Google Digital Garage

Can your business benefit?

The Google Digital Garage has finally opened it’s doors to the public in Manchester. Juke Media went along for a full day of learning to test it out… is it worth the wait?

 

Back in November of this year Google opened it’s Digital Garage in Manchester, the first of it’s kind in the region. For one year only, it will be open to the public and entirely free to visit, with free courses, 1:1 sessions and a multitude of opportunity for digital development.

While the sessions may be free, financially speaking, any small or medium business (SMB) owner will attest to the crucial importance and value of their time, and of course these sessions are a drain on that most precious of resources. So is it worth it? 

 

What even is Google Digital Garage?

If you don’t know anything about Google Digital Garage, here is a quick rundown:

The scheme has two distinct facets:

  • Firstly, a web-based tutorial service in which a series of 26 online “courses” can be taken on the road to gaining a “Digital Garage Certificate of Online Proficiency”, as Google so humbly refers to it. These courses range in content from how to devise Social Media plans and strategies, to building your online reach internationally.

Secondly, a physical area in select cities across the UK and abroad, in which these online courses are adapted, built and expanded upon to provide that extra insight for business owners willing to leave the comfort of their office. These are taught in the real world – yes, really. The non-online section of this planet.

The scheme is completely free. That’s right. Not a single penny spent. That’s quite an attraction for many, if not all, SMB’s  – there are hundred’s of courses both on- and off-line that offer similar learning experiences as the Digital Garage and some of them cost hundreds of pounds. I mean, by Google’s own estimation, these courses will sculpt anyone into a “digital expert.” 

That sounds too good to be true… doesn’t it? 

You’d think so, wouldn’t you? The idea that Google just wants to give away all of this knowledge and insights for free, without anything in return, does prick up the proverbial ear of cynicism. Of course, they are getting something in return – make no mistake, this is a highly marketable promotion for the search engine; a PR and brand awareness opportunity for the already ubiquitous Google mega-brand.

Personally though, this seems like an extremely expensive and labour intensive exercise in marketing. There must be something more at play…

Maybe, Google actually just wants to help…?

Could it be… Google actually just wants to help SMBs in Manchester, and the UK as a whole? Google says themselves that the goal of this experiment is to help over 100,000 people in the UK find a job or grow their business. The idea of a conglomerate as huge and, almost unquantifiably, powerful as Google, genuinely wanting to help out the little guy goes against every major sci-fi or dystopian blockbuster of the past 50 years.

BUT, I think it may be true. 

So, what actually happens at the Google Digital Garage? 

The physical area is the aspect of Google Digital Garage that was most intriguing to us at Juke. Digital strategy is something that generally lends itself to being taught, you know.. digitally. Or does it? Maybe that’s what we have just grown to think is the case – after all, when you think of your best teacher from your childhood, you don’t think of BBC Bitesize, do you?

Basically the structure of the Garage is as such;

  • 1. Free group sessions on a variety of topics, taught by one or two Google “Coaches.”
  • 2.One to One sessions with a Google Coach, that focus on specific aspects of your businesses online presence.

Our experience at the Google Digital Garage. 

10:20am: Juke arrives at the Google Digital Garage. 

The first thing we notice when we walk in is how on-brand everything is within the Garage. The Google colours are everywhere and the whole place feels very slick, yet child-like, as if we are sitting in a very edgy children’s nursery school.

The staff are all very friendly and there’s a piano which allows you to press keys and have different visualisations of Manchester appear on a screen in front of you. What more could you want?

 

10:30 am: Course number 1 – Digital Marketing Plan. 

OK, so time for our first course; a 90 minute session on how to develop and implement a digital marketing plan. Obviously this is critical for any business, and we were excited to see what we could gain from the course.

This one was run by two guys who formed an, I’m sure, unintentional comedy double act. They bounced off each other and provided a very relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Now this was fine and fun to begin with, but when it began to feel like they were contradicting each other in their humour it did cause some concern; not only do we not know who is the legitimate source of information, but does this mean that neither have a huge deal of knowledge on the subject they are presenting? Unfortunately, It also did often feel like they hadn’t even read the slides before the presentation.

We came away feeling as if what we had been taught could have quite easily been condensed into about 30 minutes, and while the coaches were both very friendly and well-meaning, we think the course as a whole could do with a bit of refining.

12:30 pm: Course number 2 – Writing for Social Media. 

Next on to the writing for Social Media course. This one was taken by a young woman named Kirstie Kavlar who, it was instantly apparent, had a great energy and enthusiasm for what she was doing. The course itself was very informative and prompted some lively discussion between the attendees which was welcome after the near-silence of the previous session.

Particular highlights were its focus on specific writing tips that even the most well-versed in social media could do with learning. Just because you use social media a lot, doesn’t mean you use it to its maximum effect, and this course could definitely help you get closer.

 

14:30 pm: Course number 3 – Social Media Strategy. 

Kirstie took the next course too, on Social Media Strategy. Again, she was great and the course was very useful. It delved into the analytical side of social media, and how that can be harnessed as a very powerful tool for your business or brand.

Admittedly, I think this course should be programmed before the Writing for Social Media course, as it most certainly would have flown better that way… but that is a minor gripe.

16:00 pm: Course number 4 – Answer questions with data. 

Our final course for the day was with the same two guys from earlier in the morning. They seemed a lot more knowledgable on this subject and we gained a lot from it. It does crossover with the Social Media Strategy course and is fairly simple in its approach, but overall we gained some valuable insights and useful tips and tricks. 

What’s the best thing about Google Digital Garage?

The best part about the the physical Garage location though: there are no limits to how many times you can attend it within the year that it is present. That means, that you are free to go for a weekly 1:1 session with the same Google Coach and receive tailored advice for your business week in, week out. For free.

Now that is really quite a big deal. Think about it. Tailored advice from a Google Coach every week for free.

Sign us up!

What’s the worst thing about Google Digital Garage?

The Google Digital Garage is clearly an attempt to give a lot of different digital information to a lot of different types of businesses and brands. This inevitably leads the teaching to become fairly generalised, and ultimately straightforward.

I don’t think it’s fair to categorise this as negative, per se, as we think the Garage’s attempt to provide information to such a wide range of businesses and brands in such vastly different stages of digital development is certainly commendable, and well intentioned. All we would say would be that if you’re at stage where you could objectively class yourself as intermediate level at any of the skills being taught, it may not be entirely worth your time to attend that particular course.

Final thoughts. 

The Google Digital Garage is almost certainly going to be at least somewhat useful to any SMB. The degree of its use entirely depends on the skillset, previous knowledge and specific needs of the business. However the prospect of free weekly 1:1 sessions just seems too good to pass up.

Juke x

 

The Google Digital Garage is open on King Street until November 2018. 

 

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