Is it time to reconsider Google Buzz vs Facebook or Twitter?

Google Buzz logo

OK, Google Buzz has been out several months now (you can see my Google Buzz items on my Google profile page). When it first came out lots of people tried it. But they just as quickly went away. I know, I have 10,000 people following me there but many haven’t been back since the early weeks.

Plus, Google got a lot of bad PR because when you setup that service it shared your social graph publicly. One problem: Google Buzz’s social graph is based on the one you built up inside Gmail. That’s potentially troublesome. Google fixed that problem after a few days, letting you hide your social graph, among other fixes, but that bad aftertaste still exists.

For a while it seemed like the service was going to be a ghost town.

But lately it’s been coming back. I’m getting more engagement on my items there than on Twitter or Facebook. Personally it’s more fun, but more on that in a second.

Why is it coming back?

1. Google has been consistently adding features. It now is pretty close to matching FriendFeed (or it will be after they ship a few features I’ve been given early access to).
2. The community is great. I see a lot of great photography. Great discussions of news stories. And great conversations about tech. You only have to see my iPhone vs. Sprint EVO thread to see the value there.
3. The team is visible. There’s a Google Buzz page for the team, they are interacting with us on the site and in public (especially true at the Google IO conference, which makes sense).
4. The mobile features, especially on Android, are way ahead of other social networks like Twitter or Facebook.
5. Google has not yet deleted anyone’s accounts or punished people unfairly the way Twitter or Facebook have.
6. Google’s infrastructure is famous for being very scalable and having high uptime and that’s true on Buzz, too. Everytime Twitter is down I head over to Buzz. I can’t remember ever seeing Buzz down, actually. I think there might have been one time, but it was so short I don’t remember. Funny, while writing this post I saw the fail whale on Twitter twice. The only problem on Buzz that I’ve seen is that sometimes it gets a bit slow.
7. The search engine actually works. On Twitter, try to find old Tweets. You can’t. But on Google Buzz my old items are still searchable. At least so far. Of course the system isn’t very old so that’s not very fair to Twitter.
8. I wonder if there’s an SEO opportunity here. According to my blog’s traffic has been heading up all year since Google Buzz came out. Are my posts being helped by also being on Buzz and by my having a great YouTube site and a great Google Profile — all linking together? Or is it that I’ve been doing more good content lately? I don’t know, but I don’t want to stop doing Buzz just to find out. Makes sense that Google might be rewarding sites that support Buzz, doesn’t it? I’m sure Matt Cutts will jump in and say there’s nothing going on here, but Google is definitely putting more real time stuff into its search results, so this is something I’ll be watching the SEO experts to test out.
9. It’s been getting an identity that’s different than either Facebook or Twitter. Mostly thanks to being able to post long items, but also because its aggregator works better than Facebook’s does and also because photos show up in big, glorious, color. See Thomas Hawk’s items for an example of how different Buzz is.

Anyway, add this all together and I’m wondering if it’s time to reconsider Google Buzz?

Now, there are still some significant negatives.

1. Google Buzz desperately needs noise control. For instance, there are lots of people still bringing their Tweets in there and those Tweets are almost always low quality. I want to tell Buzz to not display anyone’s Tweets. But I can’t do that yet because Buzz has no noise control features.
2. Google Buzz desperately needs separate lists that I can put people on. Everyone is fed together in one long feed. I want to separate out people like I can on Twitter with Twitter lists, which are massively awesome.
3. There aren’t nearly as many clients for Google Buzz as there are for Twitter, but I’m starting to see a few previously-Twitter-only clients now supporting Google Buzz. Seesmic is one, but only on their Windows app so far.
4. There are dramatically fewer brands on Google Buzz, especially in the news departments. Plus dramatically fewer people. So, until Buzz gets more popular you’ll still be forced to read most of your friends on either Facebook or Twitter.
5. Google Buzz isn’t yet available as a service that’s separate from Gmail. That’s a real bummer.
6. Google Buzz still doesn’t give you enough control over the display. For instance, popular items still pop up to the top and you can’t force the site to be strictly reverse-chronilogical like Twitter or Facebook are.

But back to why I’m having more fun on Buzz. There’s something that’s fun about being able to have a conversation. Over on Twitter it just seems everyone is shouting at me “read my blog, click my links, watch my videos.” I’m guilty there too, because that’s what Twitter really has become. Trying to be two-way over there is very difficult, actually causes too much noise, and even if you do it having a conversation there is really disjointed and not nice.

Plus, the folks over on Google Buzz are early adopters. They are pioneers. Late adopters don’t show up, so the conversations are fun and interesting. If I want to talk to late adopters I just go to my local bar. Online I’m looking for something a bit more fun.

Google Buzz has — for me — been getting better. Is it a Twitter or Facebook killer yet? No way. But if it keeps being updated I can see an interesting world taking shape here and, certainly, one that brands and geeks should certainly be putting into their media mix.

What do you think? What would get you to use Google Buzz instead of Twitter or Facebook?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

51 thoughts on “Is it time to reconsider Google Buzz vs Facebook or Twitter?

  1. I'm enjoying Buzz, and like Friendfeed, I appreciate the threaded discussions. I use it as a complimentary tool to Twitter. Twitter for mass hit & run conversations while more meaningful chatter on Buzz. I like the way photos are displayed as well.

    When it integrates more solidly with mobile devices it will be even more interesting.

    I don't care for most imported Twitter feeds, they're difficult to follow and I'm usually reluctant to comment because I know the conversation is really intended for elsewhere.

    I did like pushing comments from Friendfeed to Twitter, no 140 character limit at it still made sense.

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