By Melissa J. Luther
Google Buzz definitely has the Internet buzzing, but it is too early to tell how much impact it will have in the social networking arena. Google was uncharacteristically late joining the game and may face an uphill battle for relevance. On the other hand, Google’s overall popularity could give Buzz the boost it needs.
What Is Buzz and How Is It Different?
Buzz is Google's answer to social networking, allowing Gmail users to share updates, photos and more, much like Twitter and Facebook. For the moment, it is available only to Gmail users, which may limit its usefulness, since people not already using Gmail probably won’t sign up just to use Buzz. Also, businesses will need to create a regular Gmail account to use Buzz, because it is not available in Google Apps.
Google will most likely correct many of the deficiencies over time, and even now, Buzz offers some unique features that may make it worth trying.
- Built-in Multi-Media: Sharing pictures and videos is easier in Buzz. Video is viewable in full-screen mode straight from the Buzz feed, and a scrolling gallery menu makes pictures easy to find.
- Link sharing: When you share a link in Buzz, you can include pictures or videos from the linked page with the post.
- Granular privacy settings: Unlike most social media sites, in which posts are either all public or all private, Buzz lets you choose who sees each post. You can even send messages to a specific group of people.
- Geolocation: Buzz is built into Google Maps Mobile, so mobile users can see who is creating buzz in their area.
- Suggestions: Buzz offers suggestions of people to follow, based in part of the popularity of their messages.
What Can Businesses Do with Buzz Now
For now, the geolocation and granular privacy settings are probably the most useful tools for businesses. For instance, people looking for buzzes in their area can see yours and, if your message is interesting, decide to visit your business. Even better, you can see who is “buzzin'” near you, request a connection, and send them a discount offer for stopping in.
Encourage customers to use the “Buzz about this place” button in Google Maps Mobile to talk about your business. Their comments will be visible to other Google Maps users, much like reviews on Yelp. Hopefully the comments will be positive, but you can also respond to negative comments offering to correct the problem. Your responses will be visible, showing potential customers that you care about customer service.
Use the granular privacy settings to target specific messages to specific groups of people, much like segmenting your email list. When you do send public messages, try to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, increasing the likelihood Buzz will suggest your message to other users.
While Buzz does have some limitations, it also has potential, so if you have the time it may be worth seeing if it can help increase your online visibility.
About the Author
Melissa J. Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions, LLC, helps small businesses create and maintain a strong Internet presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an Internet presence that includes content creation, PPC advertising, linking, and social media as appropriate.