Learning, and Trying to Love, Google Buzz

A Spirited Debate Over Google's Latest Foray Into Social Networking

By Published on .

David Berkowitz
David Berkowitz

Google Buzz, the company's latest foray into social media, is another expression of Google's multiple personality disorder. Just what is it trying to be this time? Google Buzz lets users pull in feeds from blogs, photo and video sites, and Twitter, and then create conversations around them. Users can share multimedia, links or maps, and all buzz can be geo-tagged. It's even designed to work with speech recognition from mobile devices.

Google has a mixed track record with social, flubbing acquisitions like Jaiku and Dodgeball but making great use of YouTube and Blogger. Its homegrown services are also a mixed bag, as collaboration works great in Google Docs but awkwardly in Google Wave, while Google Friend Connect has reach but more in a long-tail way.

I'm not sure as of this moment whether Google Buzz will soar or stumble. I keep having these "Jekyll and Hyde"-type moments while diving into Google Buzz, alternatively praising and cursing it. Eventually, good Google or bad Google will win me over; until then, some impressions, and a window into my own personal debate over Google Buzz:

Hyde: It feels just like Google Wave, one of the more disappointing of Google's product launches. It had so much promise and became irrelevant so quickly. I don't want to get duped again, so this has to be a dud.

Jekyll: It's nothing like Wave. One of the biggest problems Wave had was that it wasn't integrated with anything. The whole point of Buzz is the integration -- it appears in Gmail; you can read and respond to updates from any Gmail client; and it integrates a number of social media services.

Hyde: It does nothing for marketers, except to provide more impressions for those sponsored links that run in Gmail.

Jekyll: Wrong again, as marketers participating in social channels such as Twitter, Flickr and YouTube can find their content and messages spreading even further as more people use Buzz.

Hyde: There's no Facebook integration. What, they don't like Facebook's Microsoft partnership?

Jekyll: But there is Flickr, owned by Yahoo, and a direct competitor to Picasa. Kudos to Google for incorporating that.

Hyde: I couldn't get the voice search to work from my Droid.

Jekyll: Do you even see what you're writing? Come on! They not only launched this integrated Gmail plugin that will only take a few days to fully roll out, but they simultaneously integrated it with mobile devices, including mobile apps on Android devices and others. And all of this happened for a service people had no idea about until a few days ago.

Hyde: But when I'm on my mobile device, I just want to see where I'm going, not reading all these updates around that saying "buzzing" and "test."

Jekyll: Those are just the Buzz updates today, the day it launched. They'll be more useful and relevant in time.

Hyde: Oh, because people on Twitter really stopped tweeting that they're drinking coffee. Aha.

Jekyll: Fine, you're right; it needs some kind of relevancy algorithm to determine what kind of buzz matters the most and highlight that. But if anyone's going to nail algorithms for relevance, it's going to happen out of Mountain View.

Hyde: You're right. Let's see what they do with it. Now let's go grab a cup of coffee and Buzz what we're doing and where we're doing it from.

David Berkowitz is director of emerging media for 360i. He blogs regularly at Inside the Marketer's Studio and 360i's Digital Connections. He also contributed to the just-released Social Marketing Playbook.
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