Will Google Buzz Kill The Social Media Star?

Will Google Buzz Kill The Social Media Star?

For all of you little guys on the internet that have been leveraging your brand using social media and social search – sit up, and pay attention.

Last week, Google launched their own social network, called Google Buzz. For those of you just getting up to speed on Twitter and Foursquare, did your shoulders just slump with the burden of another social media network to manage, monitor, and update? Especially one with the likely impact of Google Buzz? It’s Google, for Pete’s sake. No one can ignore this one. Perhaps this is based on Google’s fear of Facebook, with the recent numbers in showing that Yahoo’s traffic has now been surpassed by Facebook. Even if you have the resources and time, the short answer is your time online just increased. Our advice? Pay special attention to this one. It will be tied to and directly impact your marketing, public relations, and social media marketing efforts. This social network, yes, the one backed by the heavy hitting search engine, is likely to most dramatically affect the search engine results for your brand. If you were impressed or intrigued by SEO drivers tied to Twitter search results, blog results and how your Linked In profile appears with decent ranking, be sure to invest some serious time in developing your Google Buzz profile for your brand.

How do you start that? Make the connection that they intended with your Facebook profiles and pages, and your Twitter profiles. Connect your friends on Facebook with your friends on Google Buzz. Currently, Twitter and Facebook are the two most prevalent sites from which Google Buzz accepts updates. When most social networks launch, it takes at least a year to gain traction, and much longer to become mainstream as evidenced by Facebook’s 6th birthday and Youtube’s 5th.  Twitter, often named the fastest growing social network, has surged to nearly a 300% increase in unique visitors over the past year, will celebrate its 4th birthday in the middle of March.

social media buzz logosThere is a lot of Buzz out there, good and bad, but the quick and dirty verdict is that it will be neat and fun to explore, but it won’t kill Twitter or Facebook. One of the biggest questions is what the adoption rate will be by bloggers and webmasters. Early indications show that Google Buzz will become mainstream and probably in record setting time. Tech Crunch and Mashable both added Google Buzz button’s to their sites and blogs nearly immediately. Most sites haven’t clamored to throw Google Buzz buttons on their sites. Though, just as businesses need to be found in Google search results to be deemed “successful,” it only makes sense that adding a Buzz profile on blogs and other sites will soon prove to be critical to success.

Just as Google revolutionized search and the online market, they are looking to do the same with social media. For such a big brand, there have been some serious blunders in the social space with the launch of Google Buzz. One of the biggest negative trends associated with Google’s Brand Buzz is the concern over privacy settings, or lack thereof. Other grumblings have been tied to the allegiance to their own email service, Gmail. Google Buzz is structured with Gmail as the nucleus of all of your social media activity. Given some of the recent publicity with Google and their privacy standards, and with the information coming to light that every search ever performed in Google is saved, stored, and most of all, linked to you, and your IP. That’s a little scary. Google, who has learned a bit about managing their online brand, and responding to negativity in the social space, took their user feedback about the useability and privacy issues, and made improvements, and detailed their feedback using a popular social media tool, their blog. They leveraged their resources and went to work very quickly, and made three changes in two days.  They enabled a feature to hide your followers/following list, an option to block anyone that is follow that you opt to, and have enable a distinction between public and private profiles. Very basic, but critical to their success.

It’s still new and many are still learning how to use the social media network and tools within. New or not, one thing is clear – usage is there. The current rate is over 160,000 Google posts and comments per hour. In approximately 48 hours, Google Buzz surpassed 9 million posts and comments. That’s a staggering number, even for Google. Another staggering statistic? The mobile usage is up there as well, the search giant cited over 200 posts per minute by mobile devices. The early stats that Google released are:

  • 9 million posts and comments in about 56 hours, amounting to around 160,000 posts and comments per hour
  • over 200 mobile check-ins per minute, nearly 300,000 mobile check-ins per day

Keep in mind, most users didn’t get Buzz until Wednesday the 10th.

This is not a small add on to an email client. It’s huge for search and it is huge in the social space.  It is unclear at this point how greatly this will alter the social media landscape permanently.  The leaders in the industry are simply amazed at the utter response and immediate acceptance. But, Google is leveraging their brand and their customer base in the social space the way many large brands could be.  Taping into their existing customer database of Gmail users was genius for guaranteeing a quick adoption rate by its users. Couple that with the brand equity that Google has, and the trust that most users instill in Google, and you have a great formula for success in the online space.

Other reasons we think Google Buzz has gained traction so quickly?

  • Ease of use
  • Easy set up
  • Visible location right under the Inbox
  • No new lingo to learn – people are still trying to figure out twtup, tweet, twitter, RT and more of the terms associated with Twitter.
  • Search and easy tie into other people, topics and discussions.
  • Google Buzz is linked to Gmail which people identify as a work related task, their calendar, their to do/task list – psychologically, Google Buzz has users thing it will be more efficent and productive than some of the more “distracting” social media sites.

Here is one of the comparisons we found online between the top social media sites and the newest one, Google Buzz:

Web Strategy Matrix: Google Buzz vs Facebook vs MySpace vs Twitter (Feb 2010)

Google Buzz Facebook MySpace 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.

As the leading search engine globally, most people sit up and pay attention when Google introduces new features and tools. They revolutionizes social media and search when they began introducing social updates into their search results.  This reduces the value of some of the high priced Google Ad Words, and Search Engine Optimization experts out there.  But it also means that the freshest content will rise to the top, whether it is what your marketing has been working to get into the online space or if it is the disgruntled tweets of an employee or a dissatisfied customer trashing your brand like Southwest Airlines recently experienced with Kevin Smith.  When you have to combat all of the negative results that end up on the first page, social media will get your attention, one way or another.

Your PR and marketing teams need to have their ear pressed against the door, and their finger on the pulse to see trends as quickly as they arise, and before a groundswell occurs. It goes back to the basics of PR and the concept of nipping things in the bud.

Expect to see a revenue stream for Google in this space, allowing you to combat this negativity with some PR and marketing dollars as well.  Most of Google’s strategies are fairly transparent and have an ad budget as the backbone. Getting into the social space is key for every business in 2010, and monetizing it is a high priority for everyone, including Google.

Google Buzz basics are not that much different than the other channels:

1. Establish a branded presence and monitor the buzz surrounding your brand and your competitors.  Be sure to link all of your social media networks and link to your twitter profile, your facebook page, your blog, and your website.  One upside is the verification factor behind Google Buzz.  There is an added protection level behind Google Buzz that Twitter and Facebook have yet to offer to all users.

2.  Identify the connectors, the influencers, the interactors, and the brand ambassadors through this channel just as you would on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites.  Tools are already cropping up to ease the integration and to locate users on other networks.

3.  The key with any social media network is engagement. Share useful content and react and respond to positive AND negative feedback from your business partners, brand evangelists, clients, and yes, the nay-sayers.  Utilize this feedback to refine customer experiences, products, campaigns and other business and marketing initiatives. Social media is the new age focus group, with an added  layer of anonymity.

4. The key to any social network is the social aspect. The desire to share aspects of your life, where you are, where you are going, what your plans are, what you read that was interesting today, and, yes even those not so pleasant moments. Integrate your videos, photos, website and other content. The key to engagement is ease of use and easy tools to share pictures, info, and videos.  The key to search engine ranking is fresh and updated content. Social media enables you to utilize the available tools to get your new content out in front of targeted audience in unprecedented amounts.

Written by: Sara Paxton, managing partner, CTO, and Social Media Officer of Evans Media Group, Kansas City’s Social Media Agency, a boutique agency located in Overland Park, KS that specializes in traditional marketing, social media marketing, online marketing, and public relations.

One Comment

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  1. Jacob Searls

    Great info and background on Buzz. I stumbled across is as a new addition to my business email accounts (hosted by google) and found an instant surge in traffic to blogs and twitter posts from people I considered “outside” the social media world.

    I clearly see how instantly connecting the Twitter and Facebook accounts of people already in my gmail address book onto one timeline will help me gain a better understanding of my coworkers, employees, and clients.

    Interaction on Buzz, though, is still like playing in the sandbox. Not sure if it’s worth getting dirty or what I might find as I dig deeper.

    Thanks again Sara for the excellent overview.


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  3. Software above the level of a single device « Alghamdi's Blog - [...] Evans Media Group ,(2010).Will Google Buzz Kill The Social Media Star?.Retrieved 21April, 2010 from http://evansmediagroup.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/will-google-buzz-kill-the-social-media-star/ [...]
  4. Software above the level of a single device « Alghamdi's Blog - [...] Evans Media Group ,(2010).Will Google Buzz Kill The Social Media Star?.Retrieved 21April, 2010 from http://evansmediagroup.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/will-google-buzz-kill-the-social-media-star/ [...]