When Google launched Buzz it was met with a swarm of instant interest and rapid-fire posting and then an even bigger backlash against the privacy concerns it raised, from exposing e-mail contact lists, connecting people without consent, and posting unfiltered location data from its mobile app.
Though the launch was far from ideal and alienated many people from the service, the privacy issues now have fixes, you aren’t instantly connected to your top contacts — you’ll just see a list of suggested friends — and you can hide your contact list from your Google profile. And while activity seems to have slowed somewhat as users determine if Buzz is for them, people are posting and sharing content in the social network attached to their e-mail inboxes.
Users are bringing in feeds from their social networks and Web sites, as well as posting fresh links, images, and text items publicly or privately to specified groups of people. They’re also sharing items from Google Reader, having discussions in post-related comments, and replying to their friends instantly via chat.
The problem when it comes to looking at Buzz for business is it’s only currently available to Gmail users. If you’re using Google Apps for your business e-mail, you’re supposed to be getting Buzz sometime in the near future, possibly with business controls and upgrades. However, unless you use a gmail.com address, there’s no way to access Buzz as a standalone service, even though you can add sites and other information to your Google Profile.
Some freelancers, independent contractors, and small business owners do use Gmail and are seeing some business applications, giving us a peek into the potential of the service once it’s open for other businesses to use.
Using Buzz in Your Business
Buzz’s most promising business features are that it gives you greater insight into the people you talk to most without having to spend time tracking them down on multiple platforms, and it provides a way for you to share information with your contacts without doing much work. Whether you’re automatically pulling in your latest blog posts and Flickr photos, sharing Google Reader items, or posting original thoughts and questions, your contacts have the opportunity to learn more about you, and can respond to your posts from different platforms all in one place. That insight gives Buzz great potential for getting feedback, since it extends your reach by exposing your content to people who may not be that active on other social networks. It also makes it easy to track subject-specific discussions, bringing the whole discussion up into your inbox when there’s something new added and letting you respond inline with everyone else.
Buzz can also help you collaborate and share information with smaller groups by using its private functions. You can specify groups to create a focused private discussion around shared articles or images, and you don’t have any character-count restrictions. It also lets you reply by chat, so an idea sparked by a Buzz item can become an instant conversation topic.
Buzz does have some shortcomings when it comes to sharing. Its “real-time” updates from external feeds come in unpredictably, which isn’t a big problem for more in-depth content like blogs, but it makes Twitter posts essentially useless and most users don’t post their Tweets to Buzz. There’s also no sharing function yet, so while you can “Like” and respond to others’ messages, you can’t repost them under your name — you can only e-mail links to your contacts.
In its mobile form on Android phones and iPhones, Buzz lets you tag your location, so even if you’re not a Buzz user, your customers can share information about your business with their network. It also lets users connect with others nearby even if they’re not friends, so you could potentially target messages to Buzz users in your local area.
Though still in its infancy, Buzz is showing potential as another way to keep your contacts up to date on what you’re doing and help word-of-mouth spread about your business. And its strong integration with third-party platforms means you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of time posting or checking up on your account to reap its benefits. It’s still to be seen what kind of impact Buzz will truly have on businesses, but if you’re on Gmail, it’s worth setting up your account, checking your privacy settings, and seeing if you can reach at least a few more people.