Yesterday was a whirlwind of reactions, mostly overreactions, to Google’s latest concoction, Google Buzz. I posted a quick video tour to help people know how to get started before spending the day busy with client meetings. When I was finally able to catch up to the blog posts, Twitter pronouncements and, yes, the Buzz itself, I needed a couple of hours to soak in all the information and do a gut-check to make sure I was the only sane person left.

The biggest “WTF” moment for me has been all the talk that Google now is suddenly a social network and is a Facebook killer. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I see nothing Facebook-like about Buzz, Google has always had a loosely structured social network underlying its communications utilities and both platforms serve different primary purposes. In essence, when people like Jason Calacanis declare Facebook’s value dropping in half because Google suddenly now has a social network, I have to wonder how many stock options he’s got and whether or not on that day he had all his marbles.

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Don’t get me wrong. I like Jason a lot. But his “Breaking News” was more sensationalistic and irrational than weather reporters spelling the end of the world because a few inches of snow is predicted for the area.

Google is a communications utility built on an organizational structure of search. This is why Google applications like Gmail and Google Reader are never-ending scrolls of information. The Google mindset is not to scroll, hunt and peck like the majority of the free world. The Google brain says, “I know what I want to find here. Let’s just use the search box at the top of the page.” The user experience is driven by the search box. Because most people want to browse around and find what they’re looking for, Google is too much information, not organized well and often overwhelming. Buzz takes that quality and magnifies it because so much social information is coming in at hyper speed.

Facebook is a social network built on connections with people you know, trust or want to. Communications in Facebook is mostly public, which is a relatively new phenomenon and still the shiny, new object in most people’s minds. Because its infrastructure is built on connections and its functionality forces people’s actions to be mostly public and shared with their friends, it is an intrinsically viral platform as well.

Google is a communications utility. Facebook is a social network.

What Google Buzz accomplishes is that it amplifies social functionality within that underlying, but long-existing Google network. It is a nice bell/whistle to drive more social connectivity in the Google platform. But it does not replace Facebook or Twitter nor does it have to.

You don’t play Mafia Wars in Google. You don’t email anyone you want, regardless of network, in Facebook. (Yeah, I know they’re announcing that, but you get the point.)

Both are borrowing nice ideas from each other and making their platforms better for the users, but I don’t see Buzz as a Facebook killer. In fact, I see it as proof that Google’s search-first mindset continues to baffle the majority of users who want to navigate and (ironically) find things easier. Don’t throw information at us like seeds at pigeons, Google. That’s what Buzz is doing.

Some Finer Points On Buzz

After watching Buzz for a few hours yesterday, I did a couple of things I would recommend you do. First, I disconnected the ability for my Twitter posts to be imported into Buzz. I have conversations with people on Twitter and having those same messages posted on Buzz would mean I now have to monitor two places to engage with people reacting to my posts. Not paying attention to the reactions on Buzz is disingenuous to my network there. It’s the same reason I don’t auto-post my Tweets to Facebook. I don’t monitor Facebook as regularly and would then do that group of friends a disservice by ignoring their reactions to the auto-posts. I’m considering not posting SME items on Buzz for the same reason, but am monitoring it to see.

I also un-followed over 100 people. Buzz is simply a fire hose of information that is impossible to follow, filter or organize because Google thinks you’ll just search for what you want to find rather than browse for what might catch your eye. In order for Buzz to be useful, then, you really have to limit who you follow to the small group of people you either want to engage with more frequently or who provide you the greatest value in what they share, post, etc., on Buzz.

It’s Still New

Keep in mind Buzz is less than 48 hours old at this writing. Initial reactions are going to be extreme one way or the other to get attention, drive traffic and tabloid-ify the news of the day. What Buzz will be for you is exactly what you make of it. If it’s too much, too fast, you won’t use it. If you get in an poke around and set it so that you are seeing a manageable amount of information and interacting meaningfully with those providing it, you’ll like it a lot.

But apparently not as much as Jason Calacanis. Heh.

A penny for your thoughts. The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.vladimiroane.com Vladimir Oane

    Couldn't agree more! I don't see Google Buzz as a Facebook killer. I said that in one of our posts recently http://blog.ubervu.com/post/381976771/google-bu….

    But this is Jason we are talking about. He's doing that all the time. Ranting is his way of shocking the audience and getting followers. You don't get to be a celebrity by being the smart kid in the class!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Fair point, Vladimir. I've been known to throw out the outrageous claim
      myself. I guess I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Thanks for the
      perspective.

  • http://twitter.com/rebecatrautner Rebeca Trautner

    The sheer number of people in my network with access to and desire to use Buzz so far has been so minimal, that it pales in comparison to my Facebook experience. Why would I spend the time sharing on Buzz when it will reach 10 people compared to the 290 I'm connected with over there?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Another fair point. I'm starting to think that Buzz and Google connections,
      because they are more “intimate” than Facebook (I use Google for email and
      chat), might be best for a small list of core people you want to connect
      with more frequently or who provide essential value in their social sharing.
      Twitter and Facebook are for everything else. Make sense?

      • http://twitter.com/rebecatrautner Rebeca Trautner

        I think it makes perfect sense – like you point out about not wanting to import your Twitter feed, if we keep the INTENT of these different mechanisms separate, there could be good value in their individual use.

        It wouldn't make sense to spend the time updating all these different channels with the same information, if you are connected with all the same people for the same purpose. I think it's worthwhile to weigh who you have the opportunity to connect with through Buzz and determine if it's worth the time to sustain a meaningful relationship that can't be done as well elsewhere.

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Jason, I would agree about the communication utility versus the social network statement, however I think most people would also consider what Google Buzz is doing as a social network as well. It is eerily similar to Friendfeed, but with the potential to be larger due to Gmail's penetration and its direct integration to Google Buzz. I have got to admit, I could due without Buzz personally. I see it already being a distraction in my inbox and I am not sure I need another place to interact with the same folks.

    I saw something like this coming a year or so ago when Google introduced profiles. They persuaded folks to create profiles for “search”, but I knew they could ultimately turn those profiles into a giant open social graph (compared to Facebook's mutual “friending” closed system which it is trying to open).

    The one thing I did not see coming was its integration with Gmail and leveraging its large userbase to seed the new app. This is going to be a mix of annoying and interesting all wrapped into one as more users sign up and try the system out.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Adam. Like the comparison to FriendFeed. I used FF for one day and
      thought it sucked. I don't want social spam, which is exactly what
      aggregation like FF is. I realize its the same thing as a Facebook news
      stream, but Facebook has that pared down to FB activity and not so much
      EVERYTHING. Makes it more easily digestible and network focused. If Buzz is
      indeed FF like, I'll probably wind up not using it much.

  • http://www.jeremymeyers.com/ Jeremy Meyers

    It's a ridiculous statement. The audience for Facebook is, you know… “people”..the audience for Google Buzz is techies with interest in aggregating their social network communications with API support through an integrated interface. i guarantee 99.999% of facebook users dont know WTF google buzz is.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      True, but Gmail has a lot of users. By pushing this out to them, it *could*
      make a dent in where people go for social activity. I still think the
      search-driven user interface of Google is a confusing turn off for most
      people, though, so Facebook is infinitely safe for now.

  • http://blogs.dix-eaton.com/measurementpr-spectives/ Chuck Hemann

    Jason, I'm glad you've written this post in such a balanced way. I was seconds away from an aneurysm yesterday watching Twitter and the blog posts streaming in about Buzz being a killer for this, and falling flat with that. Good grief…the tool is 48 hours old. That's not even close to enough time in order to evaluate its potential uses. I seem to remember a TED video where Ev talked about the original intent of Twitter, and how its users have taken it in a different direction. If Google is smart, they'll let the community of Buzz users dictate its future direction. Then, and only then, will it become as useful as it can be.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Amen to that, Chuck. Thanks!

  • http://justinkownacki.blogspot.com Justin Kownacki

    I went one step further: after test-driving Buzz for ten minutes, I turned it off. Too many streams to pay attention to, not enough time to care. (This is why I also barely use Facebook: it's not like I'm lacking in ways to find out what the people in my life are doing — or, more specifically, which of their kids has the flu or what Farmville milestone they've achieved.)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I've heard that from more than one person today, Justin. I'm gravitating
      toward ignoring it altogether myself. Thanks for swinging by!

  • http://iain1967.myopenid.com/ Iain

    I think Buzz is a bigger let down than Wave! At first glance it looks like it maybe something usable and a alternative to Twitter(certainly will do nothing to damage Facebook). However, I found major problem when following someone who likes to post blog entries. Not only do I see all their posts (and for some that can be a few a day) but also I see all the comments made on Buzz about the post. This makes my stream HUGE.

    Surely the fact that Twitter added 'lists' to help filter and group would be something the Google team thought about.

    Limit the posts to about 140 characters, dont show me all the replies to the posts and let me filter things somehow……oh wait….

  • http://www.themoviebanter.com/ Craig

    I don;t see the point of buzz. I haven't really checked it out or played around with it mainly because I don't feel the reason or benefit to it. I already use and connect with others on other networks, seems like a waste of time to me.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I think it will prove useful down the road, but it's going to take some time
      and experimenting for us to come up with a good use. Thanks for swinging by
      again, Craig.

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  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    I gave it an hour, and I had a migraine. I don't like that every single reply form everyone's connections is in the same stream. That's like the bastard child of a blog post and Twitter on steroids. So, 61 minutes after trying Buzz, I switched it off. Ah, blessed peace… ;-)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Nice, Danny. Thanks for sharing.

  • scotttownsend

    I'm going to hang on for a little while, let the storm pass over then take a look at Buzz.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Probably a smart path!

  • http://twitter.com/edeckers Erik Deckers

    I haven't been that impressed by it. It essentially becomes one more thing in my Inbox to nag at me. At least with Facebook and Twitter, I can ignore stuff for a few hours. With Buzz, if I don't watch it for six hours, when I get back, everything is there. Every Mashable article, every statement about “just trying to figure out Buzz,” and every “me too” follow-up comment.

    This seems to be nothing more than a life stream, and I quit paying attention to those after the first couple of days too.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Yep. Sounds like we're all sort of in agreement on it. Thanks, E.

  • BryanPerson

    Nice post here, Jason. After following Buzz for about an hour yesterday, I thought my head was going to explode :) Here's how I handled it (similar to you)

    * Filtered *out* Buzz updates from my inbox. I can still click on the “Buzz” link from the left nav in my Gmail, but I'm *not* getting notifications of all new comments and such in my inbox. Far less overwhelming!
    * Made sure my tweets were *not* going into my Buzz stream. Like you, I thought it would be a disservice to others (same reason I don't do so with Facebook)
    * Unfollowed the updates of several of my Google/Gmail contacts, to help keep the stream more manageable and intimate.

    Buzz also feels more like FriendFeed than any other service. And if it stays that way, I probably won't spend much time there, either. BUT … we're only a few days into this, so let's give it some time and see how Buzz evolves!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Bryan. No doubt we're thinking very similarly on this. Appreciate
      your thoughts.

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  • me

    “Google is a communications utility. Facebook is a social network.”

    DARN. I always thought, social networking was about communication.

    Seems I totally underrated Facebook, because I refuse to play Mafia wars.

    Sorry, this article I a bit weak. Yes, Buzz will have a hard time to achieve critical mass. It might just dwindle along like Wave. But one of the things I really HATE about Facebook is their annoying games/group/fan page policy that keeps on spamming me (so don't complain about Buzz with respect to filters, Facebook totally sucks here!), and the functionality duplication with email. Getting an email “you've got a new message from” is somewhat stupid, don't you agree?

    I'd sum up your article as “Buzz is not a Facebook/Twitter killer, because it's not an exact clone of either, but a bit different, more around Search”.

    Let's see what time will bring. If Google actually manages to make Buzz a Facebook/Twitter-Clone without all the Mafia-Farmville-Spam crap (IMHO) and the flutter of pointless (re-) tweets that makes Twitter completely unusable (IMHO).

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Appreciate your points. Did you not identify yourself for a reason? I
      can take criticism so hiding because you called my post weak is
      unneccessary. We appreciate identification around here. You have smart
      things to say. Be accountable for them.

      • me

        There is no benefit from logging in, so why should I bother to do so?
        I like keeping things simple, and I prefer not putting my information everywhere.
        This is the one thing I'm really concerned about Buzz: will it allow me to do a sensible middle way between communicating with people while still keeping enough control over my data?
        So far, I'm not using Gmail for my main email for that reason, so I guess I won't become a true Buzz user, either. And I've been thinking about removing some of my information from Facebook (although I didn't even bother to put in much except chit-chat or intentionally-public data, either).

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Fair but not signing your name or leaving a valid email (which only I
          see and don't abuse) means you're walking into our little social hour
          with a mask on. It produces mistrust. It also enables comments and
          behaviors that could make people uncomfortable without accountability.
          We (okay, I) insist in accountability here. I would appreciate it if,
          at least, you left a valid email address which only I see.

          Sorry, but I believe anonymous commenting to be an instigator of
          undesirable behavior. It's why few people like or trust the
          “community” on newspaper websites. It's a subject I'll be tackling in
          a post soon.

          Thank you for tour comments an participation. I respect your desire to
          protect your data but have to ask for a but of a compromise at SME.

          Love your thoughts, too. You obviously have some well thought points.

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  • http://cjsparno.com cjsparno

    Jason, I enjoyed your article. I think you hit the nail on the head, and I am reading this well after the initial impact of Buzz has started to wane. I have personally gone back and forth on Buzz, even turned it off for a couple of days, but I think you are right in that you need to use social networks for what they are and everyone lately has been trying to find that “Holy Grail” of solutions that will enable them to ditch everything else and use one system. Not a shameless “self plug”, but I wrote something about that on my own blog if you'd like to read it and comment back. http://cjsparno.com/2010/02/18/the-challenge-of

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the comment and reassurance. I'll jump over and read your post
      soon!

  • http://www.sethgoldstein.net/ goldsteinmedia

    Jason, great article. I really don't like Buzz. Your right about how hard it is to follow conversations. I do thing Google will fix Buzz so it's more usable. If they don't they will lose the audience before it even starts. Right now I'm just overwhelmed by it

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agreed, Seth. Thanks for the comment.

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  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Agreed, Seth. Thanks for the comment.

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