To say that social media has ‘changed the dynamics of how we use the internet’ would be an understatement. Since Orkut’s launch in 2004, Google has jumped on the social media train with arch-rivals Facebook and Twitter. The latest edition of Google’s web application industry is Google Buzz, a new tool aimed at turning users away from other social networking sites.
What is Google Buzz?
Google Buzz is an email-enabled social media medium that (according to some) is going to conquer the world of social media. It is designed to allow users to share photos, videos, links, and status updates with their friends, as well as discuss shared content. It is very similar to the News Feed on Facebook in that regard. It’s also similar to FriendFeed, a social sharing service acquired by Facebook last year with a small but devoted following of followers.
The best thing about this app is that it is easy to integrate in one step with users’ existing Gmail accounts, something that Google is probably counting on to make this product a success. With a user base of 174 million ‘Gmailers’, Google Buzz is looking for a large number of potential users.
What is not so great is that it is similar to many services that are already on the market. Google Buzz seems like a “me too” product. People already have a myriad of ways to share content with their friends – Facebook and Twitter are two popular options. Blogging is another. Emailing text and images to friends is still very popular. So will Google Buzz make consumers change?
Deal with the competition:
With a solid base of 400 million loyal users, social media giant Facebook has been in business since 2007 and is devouring the market pie faster every minute. Constantly innovating and adding new features, Facebook has managed to attract and retain users more than any other social media site, and it is Google’s # 1 competition. Second is Twitter, with 18 million registered users.
Google has made several attempts to catch up with the competition over the years, but has failed to do so.
Google hasn’t exactly established itself in the social media space. The search engine giant has been struggling to build a loyal customer base and appears to offer more apps than the market can handle. Most famously, Orkut failed to take off outside of India and Brazil, and Google’s other social media efforts also failed in the marketplace: Dodgeball, Jaiku, and OpenSocial, to name three.
More recently, Google launched Google Wave, another medium for sharing information, data, and opinions, which didn’t really take off. Google representatives have admitted that Buzz was inspired by Google Wave and described it as “an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration.” “A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using text, photos, videos, maps and more in a rich format.” Basically, Google Wave is email, instant messaging, an online collaboration tool, and a wiki, all in one service. So what is the difference between a Buzz and a Wave?
Buzz vs. Wave:
Google Buzz uses email updates, while Google Wave is real-time communication (you can see someone writing their response or commenting on an individual wave) Wave was created with collaboration features like editing a document, planning an event, creating notes of meetings and soon. But if you just want to share photos, videos, or comments that don’t require real-time communication, then Google Buzz is probably the best option.
One of the problems with Wave is that it is a difficult tool to explain to others, and once you understand what Wave is, it is even more difficult to understand everything you can do with it. Buzz, on the other hand, works in a similar way to email and focuses on one thing: sharing content with others. This is probably one of the reasons why Google Wave didn’t perform as well as everyone expected.
However, Google Buzz could be much more promising than its predecessor:
Buzz, from day one, is a better and more elegant service than Facebook has become after six years. Some of this is because Facebook had to build its network from scratch and pioneered the category, giving it a lot of baggage to overcome at this point. Meanwhile, Google has the advantage of building on Gmail and being able to grab good ideas from both Facebook and Twitter. I call this “second engine advantage.” Google Buzz is simple, elegant, and quite fast. Buzz makes it easy to include photos and other media in posts, which is an advantage over Facebook. Google is not in the habit of making major changes when users are comfortable with previous changes. Facebook seems to be adrift; Google does not.
Google privacy trumps Facebook privacy. Despite n. 1 below, Google generally gets good marks for protecting user data. Facebook has had a series of privacy blasts that have created considerable mistrust in users. Buzz works within Gmail. Having social media built into an app that most people live with makes email a more natural part of communication, not a separate online destination and process. The Gmail users in your contact list are the foundation of your community. Buzz automatically creates relationships, resulting in a social network that includes more existing friends, as long as they use Gmail. Networking automatically has advantages and disadvantages, but it seems like a benefit to the user.
Another point I’d like to highlight is the fact that while Facebook has carved a niche in the “informal and purely social” space, Google Buzz has the potential to target the business user space. Since many people today use Gmail and Gtalk also for professional use, the chances of users creating sustainable business networks on this platform are high. This leaves a lot of room for B2B marketers learning how to use this medium effectively.