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Posts Tagged ‘lifehacker’

I promised myself that I’d wait a week after the launch of Google Buzz before I chimed in with my 2¢ worth of comments. I find it interesting that, in those few days, comments in the Twitterverse and on Facebook and the top social networking blogs have gone from “it’s the second coming of sliced bread” to “how do I turn it off?”

Let me interject that I’m a huge fan of Google. I was an early adapter to the now ubiquitous Google search engine. In late 2008, when Randall Stross’ Planet Google came out, I eagerly devoured it and marveled at Google’s corporate philosophy and their unique business mantra. From that book, I discovered areas that Google was participating in that I didn’t know about. Part of my business model is providing search engine optimization, and if you play that game, you play by Google’s rules.

Yet, I looked askance when Google launched Buzz. For those of us who use and teach social media as a marketing tool, we realized that this was inevitable. Basically, as Facebook and Twitter begin to act more and more like search engines, Google will counter by once again venturing into the social space (anyone remember Orkut?- a great app if you happen to live in India or Brazil). Facebook and Twitter become de facto search engines based on the premise of “who are you gonna trust? A mathematical algorithm or the advice of a trusted real-world friend?”  If you are looking for a dentist, do you call the one that tops Google’s SERP (search engine results page), or the one that your best friend recommends. If you said the latter, you buy into Facebook and Twitter’s search philosophy.

So, if Facebook and Twitter are going to compete with Google in the search arena, Google will invade their “social territory” by re-launching a social effort – Voila!  – Buzz! Google was smart to base Buzz on their latest social effort on their almost ubiquitous Gmail platform – or were they? That’s where I take issue with Google Buzz.

Google assumed that I wanted to include everyone on my Gmail list in my Buzz social network. This is like including everyone that you’ve every emailed in your Facebook “Friend” list or personal Twitterverse. Wrongo Bongo! When I looked at all the names that Google assumed that I’d want to follow via Buzz, my first reaction was “Who the hell are all of these people?” Do I really want to include the customer service rep who helped me with a problem with my HP printer in my Buzz universe? I don’t think so. Just because I emailed him three years ago, we are not exactly buds. Sure, I can manually go through my Gmail list and unclick those who I don’t want to Buzz with, but shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t I choose who I want to Buzz with rather than Google doing it for me?

Secondly, Google touts (or at least someone does) about 150 million Gmail accounts. I’m one of them. But, my Gmail account is one of eight email accounts that I have. And, Gmail is not my primary email account. How does this impact Buzz? Google has selected that HP customer service rep who I emailed once three years ago to be in my Buzz group, but doesn’t know about one of my best friends that I email only from a non Gmail account. So, Google’s arbitrary building of my Buzz list is disingenuous. If I truly want to engage via Buzz, I need to delete a bunch of folks and then add a bunch of folks. Do I really have time for this? Facebook and Twitter based their platforms on my taking the initiative to select who I wanted to Friend or Follow, and I can do it on my own schedule. Oh, and did I mention that there is no interface with Facebook or Twitter? Google is intent on building their own version of the Berlin Wall around their Buzz community. Facebook and Twitter understood “synergy” early on and it works fro both of them.

As I write this, I’m also reading a blog post on Lifehacker that states that Google’s project manager for Buzz admits that the social app needed wider testing before it launched. As Lifehacker says: “In one week, Google’s Buzz social network has moved through a splashy launch, a quick fix, a major clean-up, and now, an apology.” This is almost a classic case on how not to launch a project. Inside of one week, Buzz has dealt with launch euphoria, a “whoops” on privacy issues, and now a statement that they should have worked on it more before they launched it.

Google says that they tested Buzz internally with 20,000 Google employees., Danger! Will Robinson! Any market researcher will tell you that’s a prime example of the folks at the Kool Aid factory drinking the Kool Aid (I’m more than mixing metaphors here). I’m sure that all Google employees use Gmail as their primary, if not only, email service, and many of their Buzz friends are fellow Google employees who are equally hyped on Buzz. I’m sure the (er, pardon the pun) “buzz” about Buzz was rampant around the Google campus. In other words, Google heard what they wanted to hear from their Beta testers.

Pete Cashmore and Barb Dybwad at Mashable are early evangalists for Google Buzz. They tout something like 9 million “buzzes” in the first few days.  Maybe that’s so in terms of raw numbers, but I would ask how many of those are relevant in terms of going to, and being read by, folks who actually care. Maybe it’s more like a giant plane flying over and dropping a ton of leaflets on a population, but no one cares to read them.

What do you think? Is Google Buzz the vaunted Facebook / Twitter killer? Or, is it another Orkut?

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