Google Buzz Is Not A Facebook Killer

by Jason Falls |

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 the Author

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).