Google made headlines today with their first foray into social activity streaming (source). The new feature is basically like a Twitter tweet or a Facebook wall post embedded into gmail (Google’s email service).
To test it out, I tried it both on my desktop and my mobile device (the iPhone). I posted a quick status update about a meeting that I had in the afternoon and then I used the GPS-enables search capability to search for buzz posts from friends and people that are nearby. And the verdict is?
While Google may have thought that it had a hit on their hands, it feels more like a buzz-kill to me. There are several issues with this new service:
- It is force social networking in email. Google opted to directly introduce this feature instead of using the Gmail Labs capabilities to introduce this feature as an add-on (the way that Google normally introduces new features). Google also added a special icon to this feature to draw focus to this new feature, ensuring that gmail users pay attention to it.
- Google didn’t make Buzz super-intuitive. As a Google Wave user, I’ve wanted to tie my Wave, which is collaborative message, to an email as a means of continuing the conversation. While I learned that Google Buzz has this feature, I didn’t pick up on it until I watched the video (source). I also had a co-worker asking me how they can tie Buzz to Twitter, which they didn’t think was very obvious.
- People don’t seem to know how to to use Buzz. I must be a super early adopter because NO ONE (and I mean none of my technologically or marketing savvy friends) seemed to have used Buzz to post a single buzz. The worst part about this test is that I know that they checked their gmail account at least once today so I would have expected to see one buzz. I think that this is indicative that while Google may have a significant user base, the Google Buzz service in by itself is not enough to entice a user to post to an activity stream nor is it a good replacement of twitter.
For Google, Buzz is a necessary service. It helps Google:
- Generate more traffic/interest in Gmail. Gmail has less users than Hotmail and Yahoo so they need a service to increase subscribers.
- Google Buzz creates a solution to connects your email with Twitter. This feature is incredibly value to marketers who want to understand the consumers that interact with their brands. While DandyID offers a similar capability, Google already has a larger user base so it is game over for DandyID.
- Buzz establishes a new page view/instance to sell an add. Google isn’t doing this because they want to offer something cool/evolutionary — Google needs buzz to goose their ad revenue (even if they don’t roll this feature out immediately).
The one thing that I noted on the first evening of having access to Google Buzz is that interest was fading fast. While Google Buzz was ranked 4th in hot search topics in the USA, it dropped to the 10th spot within 20 minutes (see below).
Let’s hope that tomorrow’s a better day for this shinny new service.