By Puneet Sandhu (@puneet86)
If you are a Gmail user, and honestly, who isn’t one today, chances are you’ve checked out Google Buzz at least once. This latest offering from Google definitely attracted attention, partly because of its initial privacy goof up—it automatically followed people you e-mailed*—partly because it was hailed as the next Twitter/Facebook, and partly because, well, it’s Google we’re talking about here.
At the very outset, let me say that it’s definitely NOT the next Twitter or Facebook or whatever else is hot out there. It is, however, comparable to Friendfeed, another network whose utility always seemed extremely restricted to me. Buzz, like Friendfeed, is basically an aggregator. You can link your presence on other networks to it, and everything that you feed into them will show up in your Buzz feed, in addition to what you post on Buzz itself. What does that mean? It means you get a whole lot of noise and very little signal. 90 percent of what I see on my Buzz feed, I’ve already checked out on Gtalk, Google Reader and Twitter.
Google, as part of its master plan to take over the world, was obviously trying to compete with Twitter here – and it failed. The motivations of people on Twitter are entirely different from those of a Buzz user’s: building new relationships/sharing information (Twitter) vs. sharing information with existing contacts (Buzz). Having said that, it does win over Twitter in one way: the commenting feature, which it borrowed from–wait for it– Facebook. You can have sequenced conversations on Buzz, a breeze compared to the scattered @mentions on Twitter.
So what relevance does this have for PR people? Minimal, if any. For one, it’s more personal than professional. It’s an extension of your inbox and if your client contact or reporter doesn’t have Gmail, then you’re pretty much stranded. But if they do, and that’s a big if, you have a real chance of getting to know them better and building a relationship that may have taken you far longer otherwise. This is assuming that they like Buzz and share freely on it, have not blocked you from following them since they want it to be their “personal” space and lastly, that they have linked to other websites allowing you to get to know them better.
The only business application I can think of for Buzz, and one that actually has potential, is to use it as a sort of an internal company network where employees can share, chat and comment on each other’s status messages. Drawback: it’s not an official network, you can’t monitor it, you can’t tell if you’re blocked and it might be too personal to be taken professionally.
Buzz wanted to be Twitter, but ended up being a Facebook/Friendfeed mashup and if you’re using it on the phone, well then, it’s kind of like Foursquare, thanks to its location reporting feature. In short, this has to be the most plagiarized social networking tools ever.
Recommendation: It’s not worth the effort, so I’d rate this 2 out of 5 slices.
*Note: Google fixed that soon enough. This week, they also launched a screen which prompts you to okay your settings before you start using it- in response to all the privacy-hyper criticism.