Does Google Buzz offer marketers value?

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The gloves are off
The gloves are off

Like most Google products, the introduction of Gmail's social network Google Buzz is getting mixed reviews. Does it offer any opportunities for marketers? Two experts debate

CONTENDER

Betsy Miller
Director of marketing, Blueport Commerce
Eight years of marketing experience

Yes. If you believe that Google Buzz can recover from the wave of negative publicity it has (rightly) received to date, you might find the service has some interesting features that may make it an extremely helpful tool for marketers. Most prominent in my mind is the "decision tree" functionality.

Google Buzz is unlike Facebook and Twitter. It aims to promote collaboration and idea-sharing through conversation threads, and the spreading of photos, videos and other content. It's not a stretch to see users taking advantage of Buzz to get feedback from their 100-plus friends on what they are doing, and — more importantly for marketers — what they are purchasing. 

As a marketer specializing in "big ticket" retail, I see huge potential to use Google Buzz during the decision making process for large, often expensive products. For example, if you're in a local Crate & Barrel deciding between two different sofas, you could easily upload a photo and wait for feedback from your friends and family before returning next week to make the purchase. You might also just pick up the coordinating coffee table your friend in New York found for you.

This interaction goes to the heart of peer-to-peer recommendations, one of the most powerful marketing forces out there. The trick, of course, will be for marketers to package content in a way that is genuine, meaningful and — most of all — interesting enough to generate some buzz-worthy conversations.


CONTENDER

Rob Lawson
CMO and cofounder, Brightkite.com
More than 15 years in marketing

No. Everyone's abuzz over Google Buzz, but marketers should be wary of the new service before jumping in with both feet. In theory, Buzz enables local advertising with a social twist - consumers share their location so Google can sell local ads. However, with local advertising still in the dark ages of the Yellow Pages and local newspapers, is Buzz really ready for prime time?

Google Buzz can certainly be a good thing for both consumers and marketers if Google executes correctly, but it can also be bad for both if privacy is not respected. In its rush to get Buzz out amidst the flurry of niche location-based services popping up, Google has overlooked significant privacy controls that have it stuck in neutral. We've already seen Google publicly scrambling to tweak the service because of these complaints. Buzz will only work for marketers if the consumer proposition is the best in the sector, and consumers adopt and spread the service virally.

Buzz is competing with well-established companies that are already being used as marketing platforms. Consumers are comfortable with services like Facebook and Twitter — and already use a portfolio of startups in the location-mobile-social intersection — so Google has its work cut out in building an audience valuable to marketers. In order to succeed, Google will have to build the right user experience and value proposition. But given Google's record of unsuccessful social media attempts, marketers shouldn't hold their breath on Buzz.

DMNEWS' DECISION

Buzz has yet to catch the wave of popularity that brought Facebook, Twitter and other social media services to marketers' attention. However, that can be attributed to the snags it faced at launch. Before it can be truly useful for marketers, Google must address privacy concerns and other complaints raised by consumers.

HAVE YOUR SAY E-mail your topic to frank.washkuch@dmnews.com

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