Campaign India Team
Apr 15, 2010

It's too soon to dismiss Google Buzz as a wannabe

Launched on February 9, 2010, Google Buzz is barely two months old. And though, according to numbers released by Google, tens of millions of people took a look at what this new social media site had to offer in the first two days of its launch, interest has since waned.

It's too soon to dismiss Google Buzz as a wannabe

Launched on February 9, 2010, Google Buzz is barely two months old. And though, according to numbers released by Google, tens of millions of people took a look at what this new social media site had to offer in the first two days of its launch, interest has since waned.

For people to migrate in hordes from current favourites such as Facebook and Twitter and start ‘buzzing’, there has to be a compelling competitive advantage. Apart from the fact that it is easily integrated with the other services on one’s Google account, there aren’t many visible advantages.

However, given its lineage and the initial numbers backing it, it may be too soon to dismiss Buzz as another social networking wannabe from Google’s stable.

For the uninitiated, Buzz is the small tab that appears below one’s Inbox icon in Gmail navigation. Wired directly into Gmail, it makes one’s Gmail social, literally. Says Google, on its blog: "Google Buzz is a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting. It’s built right into Gmail, so you don’t have to peck out an entirely new set of friends from scratch – it just works."

Buzz is not Google’s first attempt at social networking. There have been various previous attempts like Orkut that got completely upstaged by other social and micro-blogging sites like Facebook and Twitter; and Jaiku and Google Wave that did not win widespread acceptance. However, this time Google seems to have done a lot of homework. "Besides being embedded into Gmail, its ability to integrate with other products like Twitter, Picasa, Flickr, Youtube, Blogger and Google Reader makes the Buzz experience a better one," says T Gangadhar, managing director, MEC India. "If we look at the numbers in India, Twitter has grown from 100,000 users to 2 million users (1,569% growth) in the last one year; Facebook from 4.5 million to 13 million (189% growth), while Gmail has added 6 million new users taking its reach up to 20 million (44% growth). Deep diving into these numbers throws up an interesting insight on duplication of users. Gmail has over 18 million users who don’t use Twitter and over 11 million users who don’t use Facebook. The duplication data across the three reveals that Gmail has over 10 million users who are not on any social networking site. Google’s move to integrate Buzz with Gmail can help expand the reach of social media disproportionately."

Though it is a late mover and is still ironing out the kinks in its original format, especially issues regarding users’ privacy, one thing is for sure. With the launch of Buzz, Google is trying to get as much share of the web-users time and attention as it can. Says Deepti Dang, head, marketing – commercial & SMB, personal systems group, Hewlett-Packard India, "Google is trying to create an ecosystem around the user today which will have them control/influence media at maximum touch points. These touch points (social media, mobile, search, OOH) are slowly being integrated into a more powerful entity which we will get to hear in the future."

As far as advertising goes, it is pretty straight forward: the more time people spend on Google products, the more opportunities open up for advertising and branding. While there is no official word on Buzz’s revenue model, it is quite likely that it’ll be yet another opportunity for Google to place contextual ads.

It is still too early to predict whether Buzz will pose any kind of competition for Facebook or Twitter. A platform is only relevant when it gives you adequate reach and has lot of affinity with its group of users/followers. "On the first glance it looks similar to Twitter, that is creating a brand stream and reaching out to followers in the group. We will have to wait and watch if it matches up to platforms like Twitter in the near future," added Dang.

Key is that people should start buzzing, which is not happening today, at least not as much as Google would want them to. But then Google is also a long-view company, and sometimes it takes a while to see the connections between various products.

What it means for social networking sites
At the first glance, Buzz does look like yet another social networking site with no apparent differentiation. But considering there are 10 million Gmail users in India who are not a part of any other social networking site, and already have Buzz embedded in their Gmail account, competitors need to be on high alert.

What it means for advertisers

Whether and how quickly advertisers bite depends entirely on how popular Buzz becomes. That said, advertisers do have the advantage of reaching the users via the proven power of Google’s ad platform. Also, if ads are targeted based on personal profiles, the CTRs may be good, making Buzz a compelling proposition for advertisers and their media agencies.

Source:
Campaign India