Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Buzz about Google Buzz – 6 things relevant to B2B

Yesterday, Google announced their next major foray into social media, with the launch of Google Buzz. While the main concepts behind Buzz are very familiar with anyone who is at all familiar with social media – friends, status updates, photo sharing – the way that Google brings it all together, and their sheer weigh in the market, means that this may be quite interesting.

As a B2B marketer, what does this mean?

It’s always challenging to gaze into the proverbial crystal ball, and in a market this dynamic, many things can change, but here are 6 things worth paying close attention to as Google Buzz rolls out:

1) Shift to the Main Stream:

Historically, social media has been somewhat separate from other parts of our world. You had to deliberately set up a new social service, whether Twitter or Facebook, and then actively make it part of your daily routine. It actually took an effort (albeit small) to get involve. This meant that social media was less adopted by the business mainstream, but was mostly adopted by the writers and bloggers within a business context. Therefore, social media as a marketing strategy in B2B was often used to influence influencers, rather than connecting directly with end prospects.

Now, Google has integrated all of the elements of social media much more tightly together – your email contacts automatically are your friends/followers, Buzz updates are right next to your Inbox, and a message blurs the boundary between an email and direct message. This means that, rather quickly, a significantly higher percentage of the mainstream audience will find themselves involved – actively or passively – in social media.

2) Reducing Business/Personal Boundaries:
With this steady integration of email, status updates, photos, and friends into one realm, it continues the trend of blurring the boundaries between business and social relationships, and between work and home life. Whereas I do believe that, in many ways, our brains are hard wired to see a clear difference (hence why it would feel extremely awkward to offer to pay your mother-in-law for Thanksgiving dinner), I do see the evolution of Google Buzz as reducing those boundaries.

What this means for B2B Marketers is that your buyers will have more personal stakes on the table when they get involved with your organization. Regardless of whether you are the cheapest or best, the encroachment of business on personal space will mean that strong emotional factors will be at play. If you are not a company with whom they feel a level of trust, a personal relationship, and a pride about doing business with, you may not be selected. Intangible factors, to be sure, but personal space is more about emotional factors than rational business decisions.

3) Small Groups, Waves, and Influence:
Google appears to be adding a focus on the “small group” that is less emphasized in many current social platforms. By adding an interim step between one-to-one and one-to-world, and providing a new way for these groups to interact (and be observed) online with Google Wave, they now have a much richer ability to understand how influence manifests itself in small groups.

This shift from large influencers to many smaller influencers is a key dynamic in today’s world, and by focusing on the small groups, Google has positioned themselves to be a key part of it.

4) Location-Based Social Connections Increase in Importance:
With a tight tie to the iPhone, and its location-based features, Google Buzz has moved location-based thinking one step closer to prominence in today’s market. Buzz has many features that are tied to both where you are, and more importantly, who is near you. With a human, face-to-face relationship still being highly relevant in building trust, these location-based features may increase the importance of classic off-line events like major shows and conferences.

Rather than being about the content, events will continue to shift towards being about who is there, and how to orchestrate face-to-face meetings. Location-based social networks will be one of the most powerful contributors to this shift in the dynamic of off-line events.

5) Google Knows the Influencers:

One of the most powerful insights that Google gains is knowledge of who the actual influencers are in any given market. Seeing exactly who is followed, what topics are discussed in small groups (and with whom), and what links are clicked on in shared status updates, gives Google tremendous insights into who is interesting and relevant in any given topic area.

This understanding of influence by subject is not just a powerful data set, but as Google progresses further into real-time search, the ability to rank a result highly because a key influencer on that topic area suggested it will allow much more accurate search results. For those B2B marketers still focused exclusively on content and links as a driver of search ranking, this will be a trend to pay attention to.

6) Google Knows Your Interests:

Conversely, Google will also begin to build an understanding of each person’s interests based on their friends, the topics of their discussions, and what they share and respond to. As Google does this, they will be able to move from only being able to present relevant information when it is actively sought (via search), to presenting information that is passively sought (through general indications of interest). A “recommended” posts concept will allow Google to continually tune these algorithms.

This is a powerful transformation for B2B marketers, as many of the ideas and concepts we need to communicate and have buyers discover are not always actively sought. Being able to present a message to someone who displays certain indicators of intent, but may not have explicitly searched, is a powerful arrow in the B2B marketer’s quiver.

How Google Buzz truly ends up effecting us as B2B marketers is obviously determined by many factors. However, Google is clearly a major player in the market for finding and discovering information, and as they make a major new foray into social media with Buzz, these six trends are well worth watching.

What do you think? What will your organization be watching for as Google Buzz rolls out?
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
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Joe said...

But isn't it all hinged off of one's Gmail account, which (except for very small companies) is ostensibly a personal email domain? I am not sure how deeply B2B marketers will plunge into a medium that is anchored to their personal identity. I get that these lines are blurring, but I think this particular medium skews much more personal than corporate, with the notable exception of the "organized happenstance" of the geo-location features. If I were FourSquare, I’d be scared. But that’s about it.

Steven Woods said...

Definitely a good point. I'm not sure where we'll end up with the blurring of personal/business topics combined with the blurring of personal/business accounts. At the end of the day, people buy from people, and I suspect that the last 100 years of marketing may be the anomaly, rather than now. We abstracted away personal involvement in the process. Not sure that is a normal state.

Joe said...

I saw a clever tweet from Forrester's Nate Elloit who muses: Maybe Google's end game isn't to win in social, but to capture profiles in their attempt.

aby.varma said...

There is already talk, albeit unconfirmed, that there may be an "unbolted-to-Gmail" version of Buzz in the offing in the future (see Moving in the other direction is Facebook's Project Titan ( a possible facebook email option. While I can almost see a Gmail/Buzz and FacebookEmail/Facebook stand-off, Google may have the upper hand given its sheer dominance in search by proliferating "buzzed" topics in its search results forcing marketers to buzz to get found.