You know, that twitter-copying, gmail-invading, privacy-challenging, notably underwhelmingly successful service that was supposed to take the world by storm last February?
If you suddenly remember Google Buzz, and you aren’t an active user of the service itself, it probably had something to do with something negative; perhaps either an email from Google? Oh, or that whole class action lawsuit to which said email pertained.
In a move rarely made by Google, the search engine and advertising behemoth themselves sent a mass email to all of their gmail users briefly explaining the reasons for, and result of, a recent class-action lawsuit brought against them.
The reason, for those readers even more disinterested in Buzz than those of us who barely care at all, has to do with major concerns regarding privacy; specifically the amount of information users were opted into sharing without being asked.
The recent attention coming Buzz’s way, wanted or unwanted, reminds me to mention to the social marketing world that, good or bad, Buzz is still here; and it isn’t going away. (At least, not quite yet.)
From a business’ standpoint, what does the law suit and surrounding privacy concerns have to do with your marketing strategy?
Honestly? Not a whole lot.
Do People Even Really Care?
When you choose to emulate the likes of Twitter and Facebook, you’re entering a world where being public is the point. From a company standpoint, when it comes to privacy, the key difference between Twitter and Google is that Google — which owns popular cloud-based services such as email, docs, spreadsheets, and feed readers (gmail, google docs, and google reader respectively) — tends to have access to a lot more of your information than Twitter does. It’s not as if a Google Buzz account has to be any more public than, say, a public Twitter account.
Well, whoever you are, when private information is used inappropriately, you get yourself a law suit.
A lawsuit that google never quite apologizes for in that email:
“Shortly after its launch, we heard from a number of people who were
concerned about privacy. In addition, we were sued by a group of Buzz users
and recently reached a settlement in this case.
The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address
users’ concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an
independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting
privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate
people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about
privacy online, the better their online experience will be.”
Well, as long as you’re really sorry, I suppose it’s ok.
Google Buzz: It’s OK
Perhaps “ok” is the perfect expression to sum up the entire soap opera history of Google Buzz. Google’s privacy faux pas elicited an understandably intense reaction at the time, but now the lawsuit has settled, and one could argue that, counter-intuitive as it may sound given yesterday’s email, the waters have calmed a bit. Have you noticed anyone abandoning gmail over privacy issues? Me neither. Either people are “ok” with what happened, they don’t blame Google, just Buzz itself (which is ridiculous), or consumers are just too seduced by Google’s excellence at what they do to care.
Or, perhaps offering social networking and micro-blogging services is simply a niche that Google didn’t get to first or execute any better than their competitors. Clearly, whatever people’s rage about privacy, not many people are dumping gmail over it.
Why Are We Talking About This?
The key point here is that if nothing else good came from this whole lawsuit, hopefully (a) it reminded you that Google Buzz is out there, and (b) it did NOT deter you from using their services if you’re a business owner.
Is Google Buzz good for social media marketing? If nothing else, it’s “ok.” If you own a business that is involved in social media marketing, and you’re not on Google Buzz, my question for you is… “why not?”
Besides, who’s to say Google won’t figure it out and turn Buzz around? It may be unlikely, but everyone knows never to count out Google. (Unless, of course, you cared about Google Wave.)