So has Google finally figured out social media?

Social Media Buzz with Google Buzz

On the 9th February, Google officially launched Buzz for Gmail. On that day Todd Jackson, product manager for Gmail and Buzz at Google, defined Buzz as ‘an entire new world within Gmail’. He continued by describing it’s five key features:

  1. Auto-following
  2. Rich, fast sharing experience
  3. Public and private sharing
  4. Inbox integration
  5. Just the good stuff

Buzz may be Google finally realising that they could possibly change social media as a tool – and as an industry, as they have previously done with so many other tools.

What does it all mean for Social Media?

With Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the plethora of failed social networking sites – is there space in the market for yet another one? – Do we really need this..?

To Facebook, Google Buzz is a threat. With many of its features emulating Friendfeed and the recently re-designed Facebook newsfeed, there exists endless possibilities for Google to jump on the coat tails of its success: In the first 56 hours of its launch, Google announced that there were over 9 million comments posted, over 200 mobile users checking in per minute and a total of 300,000 mobile check ins per day (!)

Despite the array of blogs about the rather negative buzz around Google Buzz and it’s privacy invasion, it seems that people are starting to embrace it.

Social Network Algorithmic Data Mining

Google’s consumer interaction has long attracted some criticism over the years with its unique method of contextually targeting ads based on the content that users are reading, searching for, or emailing. For consumers this has been a critical turning point in online privacy.

Yet this hasn’t stopped with Google Buzz: It tries to find your friends and connections through algorithms that watch what you do on Google services. It then lets you add more friends, but through the lens of Gmail. Where does the privacy invasion start and end..?

Or are we as users at fault here for giving Google too much power in the first place..? – We are, after all, getting most of Google’s tools for free – so in a sense exchanging free usage with Google’s data mining and ad targeting capabilities, now extended to our social connections.

Yes, Google is approaching the social networking battle in a different way to the norm: They are using their algorithms combined with what they know about your email to define the users and their social networks. Facebook, on the other hand, lets people pick other people to ‘befriend’ and connect with. That sounds more like social networking to me. Is Google allowing you to be social or allowing you to be stalked?

What do you think about Google Buzz?

Firstly, what do we make of Google Buzz as a marketing channel? I guess the jury is still out on that one; let’s try and figure out Twitter first, shall we?

Secondly, history has shown that Facebook has already won the war for social networking. For Google to challenge that title is similar to Facebook challenging them with a new web search engine. This is always going to be a dramatic, silly, uphill battle. However, how many times have Google been ‘knocked’ in the past to come back swinging? I wouldn’t count Buzz off just yet.

What do you think?

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