After playing around with Google Buzz since its release, some thoughts:
Large Networks: It is most useful and beneficial to those who already had large networks in place. The Robert Scobles and Pete Cashmores and even the Steve Rubels (who’s been pretty much thumbs-down on Buzz) of the world who will find the most immediate use and who will gain the most immediate benefit from Google Buzz.
They have an existing audience with enough critical mass that they are almost guaranteed that whatever whatever new venue they jump to, people will follow and participate with them on it. Look at their Buzz pages and you’ll find tons of comments. That type of activity attracts more activity and builds on itself.
As a result, their conversations are highly visible and get more attention as they evolve.
Conversely, if you don’t have a network in place, or you just don’t have your network at Google, then Buzz isn’t nearly as useful. The reason Facebook is so successful is that everyone is on it; for people who haven’t got a pre-existing network built up at Google, then Buzz feels like an echo chamber and you feel like a dork for using it:
Google Contacts: I use Google’s abysmal Contacts program because I have a G1 phone and wanted to sync my contacts with it. Were it not for that, I would not use Google Contacts; it is about the clunkiest contacts program I’ve ever…come in contact with.
That said, the fact that I had a lot of contacts from which Google Buzz could draw, meant I had a large enough network already in place for me to get a reasonable view of how Google Buzz might be beneficial.
Most people I know do not use Google Contacts as their default address book…but there are a lot of Gmail users who do. That fact alone makes Google Buzz a social media player that demands attention. They’ve made it easy for people to have instant networks via Gmail so Buzz’s first impression isn’t that of a ghost town.
Ironically, perhaps the single most important thing Google could do to retain existing Buzz users and to boost adoption among new users is to radically improve Google Contacts.
If Google Contacts can compete as a stand-alone product against the Microsoft Outlooks of the world, that should by default make Google Buzz that much more appealing.
Google Profiles: Another advantage I had over most people first trying out Google Buzz is that I had already pimped out my Google Profile with all my information, including links to my other online homes: My blogs, my social media profiles, YouTube, Flickr, etc.
Armed with that information, Google Buzz can find other ways I am connected with people but also gave it streams of content I was creating with which to populate my Buzz stream without me doing anything different. Without lifting a finger, my Tweets are published to Buzz.
When someone visits my Google Profile to decide whether or not they want to follow me, my profile is not a content-free zone; it’s updated as frequently as I tweet. There’s at least some incentive, then, for people to follow me.
Google Search: It’s no secret that search is where Google’s bread is buttered, so it should come as no surprise that they are trying to figure out how to integrate social with search. It’s a topic for another post, but Google has been working on this with real-time and with social search.
It would seem apparent that Google Buzz is an attempt to cover another social base.
With Google Buzz, the search company is now hosting social conversations by supplying a unique URL to each thread on Buzz…and indexing them, as is Yahoo!
Despite the link-bait you may have been reading, SEO is not dead…but it is becoming social. People still need to find stuff and for that they turn to search but when links from people you know start showing up in your search results, it’s quite clear where your attention will focus: On the trusted source.
Buzz content, then, might be an element of your search engine optimization strategy.
Noise: Google Buzz needs a lot of work before it will be ready for primetime. I follow those aforementioned people who already enjoy a critical mass on Buzz and therefore my Buzz reading experience is one of scrolling through l o o n n n n g posts with tons of comments about a topic I may or may not care about.
What I really want is to see what my immediate social circle–my friends and colleagues and the people I know–are saying while still tracking the thought leaders and their conversations. But those loud conversations, as it were, are drowning out the quieter conversations that might be more interesting and relevant to me.
Right now, there is not an easy or elegant way for me to filter my Buzzes.
One simple solution would be to collapse conversations by default so I just see the host, the title and then maybe some short, relevant metadata like a snippet of text, the number of likes and the number of comments. Rather than scrolling through pages and pages of comments, I could then scan and/or sort by author to quickly find the stuff I’m interested in.
Another big improvement would be to give me lists, so I can categorize people and read just the Buzzes I want to read based on that. Both Facebook and now Twitter have lists; this should be a no-brainer. Better yet, turn the Google Contacts Groups into lists so I don’t have to do as much work assembling them.
Give it time: Google is working furiously to respond to complaints and feedback from users so it would appear they are committed to Buzz’s success.
I think it’s far too early to know what the implications are for Buzz’s entry into the online landscape nor what its influence will be. But I’ll definitely be watching…and playing.