Buzz Usage Demonstrates Social Media Saturation

April 21, 2010 at 10:10 am 1 comment

Tamar Weinberg recently published an excellent post stating that the real social media innovators have moved on, and that its saturation has diluted creativity and increased push-style, mass communications.  She posits that this may be due to a lack of time or attention for building relationships.

While I do not agree with everything in the post, PostRank released statistics last night which seem to support the arguments above.  It turns out that the vast majority of activity on Google Buzz  is re-posts from other social networks (approximately 90%).  One wonders how much of  remaining 10% is one-and-done trial, and how much originated from outside the echo chamber.

ReadWriteWeb also reported PostRank’s findings, and now it’s ricocheting through the Twitter-verse.

The conclusion: most have tried Buzz because it’s Google, many are using it as a push tool to try to expand their reaches, but it’s not being widely used to build relationships.

As with Wave before it, Buzz may not fill a market need yet.  Certainly, it would be imprudent to label these innovative products as failures so soon, but it is safe to say that they are clearly not yet successes.  It casts doubt whether a company with scale, like Google, can ever launch a new social media product. Not an individual feature or an acquisition, but a new product.

Trial usage of Google Buzz

None of the most prominent social media products (e.g.: Facebook, Twitter and its ecosystem, MySpace, etc.) were launched by established companies.  And none of the products launched by established companies have taken off (e.g. various Yahoo efforts, Google Wave and Buzz, Windows Live, etc.). Why? Two potential reasons:

1. Scale leads to over-exposure. So many trials are generated, that the networks get saturated with untargeted, low-value content.

Broadly, social networks allow us to reap two professional benefits:

  • Gain Insight: by exploring and conversing with trusted sources, we expand our expertise
  • Enhance Reputation: by becoming a trusted source, we influence the conversations and end up promoting ourselves

When a social network starts small and grows organically, the value of the existing members and of our subsequent participation is clear.  Members sign up because they are truly interested.  But when an organization with scale launches a network, the hordes rush in.  And potential members can not sift through the content to find unique value or a true community.

2. Scale leads to distrust. Features, which are beneficial elsewhere, do not translate well to big social networks.

For example, when I enter a new contact into my Droid, Google Contacts automatically adds their email address (from its email application), and their picture and profile link from the Facebook application.  Brilliant!  When this same concept is applied to Buzz, mass hysteria reigns.  Google Health, though not a social network, is another good example. A recent study (pdf link) found that “third-party” electronic PHRs such as Google and Microsoft HealthVault (i.e.: not medical providers, health plans, etc.) are among the least trusted for sharing medical data (i.e.: the networking part of the product).

Ultimately, Buzz and Wave will evolve and continue to be innovative. In my view, though, Google will cherry-pick the best features and absorb those elsewhere in its ecosystem.  And we could be more creative and productive by being more deeply engaged with our existing targeted networks, rather than broader exposure in the widest possible array of networks.

Tamar Weinberg (http://www.techipedia.com/2010/social-media-boredom/ ) recently published an excellent post stating that the real social media innovators have moved on, and that its saturation has led to too much push-style, mass communications.  She posits that this may be due to a lack of time or attention for building relationships. (this does not do justice to all of her keen observations)

While I do not agree with everything in the post, PostRank ( http://blog.postrank.com/2010/04/google-buzz-a-robot-party/)  released statistics last night which seem to support the arguments above.  It turns out that the vast majority of activity on Google Buzz (approximately 90%) is re-posts from other social networks. One wonders how much of  remaining 10% is one-and-done trial, and one bets that even less of it originated from outside the echo chamber.

ReadWriteWeb (http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/90_of_content_on_google_buzz_is_bots_report_finds.php ) also reported PostRank’s findings, and now it’s shooting through the Twitter-verse  (http://search.twitter.com/search?q=Google+Buzz )

The lesson: we’ve all at least tried Buzz because it’s Google, many are using it as a push tool to try to expand their reaches, but it’s not being widely used to build relationships.

As with Wave before it, Buzz may not fill a market need.  Certainly, it would be imprudent to label these innovative products failures so soon, but it is safe to say that they are clearly not yet successes.  It also casts doubt again whether a company with scale, like Google, can ever launch a new social media product. Not an individual feature or an acquisition, but a new product.

None of the most prominent social media products (e.g.: Facebook, Twitter and its ecosystem, MySpace, etc.) were launched by established companies.  And none of the products launched by established companies have taken off (e.g. various Yahoo efforts, Google Wave and Buzz, Windows Live, etc.). Why? Two potential reasons:

1. Scale leads to over-exposure. So many trials are generated, that the networks get over-filled with untargeted, low-value content.

Broadly, social networks allow us to reap two professional benefits:

  1. Gain Insight: by exploring and conversing with trusted sources, we expand our expertise
  2. Enhance Reputation: by becoming a trusted source, we influence the conversations and end up promoting ourselves

When a social network starts small and grows organically, the value of the existing members and of our subsequent participation is clear.  Members sign up because they are truly interested.  But when an organization with scale launches a network, the hordes rush in.  And potential members can not sift through the content to find unique value or a true community.

2. Scale leads to distrust.  Features, which are beneficial elsewhere, do not translate well to big social networks.

For example, when I enter a new contact into my Droid, Google Contacts automatically adds their email address (from its email application), and their picture and profile link from the Facebook application.  Brilliant! When this same concept is applied to Buzz, mass hysteria reigns.  Google Health, though not a social network, demonstrates this as well. Pew recently found that “third-pary” websites such as Google and Micrsoft HealthVault are among the least trusted for sharing medical data (the networking part of the product). ( pdf link http://www.chcf.org/documents/healthit/ConsumersHealthInfoTechnologyNationalSurvey.pdf )

Ulimately, Buzz and Wave will evolve and continue to be innovative. In my view, though, Google, as with other products, will cherry-pick the best features and absorb those elsewhere in its ecosystem.  We would be better served by deeper engagement with our existing networks, rather than broader exposure in the widest possible array of networks.

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  • […] The second more serious shortcoming is defining exactly what rewards a user reaps by using +1.  Sharing links on your Google profile page by itself certainly won’t float anyone’s boat.  And, at this time, there’s no conversations or networking generated by +1.  While there’s an obvious connection to Buzz that could be built, Buzz has its own issues. […]

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