Google March 2 has added the ability for Google Maps users to post ratings and reviews written in Hotpot on Google Places to Twitter from their Android smartphones.
For example, a user rating their dinner at a restaurant or coffee and bagel at a local coffee shop can tweet their review to Twitter. Previously, users could only share Hotpot recommendations on the Hotpot Website, Place pages and Google.com.
While this appears to be a small sharing gesture, it has broader implications. Google is trying to generate more use of its Hotpot local recommendation engine, which relies on heavy use to become more relevant to users.
By adding Twitter to its sharing options, it is hoping to help its users reach any of the almost 200 million Twitter users. Twitter is also a place where a lot of small businesses advertise, so when Hotpot users tweets their reviews, it can be considered free advertising for users.
This is bound to engender good will among users and businesses alike, provided the reviews are positive.
After using the rating widget on Google Places, users will choose to "Post review" to Twitter and connect their Twitter account. Users will get a preview of their tweet and can then post ratings and reviews.
Google made another small change to its new Google Latitude check-in service. Now Latitude users who see Latitude friends nearby on a map can ask them where they are by "pinging" them instead of texting or calling.
Those friends will received an Android notification asking them to check in at a place. When those users check in, the person who invited them will get a notification back so they know which place to meet up with them.
This new feature makes it much easier for friends to connect without having to take some overt communications action such as calling or texting.
See Google's screenshots of the changes here, or to try the new features, download Google Maps 5.2 from Android Market.