Google’s Buzz Toward Social Integration

February 12th, 2010 |

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Jeff Louis is a strategic media planner, brand project manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. He's intrigued by innovation overcoming adversity, survival of the fittest brand, history, reading, and similar fun stuff. He writes for sites and is the Public Relations and Advertising writer for the Chicago Examiner.

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Google’s latest foray into social media arose the day before yesterday with their announcement of Google Buzz, a feature that tacks right onto a GMail user’s inbox. It’s Google’s belief that organizing social information on the web, or “finding relevance in the noise” is a huge problem. So they decided to do something about it with the introduction of Buzz. A social media sharing service, Buzz integrates with your blogs, photo sharing platforms, Twitter, YouTube, and other sharing sites.

Microsoft and Yahoo then released announcements that they offered similar services years ago, notably Microsoft’s Windows Live service and Yahoo Profiles. So there, Google.

Google Buzz is found in your Gmail account, and automatically follows those you follow the most. However, if you are only using Gmail as a tool to sign into AdWords or AdSense, like I am, then you don’t have many Gmail connections. Not to worry.  Google will suggest new friends for you, plus you can interact with Twitter on Google Buzz.

To be quite honest, another social media tool to organize my existing social media tools isn’t such a great thing. I can’t keep up with the flood of information hitting me right now. How will Google Buzz make my life different, or more organized? It won’t. Relevance is subjective, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found something “relevant” and wanted to get the news out to the social stratosphere only to find my excitement waning as time passed. After all, there is a point where the number of social tools I use will eclipse the time I need for truly relevant affairs…such as work.

Google Buzz is similar to Facebook and Twitter in that it’s mainly a sharing service where photos, links, and updates can be posted. Your “likes” will be posted, as well as posts from your blogs if you decide to set it up in that manner. You can comment on other’s postings as well in a very Twitter-like fashion.

One major difference that Google has instituted that may help, or hurt, the success of Google Buzz is that it uses algorithms to analyze your preferences, likes, dislikes, etc. Google Buzz will then recommend various “conversations” based on this data.  As the Christian Science Monitor quipped, this may “not be so helpful if your friends are, say, planning a surprise party for you.”

As with any social media tool, privacy is of concern, and with all of your activity being analyzed by an algorithm, the implications of letting everyone on earth know something about you that you were keeping private is disconcerting. Google says Buzz aims for simplicity, with each post having its own privacy controls so as to enable certain people to see certain things. You can also block someone from following you, plus the privacy preferences are sticky and Google Buzz remembers the last settings used.

Google is working to keep things open and relevant, and Google Buzz will email you if someone comments on your writing, if you comment and others continue the conversation, or if a tweet addresses you (@jlo0312). You will also receive recommendations from Google based on your preferences. While Google’s intent to keep things relevant and open is noble, I don’t need more email…in fact, I’ve been striving in the opposite direction.  I have my Gmail set up as a POP to my main email address, and Google Buzz will email me so I don’t miss out on relevant topics. Thus, my email’s inbox will be inundated with relevancy, defeating my constant battle to keep my inbox somewhat organized for other purposes, like work. Digg’s founder Kevin Rose stated that this is his biggest complaint: “Why do I need new Buzzes in my inbox?”, referring to the inability to stop Buzzes from lighting up his inbox. “When Buzz starts feeling like a task (email), that bothers me.”

I wholeheartedly agree.

The auto-follow feature is confusing as well. Just because you email someone a few times doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to pal up with them on your social network…hell, you could have been complaining about something. Contact automatically doesn’t equal friendship or relevancy.

Despite the negatives, Google Buzz has some cool features. The location-based features for mobile are definitely a plus, and non-Twitterers seem to like the fact that expression is more than 140 characters. As Google has done with the majority of their applications, they have opened the code in hopes that others will build upon the Google Buzz platform, with open source developers building tools for Google Buzz much like TweetDeck for Twitter. As to its success or failure, that will be something that’s determined over time. Despite Google’s many attempts to integrate a social platform, none have really gained a foothold in the social media realm.

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Jeff Louis