Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Why all the Buzz about Google Buzz?
Lately I've been spending the majority of my time helping leading brands develop social media marketing strategies. It's not easy to integrate all of these new channels with existing marketing programs, but best practices are emerging that I will discuss in a future post. Today I want to share my thoughts on a new entrant to the social media space, Google Buzz.
Buzz allows users to start conversations about the things they find interesting and to share updates, photos, videos and more with their friends or followers. If Google had an ad for this it might be "When 140 characters aren't enough," or "Yes Bill, this could enable enterprise collaboration."
I think there are three important things to note about this product launch:
1. Buzz poses a direct threat to Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft's Sharepoint as it offers many of the same features of the social networks and enterprise collaboration tool right in the Gmail inbox, where users already spend a huge chunk of time each day. Users are starting to fatigue from having to log into multiple social networks and Buzz addresses this by incorporating everything in one place. Google may only have 100mm active Gmail users today (Facebook is reported to have 400mm), but Buzz will be an excellent gateway drug to its suite of apps, will drive customer acquisition, and enable it to steal share from its competitors.
2. Buzz helps Google get a handle on the flood of real-time user-generated content that is the specialty of Facebook and Twitter and complements its newest acquisition of human driven social search service, Aardvark. Google already incorporates Twitter messages into its search results. Facebook has yet to embrace open standards and this limits its growth, but it recognizes that whatever is public will be indexed by Google and weaken their competitive position.
3. Buzz appears to put Google's corporate strategy, searching and organizing all the world's information and making it universally accessible, ahead of the user, and trouble could follow. Buzz did not launch with easy to use privacy features, doesn't have an open developer API, and is not closed from the public in the way Facebook is private. Buzz makes sharing information an "opt-out" feature with "auto follow" so that when someone starts using the service, it "just works." When you first access Google Buzz, it automatically sets you up with followers and people to follow and by default, the people you follow and the people that follow you are made public to anyone who looks at your profile. This is frightening for users like my friend who shared, "I have a very paranoid feeling that somehow my Gchats are now on display for the world to see." Facebook learned the importance of privacy when it launched its Beacon program. Beacon was shuttered after it sparked a lawsuit alleging privacy violations.
I'm sure Google is listening to all the buzz about Buzz, which is hard to miss in Google's real-time search results, and I hope they will respond to their loyal users in an authentic and transparent dialogue and not lose sight of their core principal, "Focus on the user and all else will follow."