Sunday, February 14, 2010

Get Started with Google Buzz: A Guide for Bloggers

Google Buzz is here, arriving to a chorus of "Why do we need another social media platform?". A more useful question, I believe, is "How can I use Buzz to build my blog?". It's a question I'm still exploring, but I'm optimistic about the potential I see so far.

This is Google, after all, and Google is huge. So is Buzz's potential for changing the landscape of social media. Buzz is not to be ignored, and there's no reason to do so, since the setup is so easy (see below). Why not embrace Buzz as yet another way to share your blog with the world?

What is Buzz?
Google Buzz publishes your feed, complete with images, to a follower's Gmail page, where a post looks like this (click the image to see it larger):


Followers have the option of "liking" (a la Facebook) the post and/or commenting on it. The follower can also share the post via email or send it directly to another user's stream by adding a comment prefaced by inserting "@" followed by another user's email address.

Responses to your Buzz postings are sent right to your Gmail inbox. You can respond from there, too. Like Facebook, your followers view your posts on their own turf, making accessing and responding to the info you offer extremely convenient.

Getting Started:
Click the Buzz link underneath your inbox link in Gmail to get started, or go to Buzz.Google.com. You'll need a public Google profile. If you blog using Blogger, you probably already have a profile, but even if you do, you should check it to make sure you're sharing only the information you want to share. You can also decide whether you want to show a list of accounts you're following and who are following you on your profile.

You can create a custom link to your profile. Mine looks like this: http://www.google.com/profiles/BabyCheapskate#buzz. You'll find the option at the bottom of your "edit profile" page. You can direct readers to your Buzz profile by adding #buzz to the end (http://www.google.com/profiles/BabyCheapskate#buzz) and sharing that link.

The next step is to select the sites you want to be part of your Buzz stream. Right now, you can choose from Blogger blogs, your Google Reader account (the posts you share will show up in your stream) Twitter account, Flickr account, or Picasa account. You can do this through Gmail (find the "Buzz" link right under your inbox link on the left side of the page) or through the main Buzz page. From Gmail, you can also edit your list of followers.

Note: If you're a Wordpress user, your posts will show up on Buzz if you connect your Twitter account and post blog updates there.

Adding Buzz to your Blog:
Soon, you'll be able to easily add a "Buzz This" button to your Blogger posts. You can do it now, but because the platform is so new, you'll need to manually add code to your blog template. It doesn't look too hard. You can find out more here. There's already a plug in for those with self-hosted WordPress blogs as well, which is a little embarassing, since Google owns Blogger.com.

Another easy way to entice your readers into following you on Buzz is with the Buzz widget at BuzzCounter.net:

Sharing Items with one click:
I've found an easy way to share links to sites around the web on Buzz with just one click: Add your Google Reader account to Buzz, then head to Reader and click on "Your Stuff".

Drag the "Share" bookmarklet to your browser toolbar. Reading something you want to share? Just click the bookmarklet. Shared items will turn up in your Buzz stream. Of course, if you enable Twitter, links you post there will enter your buzz stream as well.

Looking ahead:
Because it's so new, Google Buzz is most useful for those of us who already use Google's other services--notably Gmail and Blogger. If you don't use Gmail (which, as a blogger, I LOVE), you're a bit left out at the moment, since you wont' be able to view your own Buzz stream except via your profile. You won't be able to see anybody else's stuff either.

As we've seen with Gmail, Google Documents, and other Google services, however, Google products evolve. I expect we'll see lots of additions and tweaks to Buzz over the coming weeks. There isn't much available in the way of 3rd party Buzz apps yet (there's not even a gadget for igoogle). They're coming, though.

Additions I think (I hope!) we'll see soon:

  • The ability to integrate Facebook Updates
  • The ability to add any RSS feed to your stream (giving WordPress bloggers the ability to auto-update their streams with their posts)
  • FeedFlare FeedFlare options
Readers: Tell me what you think of Buzz so far!

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