Google Buzz: A social networking tool that allows Gmail users to share updates, photos, videos, links and more instantaneously online and on Android phones and the iPhone--made its debut today. By the end of the weekend, Google says all 175 million or so of its Gmail account holders will have access to the new service.
Already, just hours after its release, a number of pundits and media outlets are suggesting Google Buzz will compete with Twitter and Facebook, ultimately resulting in a third major player in the tweet/status update arena.
Early indications seem to suggest that the new service--which appears to be optimized for the mobile web--will be very useful for businesses that engage in linking their geographic locations to instant messages. Still, because Google Buzz is so tightly integrated with Gmail, the barrier to entry--if you want to use it, you have to be a Gmail subscriber--might be too high for a large enough number of users to gather and create a bonafide third player in the social networking landscape.
Traditionally, e-mail-linked social sharing tools like Google Buzz have failed to impress. Microsoft and Yahoo! both claim to play in the same space, but really, is anyone reading this blog entry actually using Yahoo! Updates or Microsoft's aggregation of Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr via Hotmail more so than they use Facebook.com or Twitter.com or a web/desktop-based reader like Hootsuite or Seesmic?
One Google Buzz feature businesses might appreciate is that updates can be sent as private or public messages to large groups of people. To be fair though, Facebook offers the same option via creating and sending a status update to a List of Facebook members only.
For social media savvy businesses, only time will tell if it makes sense to use Google Buzz instead of or in addition to Facebook or Twitter for communicating and engaging with customers. If you have any thoughts about Google Buzz that you'd like to share with other business owners and entrepreneurs, please weigh in by leaving a comment below.
Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.