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?

51 Replies to “Is it time to reconsider Google Buzz vs Facebook or Twitter?”

  1. RIGHT ON….so much possibilites …forget FB …really useless….I stop feeding Twitter first day ….it just doesn't work! but I find the FUN way of putting TWEETS on myBUZZ -check it out… and I use both Twitter and Buzz for different things (they ar DIFFERENT!) ..but not mutually exclusive…or using one does not exclude the other one?…..but FB just makes me say :where the F…K is this stupid world going and for how long?

  2. Robert, I think it’s interesting to you because at this early stage it’s an “in group.” As it becomes more popular, it will get less interesting, there will be more noise, less signal, more junk.

  3. Nice post. For me, Buzz is my solid number three with Twitter first, Facebook second. I'm a huge Gmail and Google profile fan, so keeping the Buzz account going isn't a problem. I maintain a LinkedIn account too. I'm keen on the SEO potential and, while certainly not a power user like you, want to be positioned for the benefits later. Mainly, I like the more geekish, international, and eclectic crowd on Buzz. It kind of reminds me of social networking a few years back before the celebrities came along.

  4. I disgusted the Google move to stuff buzz down my throat. I wondered what info Google had on me that I thought was private that could get put in public for whatever marketing reason Google imagine and I became somewhat nervous. They had way too much info… So basically I opened my eyes and closed my Google account. A drastic move to TRY to protect my privacy.

  5. I think that Google Buzz is going to be big in the near future but it's going to take time and hard work on the part of the Buzz team and everyone too on Google Buzz to make it big, effective (in the positive sense), great, and popular :). I also think that the tech conversations seem to be going on very very well on Google Buzz as you stated, Robert. I noticed that today, cos I hadn't been paying attention to Google Buzz all that much except for today that I decided to give it my full attention too just like I've been giving Twitter. I'm not on Facebook much.

  6. Late adopters…local bar? Thats funny because from looking at these comments, I know that people who want social networking in their EMAIL are probably the same people that like to get their movies IN THE MAIL. Aging netflix hipsters – BUzz sucks

  7. Nice post, must say I completely agree with you on the list idea. one of the reasons I don't follow a lot of people is because it's hard to follow everyone on Buzz, when its one long list

  8. I think eventually Google Buzz will catch up to and eventually pass Twitter for sure and it may even start stealing peeps from Facebook. I've said this from the beginning.

    Look at gmail and gtalk and how long they took to really ramp up. For some reason it takes Google products a while to be adapted but when they do they usually prove to be far more efficient than the product they're competing with.

  9. I find the lock-in to other Google services the most problematic part and the thing that's keeping me away from Buzz.

    To be clear this is NOT due to security or privacy concerns. It's just that Gmail is my tertiary account — the one I use for notifications, test account signups etc. Since it's not my “real” email, very little of my social graph is there. That makes it difficult to use Buzz.

  10. One think I would like to mention is a feature that has, which is group lists. The way does it is, someone creates a group and then when you post something, by preceding it with a word (the word being the group name) with a (!) exclamation markโ€”the same way we do it on twitter with hash marksโ€”you send that post to the specific group and therefore you can filter a much rich content for the group and reduce the noise of other tweets that might not be suitable for the group.

    That would be something I would like to see implemented. Doesn't look like twitter will do it, but Buzz might step ahead on it.

  11. Maybe instead of constantly adding features it would be an idea to first fix what’s broken?

    Example (that could have privacy implications): my wife followed the “turn buzz off” link and deactivated buzz. After many months, I am still seeing her Twitter updates in my Buzz stream. She had connected her Twitter account when she tried Buzz. Seems that deactivating Buzz does not really deactivate Buzz.

    But I won’t be a Calacanis about it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. I hate when people pollute their feed with posts from their 'Google Reader Shared Items' and their blog. Twitter – not so much, I can at least reply and have an expectation of being heard ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. I just wish they would open Google Buzz up to those of us with Google Apps. I'm stuck with half a Buzz experience, just using my mobile devices to post (which works quite well) and it's frustrating not to have Buzz integrated into my laptop/desktop browser with all the other Google Apps family of products.

  14. Robert,

    I hope you are wrong! The last thing I [we] need right now is another social network. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, are more than enough. This is why Buzz was [is] a “ghost town”

    I for one am not looking forward to investing in another Network.


  15. Hey Robert, Seesmic actually supports buzz already in Seesmic Web and Seesmic Desktop 2 which are both mac and PC. It's also coming soon to Android &more

  16. You will probably always be able to search old Buzzes. after all, searching is still Google reson detre (or hwever you spell it).

  17. Looking forward to Buzz in Seesmic on my Archos 5 Internet Tablet with Android. For Buzz to succeed, it needs to integrate fully with clients on all platforms. I'd also like better “Sort by Magic” filters when I look through my customized Buzz feeds and searches. I'd like to sort location Buzz on a map based on time buzz were posted (for example: Find the best Party going on right now by looking for Buzz posted in your city in the last 3 hours).

  18. Robert, I agree with you practically 100% on this (both with your thumbs ups and thumbs downs).

    But with that said… dude… why is there no “buzz this” link? Worse yet, I decided to tweet your blog post and clicked on your retweet button, but the pop-up was silently blocked in Chrome (6.0.427.0 – dev). Not sure whether to blame Chrome or the folks who make that widget, but either way… ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  19. Uh, oh. I have a feeling this is the changing of the guards. Friendfeed must be on it's way out since you are getting into Google Buzz's fast lane. I'll be awaiting your formal “join me on buzz” via Friendfeed soon ๐Ÿ˜€ .

  20. Well, this is both embarrassing and telling. I recently moved my blog to Blogger and installed a Wibiya bar as well, yet I didn't notice that bar on your site (and hence missed the option to buzz the post).

    I wonder how many other people overlook the wibiya bar, too.

    Anyway, thanks for the quick and helpful response!

  21. I lke your points from 1 to 7. I bet #8 is due to your youtube, not your buzz. I see a lot of people with Google Buzz (like me), but not really using it. I don't see (yet) a killer reason to add another social media site to keep up with. Tks for sharing all your insights. Best wishes, Miguel, from Brazil

  22. I can't wait for a more seamless Buzz + Posterous integration.

    Well, that, and plus I wouldn't mind messing around with the Buzz API a bit myself.

  23. you make a good point: i trust google more than the other sites. i just found that no one on my list was buzzing making for a “crickets” experience. i might be willing to give it another shot soon thanks to you though.

  24. Nice post, but…. It sounds like your selling their product instead of evaluating it. Google has the same issues as FB with their privacy policy. The hardest thing will be to get people to pull away from FB, not because it’s better, but because people are use to it and have their friend lists established. Also, FB is easy to use and anyone from the age of 9 to 90 can be up and running in no time with little hassel – not true for Buzz.

  25. I am starting a new currency conversion website and I am thinking of ways of SEO and think Buzz might be one way to go. Is there in anything in particular in Buzz that would be very beneficial ?, the worlds fastest currency conversion website

  26. Lots of nodding as I read this. The necessary Gmail association makes it cumbersome to manage more than one Buzz account – I have resorted to having separate Gmail accounts logged into Safari, Firefox and Chrome to avoid having to persistently log in and out.

  27. I haven't seen evidence of Buzz moving beyond the techie crowd. Are any other market segments picking it up?

  28. It's hard to prove either way. I'm seeing a ton of non-geeky posts, but I don't follow a lot of non geeks. In fact I tend to like the techie crowd. But, yeah, this is a problem. It'll be interesting to see how it gets adoption outside of the techie world and if that brings in noise that destroys the fun I'm having there.

  29. This actually leads to a better question — Is it time to reconsider Buzz vs FB vs Twitter *for what*? Is it to play Farmville? To keep in touch with family and friends? To strengthen a brand? To share links and discussions with other geeks?

    To me, Buzz is very good for the latter, but not for the rest.

  30. I've known about Twitter ever since it was a nice little app in search of a relevant problem to solve. Somewhere along the way it simply stopped looking, and to this day I haven't find a single reason to join.

    However I am completely hooked to Buzz. How did that happen?

    # it's there, damnit

    Can't deny it: I started using Buzz because it was shoved into my Gmail account, so what the Hell, might as well give it a try. Of course it has strengths other than that, or I'd never keep using it; but being so close at hand continues to be one main reason why I keep coming back.

    # microblogging for non-ADHD's

    Sure, you can post one-liners to Buzz; once in a while I do just that myself. But what I love the most about the service is how it stretches the concept of microblogging to a point where it actually starts to become useful. With no arbitrary post length limits, basic text formatting (you can do paragraphs, as well as italics and bold text) and the option to attach images both from the web and my own collection, Buzz is not that far away from a fully-featured blogging tool.

    # blogging at the speed of thought

    For all its comparative power, Buzz remains remarkably simple to use. I have been writing posts one way or another ever since the later days of the BBS; but when it comes to regular updates, I always have and still do suck big time. Usually when I start a blog I will keep a steady pace for a couple weeks, then completely forget about it for the next six months. But Buzz has closed the gap between post ideas and writing, to the point I notice that, wasn't for its extreme convenience, many a post wouldn't have ever seen the light of day.

    To be fair, it's not all good. Finding Buzzes relevant to my interests continues to be surprisingly difficult, as people I know through Gmail either never post, or write about stuff I don't care about, and I end up unfollowing them. Tags, lists or some other way to categorize posts remains a necessity; and I still want to know why, all of a sudden, I can't edit my older posts (although they remain visible from my public profile, I can't see them on Gmail's Buzz page). However, all in all Buzz is a very good service, which makes it all the more of a shame that so many people have simply hooked their Buzz accounts to Twitter and never looked back.

  31. You missed the #1 problem with Buzz in my opinion: its interface is atrocious.

    Case in point, your own Buzz page at
    How are you supposed to be able to parse that mess of text, bright underlined links and images? I'm sure your content on that page is great, but there's no way I want to fight my way through it.

  32. If you want to protect your privacy you may create non-related Google account(s) for every “You”. Just don't forget to switch your identities before browsing-posting ๐Ÿ™‚
    Choosing different providers is not reliable protection: they may exchange information with each other (or with some third party that bought them), today or tomorrow…

  33. This was the same for me… until I bought my Android phone. Because of tight integration of mobile phone contacts and mail with Web info at Google I moved my main mail account to gmail. And I still have test account(s) at gmail also ๐Ÿ™‚

  34. 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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