So, Google rolled out Google Buzz in my Gmail account last night. I thought I would share my experiences since and my thoughts on their impact and its future. There are a few positives towards the end too, I promise! Here are a few quick links:
- Connected sites
Google decided to connect PicasaWeb and my Flickr account automatically. I disconnected both twice, but they resurfaced each time. So far I’m winning. Watch this space.
Google also appears to have ‘found’ my YouTube page. Naturally as they own YouTube, this isn’t a massive surprise, just not expected. My YouTube channel does not have the same name as my Gmail account, however… Some clues can be found on my Google Profile page where Google has clearly done some sniffing around to find the following sites. Note however, I have NOT used my Gmail account to sign up to any of these sites. I can only assume Google has been reading my email:
I was automatically following one person and already being followed by another. Both seemingly random choices of people since there are others who I email/tweet/converse with more frequently. Interestingly, the following day, I got a notification saying that “1 more person is following me”. Actually it was that person who was already following me in the first place… Hmm.
On using the “Find people” option to select people to follow, I learned of people’s multiple Gmail accounts. I could follow all of them if I wanted. People like to have separate Gmail accounts for many reasons – we email different people, we have different websites that require different profiles for services such as Analytics or AdWords. We keep them separate for a reason…
- Email address
My advertised email address is now my Gmail account one. This is not how I want it to be. I use Gmail to collect my website’s email so it sort of serves as a backup for my email and is easier to use on my iPhone. But I’d rather my primary website email address was advertised. But I can’t for the life of me figure out how to do that…
- Contact groups
It’s great that you can separate contacts out into Friends, Family, Colleagues and Contacts so that you can pick and choose which updates are shared with who. That’s OK… if you’re a Billy No Mates. Otherwise, that’s most of an afternoon’s-worth of sorting out your hundreds or thousands of contacts into groups. Don’t forget to keep the groups up to date…
- Syncing contacts
Were you one of those people who synced your contacts between your iPhone and your Gmail account? Yep, all those contacts are now connected via Gmail to Buzz. I have taxi numbers as contacts in Buzz now, along with my Gran and my Doctor. Some contacts don’t even have an email address, let alone be bothered to know what Google Buzz is. But my point is that some groups of people you just don’t need “to Buzz”.
- Confusing follower/following counts across Google Properties:
Here’s a screenshot of my follower/following count on Google Reader:
And here’s a screenshot of Google Buzz at time of writing:
I just “Shared” a post from my Google Reader. I’m a little confused as to who is going to see that post. I’m guessing 61, but there is almost definitely going to be some crossover here. Not fantastic for tracking reach.
- There is now a new tab on my public Google profile showing all my updates on Buzz:
That’s ok. I guess. I can see some people not realising this and posting public updates to their page. As this is higher profile this should be on people’s online reputation management radars.
- I like the simple interface, the ability to Like or Comment is very easy. Very Facebook and FriendFeed-esque, but let’s let that slide. These are good features.
- I like that I can select which sites to connect and that other people’s updates clearly state the source, i.e. Google Reader.
- I like the simple drop down menu. Very intuitive:
- I like the stacked appearance of updates to give you a chance to read less active users’ updates:
- I like the fact the page refreshes itself using Ajax so I can see comments etc. as they come in. They are easy to identify as well with the aid of a yellow line and fade-out highlighting of the whole post/comment:
- You DO actually have the option to turn Buzz off, but it’s on by default:
- Adding a comment to a shared item in Google Reader is great. This is why we like the OLD retweet feature of Twitter rather than the new one. Adding our own spin:
Here’s one I wrote earlier:
- Posting a link: USE A URL SHORTENER!
As you can see below, Google still follows the redirects, retrieves the page title, snippet, images etc:
But the link itself is kept as your shortened version. This is essential for tracking your social media efforts:
- My location wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t work out how to create a new location for my office or link to any existing one. I thought it might link up to Google Local Business Centre listings, but a search for my company proved fruitless.
- Using the page http://buzz.google.com/ on an iPhone is basically a similar experience to an iPhone app. BUT it’s not an app! Google gets around publishing an app in the App Store by encouraging you to add a Home Screen Shortcut to your phone, like you can with any website, as follows:
- Money! Advertising on Gmail is now more noticeable as they appear above all updates like so:
From a paid search perspective, I’d be interested to know if you could control where your ads appear on Google accounts. You might prefer more informal ad copy here to blend with the social conversations that follow it. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ad section was enhanced further.
- One giant step for Google…
Google is going to rock the boats of many other social networks out there with this move. Especially FriendFeed and Facebook. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Twitter too, although I suspect the superfluously simple interface to prevail.
I’m a little unnerved by how much Google really knows about people. I sort of suspected they knew all that information already or had the ability to find out, but this proves it. This proves that they have tremendous power. Check their list of properties if you want to see what could potentially be linked in the future: Calendar, Docs, Earth, Finance, Books, Talk… and even Translate. Don’t forget they’re a domain registrar and have an affiliate network too.
While this IS basically another platform and since writing it I have proved myself wrong in several ways, this is a little like my Search Cowboys post where I talked about leaving the platform behind and the is the potential to bridge the gap – socially – between different language speakers too.
Its prospects? Google has a massive, pre-existing user base with Gmail. There will no doubt be more uptake of Buzz than there was with Wave due to the immediate integration with Gmail. However, there are some privacy issues, as articulated by @wilks below:
My honest opinion? I think it will stay. As much as I hate the whole Google as “Big Brother” concept, and it is yet another social network to keep checking and updating, it does have a few cool features. And they are kinda fun to use. Occasionally