The most important difference between Google Buzz and Facebook

Facebook is the biggest monster in the room, there’s no denying that.

It is huge and regardless of how much of an uproar there might be over the way it decides it wants things done it isn’t going anywhere. We might whine and bitch about Facebook constantly changing the rules of the game in order to suit its own ends but unfortunately there is no other social network capable of challenging it.

But perhaps it doesn’t need to be challenged. Perhaps there are alternatives out there that while not as big or all encompassing as Facebook that are just as good in their own way. After all it isn’t a requirement that we need to join, or participate, Facebook – at least not yet.

I was thinking about that today when I read a post by Louis Gray where he was talking about why Google Buzz was a better alternative for him over Facebook.

The world of social networking is not a zero-sum game. For Buzz to succeed does not mean that either of the other networks have to fail. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that Buzz has to be the biggest network on the planet. But it does mean that it should have the potential to be the best. I need a powerful aggregation tool that watches my activity on Google Reader and native blogs, but also offers the option to share photos and videos in a public way. Buzz does that. I need a powerful tool that lets me find friends’ updates from around the Web and engage with them in a central location. Buzz does that.

Now I’ve written before about my feelings about Buzz and the things that bothered me about the service. In general I kinda like the service but one of my biggest sticking points with it came from being a content producer and how Buzz handled my content when I decided to stream it into their service.

There are times though where as a writer, or content producer, who uses Buzz as an auxiliary notification system I really get pissy with you. Unlike the Friendfeed or Twitter; or even Facebook, practice of either just posting the headline or the headline and an excerpt Buzz takes all our content and posts it .

Now how can I say this nicely: NOT!

Seriously DeWitt, Google doesn’t even do that to newspapers in Google News why would you do that to content producers in Buzz.

I realize that this probably only bothers an extremely small segment of the users, and contributors, to Buzz but sometimes even the smallest problem can sour the experience for us as it did in this case it did for me.

But an interesting thing happened today that showed me the biggest difference between Buzz and Facebook – a difference that has made me re-evaluate my use of Buzz.

It happened in the comments around Louis’ post that as usual was streamed into Buzz. In the comments I re-iterated the reason why I had a problem with Buzz and expected that to be the end of the subject.

No sooner than had I posted my comment and DeWitt Clinton who is one of the Buzz team members jumped into address my problem

However the conversation – or the willingness to take the problem seriously didn’t end with that brief exchange.

And therein lies the biggest difference between these two services. With Facebook the chances of anyone from what is now becoming a big company even taking notice of what someone like me might be saying is literally nil. Yet here on Buzz one of the Buzz team noticed what I had to say and was willing to not only take the time to hash the problem out with me but also see the validity of a solution.

But it’s not just me. I have seen DeWitt do this on an on-going basis. He truly cares about the user’s, and content producers, experience using Buzz and he isn’t alone as I have seen other team members do the same.

So why is this so important?

It’s important because people, and not just the well-known A-Lister’s, want to know that their opinions and thoughts matter. This is why we have things like blogs and social networks. Even the least well-known of us want our voices to be heard. We want to know that the social networks that we continuously contribute to care about what we think and feel.

We like to know that even though we might not have a direct pipeline to the people in charge like Louis Gray, or Robert Scoble, or Anil Dash have we still are heard. That doesn’t happen on Facebook as they have shown the world that it is going to be their way regardless of how many voices say they disagree.

And that is the biggest difference between the two – Buzz listens, Facebook ignores.

And that is why I am willing to invest more of my time into Buzz and leave Facebook off in a corner. It is because people like DeWitt are willing to listen and that makes all the difference in the world.


  1. 09/05/10 at 1:12

    You just sold me on Buzz.

    I’ve been ignoring until now.
    .-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..Startup Weekend – Start a brand new business in 56 hours (Saturday Morning Surfing) =-.

  2. 09/05/10 at 7:12

    Me too. I will have to learn more about Buzz. Thank you for a great post. It is true – people do like to know they are being heard.
    .-= Misha´s last blog ..misha’s house now has internet access =-.

  3. 09/05/10 at 9:25

    And when Facebook had 1000 users and not 3+ million, they probably hashed things out on a per user basis as well. Have we found direct help or support with any other free Google projects? Gmail for example, doesn’t even have a ‘contact us’ help type of support. They have a commonly requested items that are pre-loaded and you can check the box next to the one you agree with. That’s it. I don’t think they even have a fill in the blank request so you can add something they haven’t thought of. Google doesn’t listen any more than Facebook does, they just have a team to help in this Beta stage and will be the huge, unlistening, mute of a site in the coming months/years. Or worse, it will fail and all of your time and energy will be lost in cyberspace and I hope you backed it up if you wanted to keep it.
    I love Google…really I use it for about everything…but Facebook is a standard. If you want social networking, you can use whatever you want. But if you want to use something that the people you want to share with are also using…I would stick to FB. Sorry Google. And if I’m wrong…then DeWitt Clinton…please also make it so whenever I email someone in Gmail, their email address is not automatically added to my contact list. OMG that is so freaking annoying and I added my request to the long long list of those others that want the option to turn off that feature like 4 years ago.

    Todd Maddex

    • 09/05/10 at 16:50

      I do agree with you that for the large part Google is just as faceless as Facebook due to large scale lack of support. However when it comes to Buzz I really hope that the active involvement of the team will extend past this beta stage of the service.

  4. 09/05/10 at 15:00

    Thanks for sharing this exchange Steven. I’m a fan of Buzz and if I’m not following you already, I’ll start now.
    I’ve never liked Facebook much even though most of my personal friends and family hang out there, yet Twitter and now Buzz have connected me to many that I never knew previously. I’ve gained knowledge and insights that I would not have been in touch with if I were simply searching the web.
    .-= Ileane @ Ms. Ileane Speaks´s last blog ..A Growing List of Top Google Buzz Tips =-.

  5. 10/05/10 at 10:17

    I am not a natural skeptic but I have to agree with some of the comments here, that we’re seeing this level of support and someone is ‘hearing’ us now because it is in beta, and we shouldn’t expect this level of response long term. It’s not an insult, just an element of the virtual world – it’s very easy to get way too big to manage with real people. Scary, but true. Everything has to be automated at some point. That being said, I’m intrigued and will use Buzz more just to say I used it during its beta phase :-).

  6. Mitchell
    10/05/10 at 15:18

    Some companies continue to have good engagement even when they are very large. Some of my favorites are:

    Verizon Wireless – Customer service IMO is 10X better than AT&T. I switched to AT&T to be on a family plan with my brother, and paid the fee to switch back after a few months. I’ve talked to the Verizon staff about why they offer such better service, and they said there was no special training program, but that there were a HUGE number of applicants for the jobs when they applied. Culture by osmosis maybe.

    Continental Airlines – Much more responsive to website comments/complaints/suggestions than American Airlines or any non-Southwest US airline. American’s website doesn’t work well under low bandwidth conditions either.

    Washington Mutual Bank – Their technology was a mess, but the front-line people I talked to were so helpful, that I opened bank accounts there.

    An old favorite, which has been on my shit list for 7 years is Dell. A Company which made a conscious decision to slight their quality and service to sell cheaper & higher volume.

    In 1986-2000, I often recommended Dell to my corporate clients as the safe bet – they cost 2X the competition, but if you pay $99 for the extra support package, they have incredible service. And Dell was super-fast and fantastic.

    By 2005, they took about 12 hours of nagging to make a 5 min visit to fix a bad video card on a client’s laptop. And one of my friends ordered 4 laptops which all had problems. Dell is now el-cheapo. Buyer beware.