My granny always told me to stop and smell the roses before you are pushing them up. But we Internet marketing pundits donít like to stop for anything. We throw opinions out the minute something happens, when sometimes itís best to look at the bigger picture. Now that we are a few weeks removed from the announcement of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Buzz, can we put all these opinions in perspective and learn the bigger lesson?
When first announced, pundits thought Google Buzz was big. (One announced, ďGoogle Kills Twitter.Ē) But within days, the conventional wisdom became a buzz kill, as Googleís missteps on privacy caused the experts to declare that Buzz was not going to be very important at all. They joked that Google was buzzed when they thought it up and Googleís reputation got a "Buzzcut" (LOL).
While itís fun to make such extreme pronouncements, itís not really that important whether Buzz itself succeeds or fails. The more interesting part of the story is what it says about Google and social media.
Google is keenly focused on taking market share in social media, and regardless of its success with Google Buzz, it will treat social media the way a dog treats a bone. You arenít going to pull Google away from its bone without quite a fight.
Letís just look at three Google initiatives:
- YouTube. People constantly carp about how big a money-loser YouTube Inc. has been for Google, but Google doesnít see it that way. As the Web shifts from pure text to multimedia, YouTube might have been the cheapest defensive maneuver for Googleís search share, now that YouTube is the second largest search engine (behind Google itself) in most markets.
- Google Wave. How do you take a leading position in email and make it social-media-ready? Google might not know, but its Wave offering tells you that itís going to keep trying until it figures it out. The jury is out as to whether Wave catches a wave, but itís not hard to see how Wave collaboration combined with the Buzz social graph might change the way people interact online.
- Google Reader. Now considered old hat, we forget just how rapidly Google Reader usurped Bloglines and all the other RSS reader facilities. Google Reader in recent times has focused on becoming more social, allowing users to share content and to follow the content tastes of others. Did you know that sharing in Google Reader is up 35 percent since the launch of Google Buzz? How long will it take for Google to provide an RSS feed of what it thinks you are interested in?
You could add other Google initiatives to this list, and you could tie everything back to search. Buzz could become a conduit for Google to pull together even more data about users who permit it. Now, they can tie together your Gmail and Google Reader activity with your Twitter and Facebook updates. That information becomes even more fodder for personalization of search results.
But the bigger picture here is that Google knows that social media are the biggest threat to search, because people have only so much time in the day. Every time you decide to ask your Facebook friends a question instead of searching, you are part of a trend that keeps Sergey and Larry up at night. Itís one thing to have a monopoly in search, but if the time people spend searching begins to wane, that monopoly becomes less valuable than it once was.
Recently, Google bought Aardvark, a service that helps you identify which of your friends might know the answer to your question. Itís not hard to think of how Google might use that across Buzz and Google Search.
The way Buzz was released also reveals Googleís desperation to become relevant in social media. They admitted that they launched it with no external testing and that the product wasnít ready. They also showed their cards with the stance they took on privacy. Google has always hung back on privacy, allowing Facebook and others to take the black eyes in testing the boundaries. The fact that they pushed the limits with Buzz tells you they are extremely concerned about their lack of success in social media.
Make no mistake about it: Google intends to be part of the social media people spend their time with, because Google knows its search monopoly will continue to shrink in importance.
Trust me, Google cares a great deal about social media. If you learn nothing from Buzz, learn that.
— Mike Moran, author of Do It Wrong Quickly, is a speaker and consultant on Internet marketing.