s a shared Google Photos album for you to see as you please!
Article originally posted on Streets.mn
LocalMN Interactive provides content marketing marketing and local search services to the Twin Cities area communities.
The Twin Cities, some people call it, as well as “The Cities” to Minnesotans out of the metro area. Mill City, City of Lakes in Minneapolis, and Hockeytown in St. Paul are others. Each nickname holds its own merit, we’ll visit some of these in this piece as well as numerous other places to enjoy during your stay in Minneapolis/St. Paul. There are just so many local places to see with a story to tell and many of them are free or low cost.
You’ll most likely fly into the MSP International Airport. Fly into Terminal 2. Sun Country, our “hometown” airline flies in and out of there, and it’s a much smaller terminal so the lines are shorter resulting in less time spent at the airport.
There are different options for leaving the airport including shuttles, car rentals, car-sharing companies like Uber or Lyft, buses that leave Terminal 1 or a favorite, Light Rail Transit (LRT). For convenience, the Light Rail is free of charge between the 2 terminals and they run as often as every 10 minutes.
The Light Rail is also the easiest option to get to both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, although there’s no direct line to St. Paul and it will take longer. As in 90 minutes. Then, it’s all the better as you can often connect to wi-fi signals while riding. Either way, you can take the Blue Line all the way to Downtown Minneapolis or switch trains at the U.S. Bank Stadium station to catch the Green Line into St. Paul.
Mill City District
In Minneapolis, Mill City is an unofficial district nestled against the Mississippi River. While there, consider taking in your favorite ice cream treat at the local Izzy’s and a walk up or down West River Parkway. The lights are pretty, the people are engaging and the bridges are a work of art.
The Parkway area is an urban planner’s dream. A street with a slow speed limit, separate walking plus biking paths, public art and precise landscaping make this both beautiful and functional. When walking around this neighborhood, it’s hard not to say hello, engage in short conversation or wave. It’s a Minnesota thing to do. And of course my new friend wanted to give me a smile and peace sign.
You’ll find captivating streets throughout the whole Twin Cities area, perhaps none more present than one you can’t drive on. “The Nicollet” up until November 2017 was called Nicollet Mall. After a 3-year reconstruction project and rebranding exercise, the city changed the name. It’s beautiful, modern and worth the walk up and down to have food and drink, shop, or see areas of interest.
Toward the South end of The Nicollet lies The Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant. The Dakota has been a really well-known and respected fine dining and jazz club since 1985. It’s somewhat of a secret to even locals, but Prince used to sneak in a back door and move around at his own free will and just enjoy the music on stage.
Take a selfie with the Mary Tyler Moore statue on 7th and Nicollet. Yep, even the locals do it. It’s back at its prime location.
A must is to head off The Nicollet a couple blocks to First Avenue and see Prince’s star. He’s a local hero, put Minneapolis on the map musically, and the set and settings of the movie Purple Rain was at this venue. It’s humbling to look at his star and just think. Think as if nothing around matters. Just think.
A 360 view of the venue:
A true, local and engaging neighborhood is the Northeast (Nordeast) Minneapolis Arts District. You can find all you need right on or off 13th Ave NE. Pick your place:
- Dangerous Man Brewing Company – A craft brewery in a customary neighborhood is a total Minnesotan thing to have. Their story is compelling and their beards are out to get you.
- Northeast Social – Continental cuisine and exceptional mixologists. Tip: Have the mixologist create something with dill aquavit. It’s a Scandinavian and Minnesotan treat and your palate will leave happy. Last July, I couldn’t help but head to Twitter to mention a delicious scallops appetizer.
- 331 Club – Divey, vintage club with live music 7 days a week. Favorite Google Review quote: “To our amazement, it was the best nerd party we had ever seen and had to quickly join.”
- Bunny’s Bar & Grill NE – Nestled by the Mississippi River, it’s a newer sports bar. Tip: The Walleye Fingers is a total Minnesotan thing to try. While you’re there, take a few steps to Sheridan Memorial park, take a selfie by the metal orb and share for social proof. The park itself is on a trail with great neighborhood views of the Mississippi.
- Gumball Boutique – A hidden gem, Gumball is a cozy consignment shop with locally-made everything.
Cathedral Hill, St. Paul
Across the river sits St. Paul, a trip worthy all in its own. After all, it is called the most livable city in America. If you go to the Cathedral Hill neighborhood and take a James.J. Hill House tour, you’ll know more area history than many locals. The family were railroad pioneers, or “empire builders”, responsible for the majority of railroad that went out to the West coast. A couple fun facts are that the Hill family were very similar to the Rockefellers with one exception. The Hill family didn’t put their name on stuff. The second? The house is built on the top of Cathedral Hill. Guests would enter in the front, and leave in the back which is twice as large looking down the hill to leave guests with one, lasting, prestigious memory.
While on the hill, walk down Summit Ave. You’ll pass the Governor’s mansion as well as hundreds of other homes that are considered Victorian mansions. You’ll see regular folks working on their lawn or shoveling their driveway in the winter. Give ‘em a friendly wave and they’ll always wave back. It’s just a Minnesota thing to do. We joke about being called “Minnesota Nice”, but it’s true. We are.
People here are born with skates on, and of course there is the Wild. In addition to professional hockey games, they do have organized scrimmages for adults. There’s not much better of a feeling than playing hockey on that big sheet of ice, albeit in front of about 12 fans making up of spouses and children.
Now, think hockey meets obstacle course meets skiing and you have Crashed Ice. They have a professional course every year that starts on Cathedral Hill and ends down the hill towards downtown. Literally the best in the world qualify to compete in this event with over 100,000 celebrated fans in attendance lining the course. It’s exciting, thrilling and admittedly impossible to get home as everyone leaves at once.
Here’s what it looked like a week before the event after a rainfall. Yep, the temp did drop in time.
And during the event.
Around the Capital City
- Go to St. Thomas and catch a Div. III football game at O’Shaughnessy Stadium in the perfect environment and cheer amongst the most loyal of fans.
- Catch a Juicy Lucy at The Nook. Everything about this place is Minnesotan, including the burger with cheese oozing out from the inside.
- The Minnesota State Fair. Technically, Falcon Heights. It only happens once a year, but if you’re here during that time, just go. Go and naturally create your own wonderful story to tell. My favorite treat? Snowii Shaved Ice. It’s Minnesota-based, and it’s sweaty-hot in August.
Getting Around the TC
Take a Nice Ride bicycle. The Twin Cities is one of the most friendly bicycle cities in the U.S. Take a bike for an hour or a day at one of over 200 local stations. Here’s a station full of bikes on St. Anthony Main.
On your way back to the airport, hop off the Bloomington Central Light Rail stationand take the walkway to Urbana Craeft Kitchen and Market, inside the Hyatt Regency. Ask for Nick the Bartender and have him serve you up a locally-sourced bison burger, house-made chips and a local, craft beer.
That’s a perfect end, and you’ll now leave happy. Wave as you leave and thanks from the Twin Cities for sharing your experience with us!
Google Photos can be used best when thinking as a user. You can use it on its own, for Google products such as Maps, or an organizer to distribute your photos to Apple Maps, other local portals or social sites such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
And, you can use all of this solely for SEO reasons. Please don’t.
As mentioned in the video, it can take awhile to set up and customized to your liking or needs. An organized Google Photos account can be like a switchboard. Once it’s ready and you need a photo, you can pretty much pick it, then title, describe, tag it and place where you need it.
LocalMN Interactive provides years of local search experience, including Google Trusted Street View Photography. Ask for a quote for a website redesign, marketing and photography services through our contact page, phone or your social media portal of your choice.
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