Just last week Google announced one of their newest products, Google Buzz. Buzz leverages existing products but introduces all-new social functionality. Already Google has contributed to the social web with a number of other products, but Buzz marks an exciting new direction into social networking, despite being late to the game.
After only a week, reactions to Google Buzz have been mixed, and changes to the product are already underway as Google is addressing a number of concerns centering on privacy and security. But before we jump ahead, let’s look a little more closely at what exactly Google Buzz is all about.
What is Google Buzz?
Google Buzz is built right its Gmail, enabling anyone with a Gmail or Google Account to access Buzz. The benefit of this new social networking tool being built into Gmail is that users don’t have to add friends or search to see if their friends are already on Buzz. Instead, Buzz automatically follows the people you email and chat with the most. It’s integration with Gmail also easily enables quick sharing of content, such as photos, videos and links.
The official launch of Google Buzz was last Tuesday and it quickly rolled out across all Gmail accounts throughout the remainder of the last week. In addition to allowing users to easily share various types of content, Buzz also enables users to connect to other websites such as Picasa, Flickr, Google Reader, and Twitter, and bring content from these sites to the user’s followers all in one place on Buzz.
Thanks to its Gmail integration, Google Buzz also delivers updates to conversations, or responses to your posts, directly into your Gmail inbox. And, these updates are not the typical static email messages like those from other social networking sites. Instead, Buzz messages in your inbox are live conversations where comments appear in real time. Google Buzz is also available via mobile devices, so even if you’re constantly on the go, it’s always easy to share content.
Problems Surrounding Google Buzz
Google Buzz appeared to get a good start, and offered incredible functionality that made online conversion and content sharing relatively easy and convenient. But unfortunately, there were several flaws that quickly became apparent.
The first issue that concerned users was that once they opted into Google Buzz, there was no way to opt back out. In addition, Buzz automatically followed people that users emailed frequently, which is great for friends and family, but this feature also follows people that perhaps you wouldn’t want to follow, at least not publicly, such as clients and other relationships that users would otherwise need to keep private. Google also did not provide enough information on how to use Buzz, and failed to provide adequate documentation. Lastly, there was no easy and obvious way to modify user settings for Buzz.
While not every Buzz user had grievances, these inconveniences sparked outrage over the sloppy release of this product. Despite setbacks, Google has responded to complaints and concerns, and at the time of writing this post have already provided a number of major improvements.
Is Buzz Really a Facebook/Twitter Killer?
Some of the buzz surrounding Google Buzz is that it may become the social networking app of choice over Facebook, Twitter, and others. While the launch of Buzz had its fair share of hiccups, the folks at Google have been quick to respond to complaints and change their product. By acknowledging their mistakes and addressing concerns, Google is working hard to keep customers happy. Their lightening fast responsiveness also shows how committed they are to making this particular product a success.
Although Mashable claims Buzz has completely changed the game, after little more than a week in use it’s really anyone’s guess whether it will pose a threat to competing social media sites in terms of active users. However, users are already identifying unique opportunities to make Buzz a tool for productivity, research, and other uses.
Gmail will likely help make Buzz a competitive threat. With 38 million unique visits per month in the U.S. alone, Buzz is already larger than Twitter, but naturally still has yet to match Titter’s level of user engagement. Additionally, automotive Facebook marketing is becoming an important component to a dealer’s online marketing strategy, and Google Buzz isn’t expected to derail Facebook’s influence among consumers.
Web Strategy Matrix: Google Buzz vs Facebook vs MySpace vs Twitter
|One-Liner||A dark horse that has big backing and access to existing platforms.||A mainstay platform that needs to grow out of its shell.||The MTV of this generation is at risk during an ugly transformation.||Has opportunity to become utility-like infrastructure, but not a destination.|
|Vitals (see more stats)||Estimated to sit on a user based of over 100mm active gmail users, they have access to the most popular webpage in the world, google.com. Has access to mainstream users on Google.com and advanced email users on Gmail.||Boasting over 400mm users in just a few short years, they’ve saturated Gen Y in US, and show global expansion at record rates.||Recently reported at 57mm US unique users most of which are heavily engaged with site. Has saturation of coveted youth, working class and small businesses within US.||Although difficult to track, estimates indicate 75mm active users, but doubts are emerging about reduced rate of growth. Usage by tech savvy, media, and celebs.|
|Strengths||A large talent pool of engineers to pull from, Buzz stands on top of existing Gmail, mobile devices, and dominant search portal. As Buzz grows, they can integrate with all Google apps –and aggregate the entire internet.||Rapid US and international growth over last few years bodes well as quickly evolved feature set of platform and and FB Connect gain traction. Attracts top talent from Google –which are quickly defecting.||Big backing by a media giant, a super engaged audience, and rich history of reaching media starved young consumers.||Has clinched adoption over media elite, celebrities, and tech influencers. Incredible media buzz, and easy-to-use features.|
|Weaknesses||Late to the party, Google has had a series of social networking misfires from Wave, Dodgeball, Orkut their culture shows signs of becoming corporate –like Microsoft.||Struggles with the conundrum of having promised users a ‘closed’ experience where to be successful requires them to be ‘open’. Historically poor track record in meeting privacy expectations of customers, and overall complex interface.||Complacent: they really let themselves go. In the eyes of the tech world, they are becoming irrelevant or even worse, a niched media play –not even a lifestyle network. This leaderless ship without a captain is undergoing radical internal turmoil and innovation has stalled.||Although features are dead simple, they are now a commodity –status update features are ubiquitous. Mainstream users confused by how to get started. Overhyped, the infrastructure has shown strain. Brands generally confused on how to interact.|
|Opportunity||The more information users share, tag, or create, the more data is created on Google’s platform to organize, giving them opportunity to monetize.||By integrating Facebook Connect everywhere, the service becomes ubiquitous, and therefore the default identity and default address book for consumer behavior.||A few hours ago, the CEO Van Natta was let go. Now a new chief can step up, and lead the recently formed executive team, fostering innovation and solidarity.||Must develop more features to increase the overall value of this utility of the this simple status messaging tool.|
|Threats||Mainstay email companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL have already shown social features ‘bolted’ onto their email systems, and could pose threat, although success hasn’t been proven by any. Secondly, Facebook has made notions to develop an email web client “Project Titan” that will threaten tech savvy users competing for Gmail’s attention.||Facebook is a conundrum as they must make experience open –yet this provides Google the opportunity to monetize as an intermediary. Social networks come and go, before MySpace was Friendster, they run the risk of becoming complacent, losing talent to Twitter and failing to innovate over the next few years.||Self-implosion from internal instability causes stalls, forcing media brands to develop their own social networking on their own sites, rendering MySpace a duplicate. Worse yet? Cool kids jump ship, and establish a colony elsewhere, leaving MySpace a wasteland of clueless advertisers.||Overhype from media leaves Twitter at risk for burn-out-syndrome like a Hollywood child star turned skid row. Secondly, the more successful they are, the more strain it put on the already questionable infrastructure.|
|Marketing Platform||Although not fully developed, expect advertising options to appear for brands who want to promote relevant ads wherever Buzz is located, especially on SERP pages||Confusing and overly complicated, there are too many marketing options perplexing brands. It’s not clear if brands should advertise, interact in pages, create widgets or do a combination of all.||Strong and straight forward. Established team has cut deals with many media companies and has legacy culture of understanding media.||Nascent. Although promises have been made for branded experiences, analytics, and other premium features, for most marketers it’s being treated like a chat room –not a marketing platform.|
|Future State||Buzz will aggregate the voices of their users –and those of other social networks, aggregate and serve up monetization options.||A communications platform for consumers and brands. Expect Facebook experience to be in many public experiences and mobile devices.||There are two paths: Integrate MySpace into TV and mobile devices or fade into pit of irrelevance like Friendster.||Like gas, water, or power, Twitter is likely to fade into the background and become a utility that’s integrated into everything –someday, even your fridge will Tweet.|
|What They Don’t Want You To Know||The collective already owns you –you just don’t know it yet.||They’re trying so hard to shift from closed to open, and like a nasty divorce, it’s tearing them apart from users.||Like an internal disease, the insiders are hurting, morale sunk, teams in disarray, yet they don’t want the public to know.||Not sure what they want to be when they grow up.|
|What They Should Do||Demonstrate success with Buzz, then quickly integrate into other tools like Search and Chrome. Kill off the confusing Wave, and consolidate teams and efforts. Aggregate public content from Twitter and Facebook, intermediate them and monetize their own content.||Get open now. Build a browser to quickly go transcend the web. Reward users to share more information in public like restaurant or media reviews in exchange for other values. Double down efforts on Project Titan email feature.||Quickly establish a chain of command and execute based upon a single vision. Have regular talent turnover to avoid complacency. Develop a white label product that can compete with Cisco EOS, Kyte, Pluck, or Kickapps (Altimeter client).||Develop a vision to become the dominant protocol over SMS, where teens and international cultures are already heavily texting. Continue to build out platform for developers to build on top of, becoming a data play, like a utility.|
*Matrix courtesy of Jeremiah Owyang.
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