Sunday, February 14, 2010

How Google Buzz could sting your PR program

Impact of Google Buzz on PR and Marketing

Google launched a new social network last week named Buzz that is certain to impact your marketing and public relations programs. At a minimum, the new Google effort adds one more social channel for you to monitor. At the worst, the social network could dramatically impact search engine results for your brand. Before you get stung by Buzz, invest a little time keeping the swarming new community.

Buzz is a mix of Twitter and Facebook. The service accepts updates like Twitter and ties you with all of your friends like Facebook. Most new social networks aren't important when they launch because no one is using them. Google is different because it has a built-in audience of over 100 million accounts and it is clear that much of the technology cool kids raced out to Buzz within hours of its launch. The strong media coverage and Google's brand has it off to a strong start. I saw nearly all of the influencers that I follow on the service in the first two days. To help orient you, Jeremiah Owyang from Altimeter Group put together a good chart that simplifies the differences between Buzz, Twitter, Facebook and Myspace. Also, Ben Parr at Mashable penned a great story that outlines why Buzz is growing quickly.

Because much of the world gets their search results from Google, I pay attention when they add services with the potential to impact search results for brands. Google has been steadily incorporating social updates into their search results. This means that you can pay search engine optimization folks lots of money to drive your brand to the top of a search, but then find that a rash of brand-bashing Tweets pop up in the top of your search results. For example, I searched for Southwest Airlines this evening and was surprised to see the face of Kevin Smith, the director, in the first few results. It appears that he had an incident with the airlines and Tweeted about it. I'm sure that hundreds of hours of SEO work done by the Southwest marketing team were wiped away in seconds by that situation. The public battle between the celebrity and the airline is also occurring on Buzz so it is critical that PR departments actively monitor this new channel for conversations about their brands.

Additionally, Google is certain to start offering paid search results around Buzz content like they do for regular search. This means that your competitors can quickly exploit your public mistakes and buy key words around the conversation about your brand. I haven't seen ads in Buzz yet, but ads are nearly always at the heart of the Google business strategy.

So what can you do about it? I put together some actions that PR and marketing departments can take immediately to help them monitor and engage with the community on Buzz.

How to keep Buzz from stinging your PR program:

1. Get on Buzz and monitor your brands
- Go to Buzz and put together a profile. Then connect all of your social networks so your communication in other places automatically flows in to Buzz. Google allows you to verify your account for free so people know that the name in Buzz is really you. It will help you protect your personal brand and helps Google include your posts in their search results.

2. Find and follow your influencers
- Just like on Twitter, there are people who are influencing the conversation more than others. Put together your list of traditional and social media influencers and then look for them on Buzz. If you have already followed them on Twitter, you can import them if they are using Buzz with this tool from Tw2buzz. Re-run Tw2buzz every couple of days so you can catch the new influencers that create Buzz accounts.

3. Engage by posting meaningful content on Buzz -
Produce meaningful content and then post it to Buzz just like you do on Twitter and Facebook. You'll quickly get feedback and learn how to fit this new channel into your customer engagement program.

4. Make your Web site, videos, photos and content shareable to Buzz - Social networks thrive on people sharing stuff with their friends. Studies show that people are more than three times more likely to share with their friends if you have easy-to-use sharing tools that push that content right into their social network of choice. Social sharing should be the heart of your search engine visibility program because it provides search engines with fresh and popular content when people are searching for your brand.

Right now Buzz seems to be filled with the technology crowd that were enthusiastic contributors on Friendfeed, but the large Google customer base is propelling the just-home-from-the-hospital social network into kindergarten. PR and marketing teams that invest now in the newborn can keep themselves from getting stung by the swarming Buzz community.

Do you have suggestions about how PR and marketing teams can get started on Buzz? Please let us know in the comments section.

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